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Family picks 9/11 for first flight ever

For some, it was a good day to travel

Thursday, September 12, 2002

By Mark Belko, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

On a day when many people chose not to fly, Connie Steiner, her two girls and her sister-in-law got on an airplane. For the first time ever. Hawaii apparently will do that to people.

That the Steiners' maiden voyage came on the first-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, when terrorists turned airplanes into torpedoes, was not lost on Steiner, of Saegertown, Crawford County. But she insisted that flying yesterday did not make her nervous.

"I figured security will be more heavy," she said as she and daughters Tiffany, 10, and Alicia, 4, prepared to go through the Pittsburgh International Airport checkpoint.

The Steiners proved to be the exception yesterday at the airport, where passenger traffic was much lighter than normal. At times during the morning, usually an airport peak time, screeners at the checkpoint seemed to outnumber travelers arriving for flights.

David Castelveter, a spokesman for US Airways, the airport's dominant carrier, said its planes were 25 to 30 percent filled yesterday. On a monthly basis, US Airways planes usually are two-thirds to three-quarters filled.

"It was extremely light," said JoAnn Jenny, spokeswoman for the Allegheny County Airport Authority. "I think most of the people flying today got a good deal [on tickets] or were those who absolutely had to get from point A to point B."

Kelly Steiner, Connie's sister-in-law, had another reason for flying.

"Hawaii," she shouted as she headed into the security checkpoint.

Her brother, John, who is in the Navy and stationed at Pearl Harbor, made the travel arrangements. In doing so, he picked Sept. 11 as the departure date. So if Connie, Kelly, Tiffany, Alicia and three other family members were going to enjoy Hawaii, they were going to fly on 9/11.

Robert Blose, the new federal security director for Pittsburgh, said there was a normal complement of screeners working yesterday. They found a meat cleaver in one man's carry-on baggage but did not confiscate it. He was permitted to check it.

"I don't know what he was thinking," Blose said.

While Hawaii lured the Steiners onto a plane yesterday, Sam Accordino, 40, of Youngstown, Ohio, decided to fly to make a point.

"It's my own personal way of saying it didn't work, guys," he said before heading off to Fort Myers, Fla. "I think people should fly. That's a way to send a message. I'm not going to cower under my bed."


Mark Belko can be reached at mbelko@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1262.

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