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KCI employee remembers working on 9/11: 'The afternoon was a ghost town here'

Joe McBride web.jpg
Posted at 4:00 AM, Sep 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-10 11:07:16-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Airports across the country went into extreme panic mode in the hours immediately following the 9/11 attacks. One Kansas City International Airport employee remembers that all too well.

Joe McBride is the communications manager for the Kansas City Aviation Department. He held that same job twenty years ago, and heard about the first plane hitting the World Trade Center on the radio on his drive in to work.

RELATED | In post-9/11 world, new KCI terminal offers adaptability, efficiency not available in current design

He assumed it was a private plane, and that he'd be asked a few questions from local media later in the day. When what really happened became clear, the airport changed completely, with an eerie feeling all day long.

"You'd look up in the sky, and you'd see all these contrails that jet across the sky in a straight line, were half-circles,” McBride said. “That was because those aircraft were landing at the closest airport that could take them, based on where the FAA was sending them."

"We knew that we were going to have a lot of aircraft full of people that were not scheduled to come to Kansas City, coming here,” McBride said. “So we're thinking about cots, hotel rooms, rental cars… How are we going to deal with all these people that are going to be stranded that aren't from Kansas City."

McBride, and every other member of the aviation department staff, took on extra responsibilities that day, because many of the managers weren’t in town.

"Just about every airport director in the United States was in Montreal for an airport conference, and all the upper management,” McBride said. “So they were all trying to monitor the situation, far away from their airports, and as it turns out, they wouldn't be able to come here for a week."

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McBride was consumed with work all day, so much so that the emotions of what the world experienced that day didn't hit until he got home.

"I didn't start thinking about what had happened to us in the United States, and what I dealt with, which was nothing compared to what other people did, until I got home to my wife and small child,” McBride said. “That's when I broke down. I didn't let go of them for a good 10 minutes."

McBride says to this day, he can't watch video of the attacks.

Every year, the TSA recognizes 9/11 with a period of silence at all checkpoints, and they stop all screenings. That will happen Saturday morning at KCI.