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Logan Airport bears memory of its fateful role with silence

By Ellen Barry and Mac Daniel, Globe Staff, 9/12/2002

At 8:46 a.m. yesterday, the sound of suitcases rolling across floor tiles ceased, the red light above the X-ray machines at security checkpoints stopped blinking, and thousands of passengers froze where they stood, coffee cups in one hand and carry-on luggage in the other.

Within the antiseptic hallways of terminal B and C, opposite Gourmet Bean and Au Bon Pain, gates were left empty in memory of the 157 people who touched earth for the last time here one year ago.

Outside, ground crew workers wearing earmuffs and Day-Glo orange vests formed lines beside giant, motionless aircraft.

On the catwalk of the air traffic control tower where he works, Gary Hufnagle watched as the entire sprawling organism of Logan Airport stilled.

''Even the construction guys out there, they all stopped. Everything stopped,'' Hufnagle said. ''I didn't say a word.''

Not since the first few days after the attacks has Logan's tragic role in them felt so intimate.

On the third level of the central parking garage is the spot where a flight manual in Arabic was found inside a Mitsubishi Mirage that had been rented by one of the hijackers who started their murderous mission here.

Opposite Gate 19, Terminal C, are lounge seats whose cushions were sent to a state crime laboratory to test for skin cells from victims and hijackers. The American 11 and United 175 flights out of Logan have been renumbered and replaced by American 25 and United 1525.

And in a miniature city so close-knit that sympathetic shuttle passengers came in yesterday with boxes of cookies for workers, the personal losses were broad-ranging and subtle.

Joyce Ferragamo, a Delta ticket agent, remembers loading two early shuttles with commuters headed for the World Trade Center. She believes, because she has never seen them again, that some arrived early enough in New York to take a cab to their workplace, ride up to their offices, and be killed by another jet sent off from Logan.

''We kept on looking for those familiar faces,'' she said, ''but they never returned.''

Passenger volume at Logan was only about 15,000 yesterday, less than a quarter of the airport's daily average, and the terminals wore an eerie emptiness. State Police patrolled with automatic weapons and bomb-sniffing dogs were led in long laps through the hallways.

In terminal C, as he waited for a flight home to Los Angeles, Philip Sardo stood and quietly played ''America the Beautiful'' on a harmonica. ''There's certainly a feeling in the airport of - I don't know what,'' said Sardo, 67.

Passengers all over the world drew back from airline travel to the United States yesterday. Washington's three major airports reduced their number of flights 8 to 10 percent, and many flights departed with lots of empty seats. Flights to the United States from Britain, Germany, and Asia were also dramatically reduced.

Those who decided to fly yesterday walked into an unfamiliar spaciousness, citing their confidence in God and laws of probability.

Ron Murphy, 45, had answered an insistent call from his mother the night before, accusing him of being ''macho.'' Murphy, who flew from Boston to San Francisco yesterday, said his decision was more about numbers. ''I'm a bond trader,'' he said. ''I think statistically the chances of anything happening are very small.''

And Bob Wilson, catching a 9:13 a.m. American flight to St. Louis, had a different explanation for his serenity: Ten years, ago, he was involved in a midair near-collision over the Atlantic Ocean.

''If God wants to take me today, it's not my first choice, but that's fine,'' Wilson said.

At 8:46, American Airlines staff stood together in the terminal in a silent cluster.

Next door in Terminal C, ticket agents and baggage handlers gathered in a semicircle, holding hands when the moment of silence ended. Karen Bruce, a Continental ticket agent, wiped tears from her face.

The momentary shutdown yesterday did not cost the airport any money, said Philip Orlandella, Logan's director of media relations.

It's ''like blinking an eye,'' Orlandella said, although he added that he had never seen or heard of a similar closing in his 23 years at Logan.

Silence does not always bring comfort to airport workers, who conduct their lives to the sound of jet engines, said the Rev. Richard Uftring, the airport chaplain. Nothing was worse, during the dreadful five days last September when Logan was shut down by the Federal Aviation Administration, than the silence that replaced the normal din.

''My heart has never been heavier,'' he said.

This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 9/12/2002.
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