Salt Lake International Airport

The Impact of 9/11

As the events of 9/11 unfolded, Salt Lake City International Airport became a very different kind of place. The usually bustling terminals and concourses sat empty, planes that should have been in motion stood still, and a strange silence settled over the whole complex.

“One of the most eerie things I remember was, that night, going from the terminal over to my office, which was across the airfield to the north, and it was ‘crickets’,” Pete Higgins remembers. “There was nothing, no engines, no movements. A few seagulls flying. It was very, very surreal,” said Higgins, who at the time was the airport’s director of maintenance.

Jim Snarr, also in airport maintenance, has similar memories. “It was quiet, like you were out in the middle of a field,” Snarr said. “When all the planes were on the ground, it was the eeriest feeling because I heard nothing. And we were used to hearing planes.”

Al Stuart in airport operations also remembers the quiet. “When we [staff who were at the airport] left at ten or eleven that night, there were only two people in the terminal. There was no noise. And it’s never quiet here. Even in the middle of the night, there’s always an engine running somewhere.”

But the eerie quality was tinged with an overwhelming feeling of sadness.

Randy Berg, former airport operations director, called a meeting for airline employees to update everyone on how the airport was responding. “I’d like to start out with a moment of silence for our fallen friends and comrades,” Higgins remembers Berg saying. “When we got through, I looked at the moist eyes in the crowd, realizing that these were their friends and colleagues—people that they knew. It was their company, in some cases, that had been targeted.”