9/11 -- St. Petersburg Times Special Report

Sunday, Sept. 1
  • Florida: Terror's launching pad
  • The 19 plotters and their day of terror
  • Remembering

    Monday, Sept. 2
  • When tragedy meets capitalism
  • '9/11 fatigue' is natural, mental health experts say

    Tuesday, Sept. 3
  • Coping as a kid
  • Eric Deggans: 9/11 documentary asks troubling questions about religion
  • Sept. 11 photograph exhibit opens

    Wednesday, Sept. 4
  • Millions in new funding don't guarantee security
  • Donations to local charities slow in months after attacks
  • Sept. 11 donations swamp charities
  • Bush to visit three attack sites on 9/11

    Thursday, Sept. 5
  • Attack anniversary is living history lesson
  • Trading fallback system improved
  • Future of site still beset by debate

    Friday, Sept. 6
  • Senate approves plan to allow armed pilots
  • Dream job becoming demoralizing
  • New plane doors would withstand gunfire
  • What ever happened to ... Those patriotic paint jobs?
  • The other 911
  • Consolidated for the cause

    Saturday, Sept. 7
  • In chaos, TIA tower controlled 9/11 skies
  • Congress, N.Y. reaffirm solidarity
  • Traveling can be nicer in rougher countries
  • For TIA workers, 'normal' not what it used to be
  • Airlines don't see relief over horizon
  • Terror only one blow to tourism
  • A year later, it's the home fires that burn brightly
  • Flying the flag

    Sunday, Sept. 8
  • 125 Cedar Street
  • The drama in Sarasota
  • Cautious, yes, but still traveling
  • As security increases, fervor fades
  • Rising risks
  • Finding lessons in rubble of tragedy
  • Public loss, private grief
  • Duty calls; he goes; they wait
  • Riled residents show true colors
  • Keeping her distance
  • Which way leads up?
  • For the record
  • 45 Questions
  • A lexicon of terror, post-9/11
  • Before attacks, this was the news
  • Other events on Sept. 11
  • Voice mail delivers, retains final words
  • Keeping us rolling
  • 9.11
  • How we'll view it

    Monday, Sept. 9
  • The residue of terror
  • Patriotism is more than emotion
  • What ever happened to . . .: Our religious fervor?
  • The nightmares return
  • Life has the right-of-way
  • Free to disagree
  • 'Time has not healed the pain'
  • Deputies to step up patrol for anniversary
  • Security upgrade since 9/11 slow, steady
  • Enthusiasm for PHCC's security classes dissipates
  • Teachers untangle Sept. 11 lessons
  • A bumpy year for business
  • The man who would have led Afghanistan
  • People who made the headlines

    Tuesday, Sept. 10
  • Multitude to gather to wave U.S. flags
  • Pictures evoke profound feelings
  • Attacks haven't boosted sales of cell phones
  • Schools discover ways to reflect on attacks
  • Flags still wave, but sales fall from peak
  • Three fathers lost
  • Telemarketers easing up on 9/11
  • Nuclear plant adds security layers to prevent terrorism
  • Cough, stress hinder emergency workers
  • Families of missing sit in limbo
  • Places of importance after the attacks

    Wednesday, Sept. 11
  • Remembrance and renewal
  • Flags Along the Bayshore: Tampa Remembers 9/11
  • Ways of remembering
  • A piece of paper . a blue and white truck
  • Is America ready for another attack?
  • Nation to honor victims in silence
  • Poll: Compassion remains
  • The war so far
  • Terror update
  • Attack on Iraq would test headquarters at MacDill
  • 09-11-01 Perspectives
  • Those who died in the attacks
  • Myriad rescue agencies trust their link won't fail
  • Photo gallery
  • (This Flash gallery requires the free Flash Player 5+.)

    Thursday, Sept. 12
  • Emotional service honors those who died selflessly
  • Elements of pride
  • Echo of 9/11 empties airport
  • A day full of tributes, flags and questions
  • Prayer, fellowship pull many through agonizing anniversary
  • Tributes great and small
  • Children in a changed world pause to reflect
  • Citrus recalls 9/11 with its heart
  • Marking the imponderable
  • Ministers assure that God was there that sorrowful day
  • Chime recalls a nation's losses
  • For law officers, day passes quietly
  • Residents gather to heal, remember
  • In big and small ways, our community pays tribute
  • Cities somberly mark Sept. 11
  • Patriotic display greets drivers
  • Day of grief, resolve
  • At county schools, remembrance resounds
  • Travel lags on attacks' anniversary
  • They were us
  • Americans worldwide cautious on anniversary
  • Radical Muslims discuss 'positive outcomes' of Sept. 11
  • Amid grief, Bush gives warning

  • printer version

    In chaos, TIA tower controlled 9/11 skies

    While air traffic controllers across the nation brought planes down, Tampa controllers had to find a way to get one up, too.

    [Times photo: John Pendygraft]
    Laurie Zugay, manager of the control tower at Tampa International Airport: "Everybody here works well as a team, but on Sept. 11 that could not have been more evident."

    By JEAN HELLER, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published September 7, 2002

    TAMPA -- Laurie Zugay recalls that last Sept. 11 started out just fine.

    "We had 10 miles' visibility and just a few clouds in the sky," Zugay said. "It was shaping up to be a very good day."

    It should have been a relatively easy day for controllers at Tampa International Airport and for Zugay, 44, who had been the manager of the control tower for just two months. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are generally the lightest travel days of the week. So Zugay used those days for briefings and training sessions for members of her operations staff.

    It took less than an hour for the day to deteriorate to the unthinkable -- and severely test the professionalism of the nation's air traffic controllers.

    At 8:46 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 hit the north tower of the World Trade Center.

