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Flight 77 may have crossed Tri-State skies

Did the ill-fated Flight 77 enter the skies Lawrence County? According to reports, it very well could have.

Friday, September 14, 2001

Did the ill-fated Flight 77 enter the skies Lawrence County? According to reports, it very well could have. The USA Today reported Thursday that a partial radar track indicates the Boeing 757 that was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon on Tuesday may have flown as far as the Ohio-Kentucky border.

The jet, carrying 64 people including two pilots and four flight attendants, departed from Washington Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia around 8:10 a.m. Approximately an hour and a half later it it destroyed a portion of the west wall of the Pentagon, just 22 miles east of the airport. An estimated 120 people inside the building were killed.

A graphic appearing in that paper speculates the jet, which was bound for Los Angeles, may have headed back to Washington in the skies above the Tri-State area. The map depicts the Ohio/Kentucky/West Virginia border as the plane’s turning point.

Larry Salyers, director at Huntington Tri-State Airport, which houses flight operations for a large part of Ohio-Kentucky-West Virginia skies, said his controllers had not mentioned the situation.

"It (Flight 77) could have still been in contact with some other center or been passed off to another," Salyers said.

Tri-State controllers do not speak to every plane overhead – only those with certain "squawk" identifications and at certain altitudes, he added.

It has been reported the plane’s transponder – a device that transmits to controllers an airplane’s airline identification, flight number, speed and altitude – was likely turned off after the jet was in the air.

David Berry, a 1974 graduate of Ironton High School who now makes his home in San Francisco, told the Ironton Tribune Wednesday he was astounded when he found out the jet may have flown above his hometown.

Berry was surfing the Internet at his work, Tibco, a software company in Palo Alto, Calif., when he came across a map of the flight’s suspected path on the Washington Post’s Web site.

"I just saw it and couldn’t believe it," Berry said. "My parents (Robert Berry and Jean Berry) and brother (William Berry) still live in Ironton."

Among the 64 casualties aboard the jet was Dr. Paul Ambrose, 32, a Barboursville native and graduate of the Marshall University School of Medicine. He worked in the public health care policy field in Washington.

At Thursday’s prayer gathering in downtown Ironton, ministers mentioned the four fateful flights from Tuesday’s tragic attack, as well their crashes – expressing astonishment, even in prayer.

"We don’t understand; we can’t explain the hatred someone has to fly a plane into a building, to kill themselves ," the Rev. James Cremeans said as he prayed.

"We know you know all things We believe America is a mighty nation," he prayed, adding that America has helped countless other countries rebuild and cope with tragic events.

"Now, Father, we hurt, we feel We know you feel the hurt, the pain We know the answer is in you."

Staff writer Allen Blair contributed to this story.