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Listen To Maine Public's Report The Day After 9/11 When Journalists First Learned Of Portland's Role In The Hijackings

Portland International Jetport
Pat Wellenbach
/
AP
In this Sept. 7, 2011 photo, work is near completion of a colorful, $75 million passenger terminal at the Portland International Jetport in Portland, Maine. The 137,000-square-foot passenger terminal that opened on Oct. 2, 2011 features the largest geothermal system at a U.S. airport. Security was also improved, with additional lanes for passenger screening and a hidden conveyor system with an automated explosive detection system. Ten years prior to these updates, the ringleader of the 9/11 attacks strode through security at the Portland International Jetport and boarded a commuter flight to start a day that ended in death and destruction.

Listen to the archived recording from Maine Things Considered the day after the September 11 terrorist attacks, as we first learned of the mysterious role that Portland played in setting off the deadly chain of events that triggered a war and changed the world.

Tuesday, September 11, 2001. It began as a sparkling late summer day in southern Maine. Deep blue sky. Puffy white clouds and no hint that anything was amiss at the Jetport in Portland where two men, one with a small bag, boarded a 6 a.m. commuter plane bound for Boston.

Within hours they, and 17 other terrorists linked to Al Qaeda, would hijack four planes and use them carry out suicide attacks. Among the nearly 3,000 people killed that day were 6 Mainers.

Robert and Jackie Norton of Lubec, both retired, were on Flight 11 headed to their son's wedding on the West Coast. Robert Schlegel of Gray was celebrating his recent promotion to the rank of Commander in the United States Navy, and settling into a new office at the Pentagon. Stephen Ward of Gorham was working for a bond firm on the 101st floor of the North Tower at the World Trade Center. And attorney James Roux of Portland, an Army veteran and father was headed to a business meeting in California on United Airlines Flight 175, the second plane to hit the World Trade Center.

We now know that the two men who flew out of Portland were 33-year-old Mohammed Atta and 22-year-old Adul Azziz al Omari and that they did not enter Maine from Canada. They drove up from Boston in a rented car for reasons that are still unknown.

Born in Egypt, Atta is considered the mastermind of the terrorist attacks. He was raised in a middle class, modern Muslim family, attended college in Cairo and later in Hamburg, Germany. That's where authorities believe he was introduced to several radical Islamists who formed a terror cell that was later recruited and trained by Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. Since 2001, more than 2,000 U.S. troops have been killed in the Afghan war, including more than 20 Mainers.