Veteran Wichita Airport Employees Tell Tales of September 11, 2001

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) – Now known as Eisenhower National Airport, Wichita’s main hub for inbound and outbound flights had a different name 20 years ago when air travel and the lives of Americans knew it. switch. Twenty years ago, Wichita Airport was the airport for the Mid Continent.

Although the name has changed, the appeal letters remain the same. And for hundreds of passengers, ICT is part of their September 11, 2001 stories. Eyewitness News spoke to a group that was working at Wichita Airport that day.

Together, Vern Oakes, Roger Xanders and Valerie Wise have worked at Wichita Airport for almost 100 years. On September 11, 2001, Oakes was the station manager of Continental Airlines.

“What I was told by the dispatch to Houston was that the FAA told them every plane had to be on the ground at that time, it was a 15 minute window or it would be shot down.” , Oakes said. . “We had fighters there. “

Now police and Eisenhower National Airport fire chief Alex had just checked in when he received the emergency call to return to the center of the continent.

“When I got on (Interstate) 235 West Street, I looked up at the sky from the north, and it was just an airplane staircase, right and left, landing on both tracks, ”he said. “At that point, when it hit me, we have something serious going on.”

About 40 passengers and seven cargo planes carrying more than 1,300 passengers unexpectedly landed in Wichita. This included a plane full of Israelis stranded in the middle of America.

“They were so scared,” said Wise, marketing manager for the Wichita Airport Authority. “I remember (the passengers) entering the terminal. There was this old lady, all in tears.

Oakes found a translator on the phone and started helping them. They sent a ‘thank you’ across town, published in the newspaper.

“We showed people who we are and what we are, aside from the flyover and the drive-thru,” he said of how the airport crew represented Wichita to passengers. temporarily blocked.

As they worked tirelessly to help all of these passengers, it wasn’t until the work was done that the footage of 9/11 finally reached airport workers.

“The damage still bothers me today,” Oakes said.

As Air Capital employees reflect on their roles 20 years ago, they choose to remember the camaraderie and unity after 9/11.

“While we don’t want a disaster or incident to happen, we are going to step up,” Xanders said. “We’re going to step up as Americans and do what we need to do to overcome this and move forward and hope that doesn’t happen again.”

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