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25 Questions

[Photo: AP]
FIREFIGHTER HELPS WORKERS ESCAPE: Engine 28's Mike Kehoe of Staten Island, N.Y., helps evacuate 1 World Trade Center tower Tuesday after the terrorist attacks. The stairway photo was taken by John Labriola, who had an office on the 71st. floor. Labriola escaped without injury. A fellow firefighter from Engine 28 in Manhattan said that Kehoe escaped before the collapse.

By Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 14, 2001

At the airport

1. If my flight was canceled as a result of this week's catastrophe, will I get priority on a new flight as airlines resume flying?

No. Airlines will reschedule you only if there is an open seat; bumping other reservations would create a domino effect of problems.

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2. With heightened security, how early should I arrive for my flight?

Two hours in advance for domestic flights; allow more time for international flights.

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3. Has there been tight security like this at Tampa International Airport before?

Yes. The last time was in 1995 after an Islamic group was convicted of plotting a terror campaign in New York, security was tightened at airports nationwide. At TIA, security guards opened all car trunks and examined luggage. The searches created congestion in the short-term parking garage, but no extraordinary delays were reported.

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4. Does a quick inspection of a car trunk really work?

Nobody at Tampa International will answer questions about the wisdom of security procedures. The searches are seen mainly as a deterrent.

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5. Why search cars headed to the short-term lots?

The FAA is requiring searches of all private cars parked within 300 feet of the terminal. At TIA that means the short-term lots.

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6. Will that prompt overcrowding at the long-term lot to avoid delays?

You shouldn't have a problem finding space in long-term parking until the Thanksgiving travel season.

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7. With curb-side check-in eliminated, will skycaps lose their jobs?

There has been no talk of layoffs. Skycaps, employed by individual airlines, say they expect the ban on curb-side check-in will end eventually.

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8. How long are the new restrictions expected to last? A month? A year? Forever?

Uncertain. The FAA says only that they are in place "until further notice."

The heightened security in 1995 was supposed to last indefinitely, but most restrictions faded away. Only the checking of IDs persisted. Given the magnitude of this week's events, more people speculate that these new precautions may indeed be permanent.

On Wall Street

9. Have brokers been inundated with sell orders for when the stock market reopens Monday?

No. Brokers say they are getting fewer calls than usual; many have contacted clients to reassure them.

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10. If people said: Let's keep the markets from nosediving Monday by getting everybody in America who can afford it to buy $25 worth of stock, would the markets actually rise?

Stock prices are based on supply and demand. A strong surge in demand would send prices up, but demand would have to be sustained to keep prices from falling back.

Also, $25 may not be enough. At mutual fund companies, $250 is a typical minimum investment; brokerage firms have minimum commissions that make a $25 purchase impractical.

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11. If my bond house or stockbroker had its national headquarters in the World Trade Center, will my local office be affected? Are there backup records?

Brokerage firms maintain backup computer records at off-site locations. Even if your broker worked in the World Trade Center, you should be able to check your account by calling the brokerage firm's 800 number.

Law firms in the World Trade Center were less likely to have extensive backup systems. Some may have to reconstruct files by borrowing copies from their clients.

On the scene

12. Did anybody who was on a floor above where either jet hit the World Trade Center make it out alive?

It's impossible to answer for sure, because not all survivors have talked. But a review of 67 stories from New York City newspapers turned up not a single mention of anybody surviving who was on a floor above the impact.

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13. Were any tourists on the south tower observation deck when the plane hit?

No. The jet hit the south tower at 9:05 a.m. The observation deck was not scheduled to open until 9:30 a.m. Juuriaan Veth, the director of organized tour groups, is missing.

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14. Is it true that someone on the 83rd floor rode the debris down and came out with only a few broken bones?

Apparently too good to be true. There is no mention of such a miracle in any reputable news source.

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15. Is it true that the floors hit in one of the World Trade Center towers were being renovated, and were mostly vacant.

The jet that hit the Pentagon hit a newly renovated area of the building, and some of those offices were not yet occupied. Nobody has said the same about the World Trade Center.

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16. Could someone trapped in the rubble get help by using a cell phone?

