America Spent 9/11 Frightened: All the Scares That Weren't

From packages to plane restroom visits, "suspicious" was the word of the weekend

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The tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks came and went quietly--for the most part. The "credible, specific but unconfirmed" threat that made headlines on Friday turned out to be nothing. Heightened security measures in New York City ended up yielding some bad traffic but no detained terrorists (that we know of). The skies stayed secure enough that President Obama managed to leapfrog from Washington to Ground Zero, Shanksville and back to Washington without so much as a stumble or scare. We cannot say the same, however, for commercial airline passengers. Tense nerves, confusion over multiple passengers taking too long in airplane bathrooms and an abundance of suspicion led to fighter jet escorts and frightened passengers in five separate airplane-related terror scares and a handful of bomb threats.

Suspicious packages shut down Dulles. Baggage handlers took extra caution and evacuated part of Dulles International Airport after coming across some strange boxes on Saturday afternoon. "Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority spokesman Rob Yingling says a detection dog alerted handlers to boxes on a cargo pallet Saturday afternoon," the Associated Press reports. "Virginia State Police bomb technicians X-rayed the cargo pallet and a second detection dog sweep determined there was nothing harmful inside. Yingling did not know where the boxes came from or their destination"--which is an unsettling fact on any day of the year.

Suspicious items in an ex-NYPD cop's baggage yield's "chaos" in Kansas City. Sunday morning, a passenger who briefly worked as a New York City police officer years ago caused some commotion after trying to take some strange, unidentified items through security in his carry on at the Kansas City airport. From the AP: "Transportation security agents asked him if they could examine his bag and they detained him after he refused, airline and law enforcement officials said. The items tested negative for explosive materials, according to a statement from the Transportation Security Administration." Passengers were kept in the dark about the situation and one described the situation as "chaos." Lesson learned: If you're flying on September 11, please don't argue with the TSA.

Suspicious behavior from men "possibly posing as air marshals" leads to plane evacuation in St. Louis. In one of the more mysterious scares on September 11, a pilot ordered the evacuation and rescreening off all the passengers on a flight from St. Louis to Washington Dulles. "At the beginning of the flight, a man got out of the seat quickly and walked to the back of the airplane like he was sick or something," recounted Luke Stinson, one of the passengers. "It just seemed off at how urgent it seemed. It was just weird. When the captain came on to give the announcement, he seemed to get flustered." Stinson claims to have been told by a TSA official that two men were "possibly posing as air marshals," though the agency now denies this.

Suspicious bathroom behavior incident number 1. Two F-16s escorted a flight from Los Angeles to JFK after three passengers reportedly locked themselves in the bathroom. According to a sparse report from the Associated Press, the passengers "were still inside when the plane landed" and a "law enforcement official says it isn't thought to be terrorism." The TSA said that they decided to do the fighter jet escort "out of an abundance of caution."

Suspicious bathroom behavior incident number 2. Two more F-16s were called into action after two passengers who were spending "an extraordinarily long time in the lavatory" on a flight from Denver. After the plane made an emergency landing in Detroit, three passengers were taken into custody. According to some sources, there was some drinking involved: "Several sources tell NBC News that two, possibly three, passengers were drunk and refused to follow flight attendant instructions, making long and frequent visits to the lavatories." With the flight originating in Denver and everything, we're tempted to make a joke about the Mile High Club, but we've already established the fact that most September 11 jokes aren't funny.

Suspicious package in Brooklyn brings out the bomb squad. The New York Times's data wizard Nate Silver spent part of his Sunday live-tweeting a bomb scare in Brooklyn Heights. "They have a guy in a hazmat suit checking things out. Police seem pretty calm," said Silver noting that two blocks of Court Street had been shut down. "The building where they're looking at what is apparently a suspcious package, on NE corner of Court & Livingston, is nondescript." Within the hour, police were "beginning to pack up," and the street was open to pedestrians again soon thereafter. Silver echoed the common refrain, "Just an abundance of caution on NYPDs behalf" and included a couple of snapshots.

Suspicious man with a suitcase threatens bus in Los Angeles. Reuters reports on one of the scarier terror threats on Saturday night, "A man who boarded a Los Angeles bus carrying a suitcase with exposed wires and threatened the driver, triggering a bomb scare, was arrested on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, police said. No explosives were found in the suitcase and Eugenio Parades, 62, was arrested on suspicion of making terrorist threats and possession of a hoax device."

Suspicious notes shut down an Arkansas power plant three times. In the week leading up to Septebmer 11, a SWEPCO power plant in Hempstead County, Arkansas dealt with three separate threats bomb threats. Still under construction, the plant was evacuated and searched each time. According to the local KSLA news team, the first threat came on September 7 in the form of a written note … saying there was a bomb there." A second note followed on September 10 that "was more specific and mentioned the date and kind of device that would be used" and a third note with no details surfaced mid-morning on September 11. All three times, authorities found nothing.

Suspicious phone in Tennessee threatens to blow up a mosque. Five days before September 11, the Imam Islamic Center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee found a message on their answering machine that threatened to blog up the mosque on September 11. The threat came after weeks of controversy over the Islamic congregation's place in the community. "When you have Islam, that is more political than religious," local Tea Party founder Lou Ann Zelenik told NPR. "That is something that doesn't work under our Constitution." The mosque's director doesn't understand the animosity. "We did not do anything," said Imam Ossama Bahloul. "Nothing, zero." The bomb threat turned out to be false and sparked a federal investigation into the matter.

Suspicious explosions in the sky frighten New York City residents. There are 364 nights of the year when it's totally okay and not disrespectful to shoot off fireworks in New York City. The night before September 11 is not one of those days, and the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is most certainly off-limits. A few rabble rousers near New York City must've forgotten. "At least three firework shows--by Governors Island, in Hoboken and in Florham Park, N.J.--took place the evening before the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11," The New York Times reports. "Some unwitting spectators were left wondering whether the fireworks were a terrorist attack or a bizarre expression of patriotism." Bizarre or badly timed, Saturday's was one type of expression Brooklyn residents did not appreciate.

Did we miss anything? Send us any other 9/11 scares in a non-suspicious email.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.