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Upper Michigan Remembers 9/11: Travel changes

A UP airport manager reflects on what he remembers from the day and how it changed the way we travel for good
Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 7:06 PM EDT
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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - At 9:03 a.m. on September 11, 2001, a second plane crashes into the World Trade Center. Less than 40 minutes later, at 9:42 a.m., the FAA orders all U.S. flights to land.

Sawyer International Airport’s current manager, Duane DuRay, was managing the Gogebic-Iron County Airport at the time and remembers that moment well.

“We grounded every plane in the country within a matter of hours. It was unbelievable,” said DuRay.

Some of those planes, including a flight from Hartford, Connecticut, landed at Saywer International Airport. Passengers anxiously watched the TV and wondered when flights would resume.

Just two days later, flights would take off again with increased security. Bags would be searched and nothing that could be used as a weapon, like knives and scissors, would be allowed past security.

Now, this is what we are to used to, but at the time, it was unclear how long these increased precautions could last.

“Our guess is that it is going to be around for at least two, three, four months,” said Larry Coehorn, FAA Security Coordinator on Sept. 12, 2001.

20 years later, increased security checks and long lines are still the norm.

At the time of the attacks, most airlines would provide their own security. Just months later, in November, the TSA was started. Now, its 50 thousand security officers provide protection for nearly 440 airports.

“There was a pretty drastic change. We went from the casual, ‘let me see your bag’ and walk through the metal detector and we were all happy-go-lucky passengers to a very serious tone,” said DuRay. “The traveling public was awakened to wake the world can do and what we have to do to combat that.”

DuRay says the attacks that day still remain in the back of his mind.

“It’s a thought that I process through regularly because you always have to be aware of your surroundings and the potential risks,” said DuRay.

Now, the days of showing up at the airport right before your flight are over all in an effort to keep Americans safe in the sky.

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