Travelers go with purpose

Terror concerns likely accounted for fewer passengers out of Tampa International on Tuesday. But many braved it.

By MELANIE AVE, Times Staff Writer
Published September 12, 2007

TAMPA - They thought about significance of the day, of course, but for many travelers on the sixth anniversary of 9/11, their decision to fly was made on purpose and with resolve.

Dozens of travelers at Tampa International Airport on Tuesday said they will not let their fear of terrorist attacks intrude on their travel plans or their day-to-day lives.

"If something's going to happen, it's going to happen," said Scott Martinie, a 36-year-old histologist from Fort Lauderdale who came to Tampa for his job.

"I was aware of the day, but if you've got to travel, you've got to travel."

Fears about traveling on the anniversary likely contributed to light passenger loads Tuesday, said airport spokeswoman Brenda Geoghagan. Fewer than 14,000 passengers were booked on departing flights, she said, low even for a mid week day in the airport's slowest month and 3,000 fewer than are scheduled for today.

A moment of silence was observed at the exact moment the first plane struck the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. But otherwise, the day seemed like any other.

Patrick Connors, 31, of Sarasota showed up two hours early for his Southwest flight to Colorado, where he will spend a week with a friend who just returned from a year's duty in Iraq with the National Guard.

"We have to remember," Connors said, while drinking a coffee before his 8:55 a.m. flight. "But we can't live in fear. That's exactly what the terrorists want."

Bob and Joan Barry of Bayonet Point gave the day's date a "passing thought" but did not let it get in the way of their trip to see family and attend a high school reunion in Massachusetts.

The Barrys said the day has become a part of the nation's collective memory, but they will not let fear overtake their lives.

"When I booked the flight I said it's probably more secure to fly on that day than any other day," said Mrs. Barry, 70.

"I think it's safer today to fly than it's ever been," agreed her husband, a retired vice president for Merrill Lynch. "It'll probably take a little more time with all the security checks."

Valrico resident Diana Morales, 68, said her cousin was one of the survivors.

He called in late for work that day for his job with Morgan Stanley on the 87th floor of the World Trade Center, and just as he arrived, the second plane struck. He ran out of the building covered with gray dust.

"That was not his day to die," said Morales, who bubbled with excitement Tuesday as she waited for a plane to take her on a missionary trip to Honduras.

Was she afraid?

"I'm excited," said the retired teacher who was traveling with a group of 11 from Faith Tabernacle in Tampa. "My day for dying has already been set up by God. I'm not concerned."

Times staff writer Steve Huettel contributed to this report. Information from the Associated Press also was used. Melanie Ave can be reached at 727 893-8813 or mave@sptimes.com