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RDU Opens For Limited Travel

Only about 30 passengers were trying to find flights in the almost-deserted airport -- in stark contrast to the 50 police and security guards patrolling the airport and manning metal detectors.

RDU opened after enacting tougher security measures, including random luggage and identity checks and body searches. Security guards stood at the bottom of stairs and escalators only allowing people with tickets to enter the departure area.

Passengers at the top of the stairs passed through metal detectors and had their luggage searched.

Employees at most airline check-in counters had no tickets to process and no phone calls to answer. The screens announcing the arrival or departure of flights were filled with red cancellations.

Only a small number of the flights originally scheduled for Thursday night actually departed. The Federal Aviation Administration decided which flights would leave on a case-by-case basis. Airport officials said regular flight operations would gradually resume during the coming weeks.

Employees, who would not give their names, remarked how empty and ghost-like the airport was. One said the silence was almost oppressive.

Some of the few RDU passengers were desperately trying to return home.

At least three were trying to head for New York City to be with family or to help with the rescue effort.

The FAA allowed airports nationwide to open Thursday only after increased security measures had been enacted.

The FAA closed airports nationwide after a group of terrorists hijacked four flights Tuesday. Two planes crashed into the World Trade Center towers and another into the Pentagon. The fourth plane crashed in rural Pennsylvania.

The attack was very much on the minds of travelers, who caught news updates from CNN, radio stations or newspapers. Reggie Simanaca of Fayetteville, who is a retired New York City fireman, said he was planning to head to the disaster scene to do what he could to help his friends. "I can't stay here," he said. "I've got to do something."

Simanaca said he did not know if any of his friends had died. "I've gotten in touch with some of them," he said. "But there's at least one that's missing."

About 350 firefighters are missing and thought dead after the World Trade Center towers collapsed during rescue efforts Tuesday.

Other passengers were trying to make their way home.

Cindy Cooley of Chehalis, Washington said she was in Philadelphia with her husband and two small children for a vacation Tuesday. Cooley said she and her family drove to Raleigh to stay with a relative after the attacks. Cooley was trying, unsuccessfully, to find tickets. "We've been stranded for a few days," she said. "I'm hoping to be back home by (Friday) night but who knows."

At least one UNC student headed to the airport to try to catch a ride home.

Adam VanHorn, a junior economics major, said he was heading to Florida where his family was vacationing.

VanHorn said he had some second thoughts about air travel after Tuesday's attack. But he said he was just as unsettled by the lack of people in the airport. "I'd definitely like to see more people in (RDU)," he said. "This place is spooky."

The State & National Editor can be reached at

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