Possibly, but too much rubble would make it difficult for radio frequencies to penetrate. As for triangulating the source of a call, the technology is too primitive to narrow a location to anything closer than the nearest transmitter.

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17. How much does a 110-story building weigh?

The World Trade Center towers were constructed of 200,000 tons of steel and 425,000 cubic yards of concrete. FEMA estimates it could take up to 60 days to clear the rubble.

Around the globe

18. Is it true that Nostradamus, the 16th-century French physician famous for long-range prophecies, predicted the attacks?

No, it's an Internet fabrication. Here is one version making the rounds:

In the year of the new century and nine months,

From the sky will come a great king of terror.

In the city of york there will be a great collapse

Two twin brothers torn apart by chaos,

The 3rd big war will begin when the big city is burning.

It was pieced together from from Nostradamus' Centuries, a collection of 943 verse-like prophecies called "quatrains," which are arranged in groups of 100s, each called a "Century." The bogus quote was mashed together from parts of Century I, Quatrain 24; Century I, Quatrain 87; and Century VI, Quatrain 97. For a detailed deconstruction, see:

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19. Some people are saying that the CNN footage of Palestinians celebrating the attacks Tuesday was actually shot in 1991 during the invasion of Kuwait. Is that true?

Says CNN: "That footage was forwarded to us by the Associated Press and Reuters, and it was dated Sept. 11, 2001. We assume that's correct." Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has condemned the terrorist attack and reportedly attributed any celebrations to a small band of children.

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20. In the wake of the attacks, what have been the hottest-selling items?

There has been a noticeable spike in shoppers buying survival gear: guns, gas masks, chemical-warfare suits and bottled water. Apparently the hottest selling item? The American flag.

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21. NATO invoked "Article 5" in support of the United States. What does that mean?

For the first time in NATO's 52-year history, the alliance applied its bedrock principle of collective defense. NATO's 19 ambassadors agreed to allow Washington to invoke Article 5 of NATO's charter, which was designed to respond to a Cold War offensive.

Article 5 declares an "armed attack" on any member to be an attack on all. The United States will be able to count on support from its 18 NATO partners for any potential military response. It would be able to get instant permission from allies to allow U.S. warplanes to fly through their airspace to carry out retaliatory air strikes.

News you can use

22. I want my kids to be able to send letters of support to firemen and other rescue workers. Where can they write?

The National Association of School Psychologists recommends sending correspondence to some central location, like the Red Cross, or writing to local fire and police departments, in honor of their comrades who have died.

The American Red Cross of Greater New York/ 150 Amsterdam Ave./ New York, NY 10023

The New York City Public/Private Initiatives, Inc., is set up to help the families of police, fire, and other city employees involved in rescue efforts:

NYCPPI/The City of New York/20th Floor/100 Church St./New York, NY 10007

Other addresses:

Commissioner Bernard Kerik, New York Police Department/1 Police Plaza/ New York, NY 10038

Commissioner Thomas Von Essen, Fire Department, City of New York/1 Chase Manhattan Plaza/ New York, NY 10005

Widows & Children's Fund c/o Uniformed Firefighter's Association/ 204 East 23rd St. New York, NY 10010

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23. Is it true that even movie theaters have been affected?

Some new movies may not open as scheduled, because prints of the movies cannot be flown in; theaters may juggle other show times. Check with the box office.

Most concerts have been canceled because the artists cannot travel; a horse show at the Florida State Fairgrounds has been canceled.

Bottom line: This weekend, call ahead before you go to any movie, show or event; it may have been changed.

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24. With mail slowed, what if my bill payment arrives late? Will I get charged a late fee?

Get ready to plead your case. Banks generally are not instituting blanket grace periods -- but seem willing to listen to hardship cases. Wachovia Bank is letting its employees determine on a case-by-case basis whether to erase a customer's bounced-check fees or other penalties.

The IRS announced a grace period for taxpayers hampered by the mail slowdown. Quarterly estimated payments due Monday now are due by Nov. 15.

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25. How do I avoid getting scammed by people soliciting donations?

The state of Florida says people have received e-mails seeking donations for bogus charities or from people impersonating legitimate charities.

Two ways to check charities: (the Web site of GuideStar, the National Database of Nonprofit Organizations) (Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance)

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