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(9:50 a.m. and After) September 11, 2001: Cleveland Airport and City Buildings Evacuated due to Possibly Hijacked Aircraft Coming in to Land

Michael White.Michael White. [Source: Publicity photo]Cleveland Hopkins Airport and numerous buildings in the city of Cleveland are evacuated, following the decision to land Delta Air Lines Flight 1989—which is wrongly thought to be hijacked and with a bomb on board—at the Cleveland airport. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; WKYC, 9/11/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 191-192]
Airport Concerned about Delta 1989 - Delta Air Lines was concerned about Flight 1989, and instructed it to land as soon as possible in Cleveland (see (9:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 167; USA Today, 9/11/2008] FAA and military personnel have mistakenly suspected that this aircraft has been hijacked (see (9:28 a.m.-9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001, 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001, and (Shortly After 9:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and their concerns have reached personnel at Cleveland Airport. Fred Szabo, the airport commissioner, will later recall: “There was an indication that this might be a terrorist plane. We didn’t know if there were bombs on board, or if it was a hijacked plane.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 27-28; WKYC, 9/11/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 167-168]
Airport Evacuated as Plane Approaches - As Delta 1989 heads in to land, air traffic controllers instruct it to follow a long path that initially takes it far past the airport. According to author Lynn Spencer, the “controllers are giving themselves time to evacuate the airport since [Delta 1989] has been confirmed hijacked and since they believe it contains a bomb intended to detonate when the aircraft crashes into the terminal.” Even FAA personnel at the airport evacuate their building and make their way to a huge NASA hangar next door. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 191-192] After Delta 1989 lands, police block off all entrances to the airport terminal, and bomb-sniffing dogs are brought to baggage pickup areas. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001]
City Buildings Evacuated - Furthermore, for the first time in his administration, Cleveland Mayor Michael White orders the evacuation of all federal and city buildings. [WCPN, 9/20/2001] Schools are closed and a parking ban is issued downtown. [WCPN, 9/12/2001] White also asks owners of large commercial high-rises to evacuate. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001] These evacuation efforts presumably benefit from the fact that Cleveland is one of six major Ohio cities that has, for a number of years, been part of a federal program to help defend against domestic terrorism. [WCPN, 9/20/2001]
NASA Facility Evacuated - Even the 3,500 employees at the NASA Glenn Research Center, which is located adjacent to the Cleveland airport, are ordered to evacuate their facility. Directors there had in fact met and decided to evacuate the center after seeing the television coverage of the second attack on the World Trade Center. It takes about an hour and a half to get everyone out of the building. [Cleveland Free Times, 9/6/2006]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, Fred Szabo, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Michael R. White

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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