Nick Ardillo was at his second-floor office at the Golden Triangle Regional Airport.
Airport employees were rushing up the stairs to give him the news.
“You need to turn on the TV and see what”s going on,” they told him.
Then, Ardillo was executive director of the airport.
“I was very shocked by what was happening,” he remembers.
At the time, his son, Scott, was a pilot for American Airlines.
Both planes that were hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center towers were American Airlines planes. So Ardillo immediately tried to contact his son.
Scott was in Texas, but he had been in New York just the day before.
Relieved, Ardillo asked Scott to call his mother.
Then he turned his attention back to the airport.
“There were messages back in forth about stopping all flights in the U.S.,” Ardillo said. “We were positioned for that, but no flights diverted to GTRA.”
The Federal Aviation Administration brought in security, and all vehicles were moved from terminals, some by tow truck.
“At least every 30 minutes, there was another directive for airports,” Ardillo said.
For the next three to four days, there were no flights; airports were closed.
Ardillo remained at GTRA until 2004, overseeing the changes Sept. 11, 2001, brought about, primarily enhanced security measures.
“We had our local public safety personnel at the airport, responsible for a (much) smaller piece of screening as opposed to what we have today,” said Ardillo, who still flies through GTRA.
“I think security at smaller regional airports like GTRA is more thorough then you have when you have a press of hundreds of people trying to go through security at your larger airports,” he said.
The Transportation Security Administration has taken over airport security since the 9/11 attacks, standardizing procedures and creating a unified communication system.
For those who fly frequently, the increased security checks are just a way of life.
“It”s just what we had to do,” Ardillo said.
“Most of what we get is compliments (on screenings), because at an airport like ours, we screen one flight at a time,” making the process faster, said Mike Hainsey, current executive director of GTRA.
Traffic moved briskly at the airport on Saturday.
On today, the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the airport is ” exercising increased vigilance, but nothing formal,” said Hainsey.