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LAX shooting: Stranded passengers walk empty streets, picnic, fume

November 01, 2013|By Sam Schaefer, Jill Cowan, Laura Nelson and Matt Stevens

The deadly shooting of a Transportation Security Administration worker Friday at Los Angeles International Airport left hundreds of passengers stranded for hours, forcing many to either make do or get creative.

The airport was shut down shortly after the shooting around 9:20 a.m., leaving passengers in the lurch as police conducted their investigation. Many travelers camped out wherever they could find space in the blocks surrounding LAX, streaming into nearby hotels and shops to buy water or recharge cellphones.

PHOTOS: Shooting at LAX

Angela Momi, 32, and Parveena Claire, 33, of England were sitting on suitcases and eating lunch on a patch of grass at the airport, waiting to catch a flight to Las Vegas.

"Typical Americans," Momi said, who had been waiting with her friend for more than three hours for news about their flight.

Many passengers seemed resigned to missing their flights, even as LAX officials began reopening Terminals 1 and 2 shortly after 4 p.m. Terminal 3, where the shooting took place, would remain closed for an extended period as investigators combed the scene, officials said at an afternoon news briefing.

Bader Al-Balawi, 26, said he was going to miss his flight to Brazil -- and his mother's birthday. The San Diego State University student was optimistic he'd get there eventually, but as he sat outside a nearby In-N-Out, Al-Balawi said he was “exhausted.”

Hundreds of people called taxis and rental cars, hoping the vehicles could find their way through a network of roadblocks around LAX and that nearby hotels weren’t totally booked. Others plugged their phones into outside wall outlets and called family members in L.A.

Those who had connecting flights didn't have their luggage. One man, bound for Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said he hadn't been able to get through to the Virgin America hotline posted on the hangar doors.

"It has been a very, very long day," Tartaglia said, as her son slept on her chest. "We're just thankful he handled this so well” as she put her hand on his head.

They left around 2:30 p.m. after waiting more than an hour for a rental car with a child's car seat.

Many walked through the normally congested intersection at the Imperial Highway, crossed the exit ramps and headed into the eerily quiet Sepulveda Boulevard tunnel. The only sounds were the echo of footsteps and the clack of rolling suitcases on the pavement.

Stephen Hartley, 59, of Chicago, had flown into Los Angeles to be with his daughter after her emergency appendectomy.

"I'm just going to walk until they say I can't," he said, before striding into the street.

It was a luxury some passengers didn’t have.

Cristina Nussbaum’s Virgin America flight was landing at LAX on stopover to Las Vegas when the news came over the speaker that there had been a “security breach” that would cause a “minor delay.”

At one point, the flight desk told passengers that the back of the plane had reached 74 degrees. To keep things cool, they asked them to slide the panel over their windows. So Nussbaum said that although the plane was moving, passengers had no idea where they were going.

Finally, passengers got word that the airline had arranged for the plane to park at a private hanger owned by Atlantic Aviation and that taxis would be waiting for them.

“People started clapping when they said we could get off,” Nussbaum said.

But when passengers deplaned around 1 p.m., there were just  five taxis waiting for more than 100 people, Nussbaum said. The first ones off the plane got the cabs. The others were stranded.

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