    "We weren't affected immediately," Zugay said last week in her first interview about conditions in the TIA control tower that day. "We were getting reports from CNN, just like everybody else."

    Then United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the trade center's south tower. The FAA ordered a hold on all planes departing from anywhere in New England. That hold spread and eventually encompassed the nation.

    "At that point, we stopped the training and called everybody back into the Tracon," the radar room from which flights are controlled, Zugay said. "All of a sudden, we were involved."

    Zugay, one of 10 female tower chiefs in the FAA's southern region, had 20 controllers and two supervisors on duty.

    When a third plane hit the Pentagon at 9:40 a.m., the FAA ordered all planes in the air to land immediately.

    At that moment, 98 of the aircraft in the sky were under Tampa's control. Nationwide, there were 4,500. The airliners alone held 350,000 people.

    Controllers in Tampa explained succinctly to stunned pilots unaware of the events why they were being ordered down. Some controllers concentrated on their radar screens even as they worried about relatives in New York they couldn't reach.

    And all the while, from the ceiling loudspeakers, a taped message hammered over and over:

    "All aircraft must land at the nearest airport because of a national emergency. All aircraft must land at the nearest airport because of a national emergency."

    Nobody could turn it off.

    * * *

    Joe Formoso, a Tampa air traffic controller and the local president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, was in New Orleans for an association meeting that day.

    "The controllers knew right away it wasn't an accident," Formoso said. "You could see from the building that the plane wasn't in a takeoff mode. It wasn't in a landing mode. It was under the control of somebody who wanted to fly into a building."

    Even as the controllers scrambled to find ways home, the FAA gave them full briefings and swore them to secrecy. But they did talk to each other.

    "I went looking for the guy from New York because he's a friend of mine," Formoso said. "He told me there were people screaming and yelling in the New York City Tracon, people passing out. Put yourself in their shoes. You know one of your planes has been taken, then it disappears from radar, and the next thing you know, it's hit a building.

    "One of the guys in Boston had put his wife on the United flight (175) that morning."

    Then events got close to home.

    "When I heard that the fourth jet went down east of Pittsburgh, I had my own issue," he said. "My parents were driving through there to visit my sister. It turned out, they were only 15 minutes away from where that flight went down."

    He was on the phone constantly to the controllers in Tampa.

    "At first, they were in the same situation we were, watching on television," Formoso said. "But when they were ordered to bring everybody down, they did it swiftly and efficiently.

    "The word was, we're in a military state. You do exactly what you're told and be quiet about it. When we get everybody down, then we'll talk. That's the way it had to be."

    * * *

    Back in Tampa, controllers had more to worry about than getting 98 aircraft on the ground. One had to get into the sky.

    "We were working with the Secret Service to get Air Force One out of the area," Zugay said. President Bush was making an appearance in Sarasota when the terrorists struck.

    By 10 a.m., just 15 minutes after U.S. airspace was closed, Tampa controllers had brought more than half their planes safely to the ground. By 11 a.m., Tampa air space was clear.

    This was not a small matter. The airports in the west Florida hub for which Tampa controllers are responsible stretch from Brooksville to Naples and from St. Petersburg to Lakeland.

    "Anybody who wanted to fly had to be approved by Miami (FAA) Center to south and Jacksonville Center to the north," Zugay said. "The governor, who'd been in Sarasota with his brother, wanted to get back to Tallahassee. He didn't get out until afternoon. When I say everybody had to have clearance, I mean everybody."

    At 12:15 p.m., national airspace was declared clear.

    TIA had taken only eight diverted airline flights, fewer than anticipated. Midwestern cities took the brunt -- Memphis, Indianapolis, Nashville, Kansas City and Little Rock -- because they are better placed to accept flights across the country.

    The FAA's southern headquarters in Atlanta opened a teleconference to link its officials all over the region. The agency required that the open phone line be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Nobody hung up until late October.

    "It's not uncommon to use telecon because it saves thousands of phone calls," said Kathleen Bergen, spokeswoman for the southern region of the FAA. "But this one lasted for six weeks."

    On Sept. 14, just as national airspace was beginning to reopen, Tropical Storm Gabrielle arrived.

    "There were a lot of aircraft all up and down the coast that had to be repositioned out of harm's way," Zugay said. "We had to clear each and every one of them to other places in Florida or into Georgia, Alabama or South Carolina. Each one needed its own permission. And then, of course, the storm passed and each one needed clearance to return."

    * * *

    Zugay and Formoso agree that controllers in Tampa and across the country earned their pay on Sept. 11. And the day has changed their lives.

    "Over the next few months, there were a number of instances where fighters scrambled to intercept unknown aircraft," Formoso said. "We had four incidents in Tampa, including the (Charles Bishop) case where the stolen Cessna flew into a building.

    "I think we're more diligent now in watching things, a little more skittish, a little less inclined to take anything for granted. We always tried to be that way, but Sept. 11 gave us motivation to focus more."

    What the controllers are focused on is anything unusual in the flight of an aircraft or the attitude of those on board.

    "We always had pilots through here who were unfamiliar with the air space or got lost or lost radio contact with the controllers," Zugay said. "But we're looking at those instances more closely now. We're highly alert for any suspicious behavior by the aircraft or the phraseology of the pilot."

    When she thinks of that day, Zugay said, she remembers a great calm amid chaos, of controllers and support staff on a mission none of them could have envisioned in their worst nightmares.

    "Everybody here works well as a team," she said, "but on Sept. 11 that could not have been more evident."

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  • Terror only one blow to tourism
  • In chaos, TIA tower controlled 9/11 skies
  • Congress, N.Y. reaffirm solidarity
  • For TIA workers, 'normal' not what it used to be