Stranded passengers share thoughts on predicament

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 29, 2006

WAYNE COUNTY, W.Va.— “Ma’am can you help me? Can you tell me what’s happening here?” Eddie Cleary, of Cork, Ireland asked, watching the comings and goings at Tri-State Airport Thursday afternoon.

“We just came to drop off the hired car. We’re flying home to Ireland tomorrow.”

Cleary, his wife, Trudy and fellow Alcon employee, Sheila Higgins had been in Huntington, W.Va., for four weeks. Eddie and Sheila were in town for corporate employee meetings; Trudy was along for some rest.

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Their last day in Huntington suffered an unexpected twist when Tri-State Airport was shut down and all commercial operations suspended while authorities detained a Pakistani woman to determin what was in her carry-on luggage.

The Clearys had intended to drop off their rental car Thursday afternoon.

If news of the suspected explosives was not enough to make the Irish visitors a little nervous, something else was certainly helping.

“Your police officers here,” Eddie said, “they have guns. He’s wearing a gun. We don’t see that at home.”

But when an officer with a gun was able to solve their problem, Eddie was delighted.

“A Mountie came to our rescue!” he said.

The Clearys and Higgins were among a few dozen people whose plans were altered because of the scare.

Another was Robert Brost, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The service manager with Metso Texas Shredder had spent the last 10 days at Mansbach Metal in Ashland, Ky., and was on his way home.

“One of the first things I saw when I got here was a woman in full Pakistani garb with airport police,” Brost recalled. “I didn’t think anymore about it; they disappeared into an office. Everything appeared to be normal until noon when we were to have boarded a Delta Airlines flight and the police pushed us out of the terminal and told us to stay back, I think it was 300 yards from the building.”

Brost would have to stay another day in Ashland: Unable to retrieve his luggage, he was on his way back to the Plaza Hotel and would try again to make it home today.

Brost, who travels frequently, waxed philosophical about what happened.

“I’ve had everything imaginable happen to me before but not this. When things get stupid, I’ve learned you just give up and start all over again.”

But he had praise for the airport staff and law enforcement authorities that handled the situation.

“I’m glad people are alert here and the system did work. This is a reminder we live in troubled times and there are people looking to do mischief. … People here have been very kind to us.”

Wayne Bloss was to have boarded a plane with his wife and two children to attend a family wedding in Orlando, Fla. Instead, he was allowed to pick up the family’s luggage that had been detained all day.

They were supposed to leave at 12:25 p.m. Bloss said they would try another day. He said he had not known why he was asked to leave the terminal until he got home and heard the news on television.

“I guess people were doing their job,” he said. “It’s good to see people taking care of things, but I think next time, I’m driving.”

Still Bloss said he was not too concerned about terrorism and thought maybe the activity was a bit overdone.

Bill Popov, of Ashland, Ky., was supposed to fly to Sofia, Bulgaria. While he found his delay a bit inconvenient, he said he was “glad to have good security.”

Like Brost, he will try again today to make that trip.

“I’m happy with security,” he said. “It’s frustrating. But you have to have good security, that’s for sure. I’m not afraid to fly.”