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Quad-City International Airport chief: 'It was time to grow up'

Quad-City International Airport chief: 'It was time to grow up'

From the 20 years later: Quad-Citians remember September 11 series
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Chief Jeff Swan, public safety manager at the Quad-City International Airport, was a public safety officer at the airport in Moline on Sept. 11, 2001. This is what he recalls:

"I was 25 and had been on the job for less than two years.

"I was watching the news in our crew lounge, waiting for my shift to start, when the second plane hit.

"I can’t say how long I was glued to the TV until our chief came in, ordered everyone into uniform and dispersed us across the airport to clear it out and lock it down.

"I was assigned to stopping cars pulling up to the terminal. Many people asked if they were going to make their flight, not realizing flights had been grounded indefinitely. That’s how confusing everything was in those first few hours.

"I vividly recall the eerie feeling of an empty terminal and an empty sky — except for Air Force One, which I paused to watch pass overhead.

"Three or four planes were diverted here and, since the gates were full, officers had to walk people across the ramp and into the concourse so they could exit the airport. We cleared the parking lots as quickly as possible and rental cars were sold out.

"Flights resumed 72 hours later but flying had forever changed: 10-foot barbed wire fences replaced 6-foot fences; people without tickets were no long allowed at gates; TSA was created, which replaced private companies conducting security screenings; and the carry-on rules we’ve all become accustomed to were put into place.

"What I knew my job to be before that day had changed forever, and I realized it was time to grow up."


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