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Airport director remembers 9/11 at Billings Logan

Billings Logan tower.jpg
Posted at 9:37 AM, Sep 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-11 11:37:11-04

Changes have come to airports across the country over the past two decades because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Kevin Ploehn, the director of aviation and transit for the city of Billings, talked about what it was like 20 years ago at Billings Logan International Airport.

"Same time I was getting to work here, my wife called me and said, 'what's going on,'" said Ploehn, who was the airport's business director in 2001. "'It looks like a really bad accident, plane just crashed into one of the towers.' Wow, that's crazy. I remember me and Tom (Binford, former director) standing in his office looking at the TV when the second one plowed into the tower. And that's when we knew this was more than an accident. Something was going on. It was so surreal. I mean, you're flabbergasted at first like something like this couldn't ever happen in America. And then you got mad. I remember that we were just kind of ticked off. So, it was kind of an interesting day."

Kevin Ploehn 9-10.jpg
KTVQ photo

And he looks back and says America can not forget the attacks.

"You got to remember that what it stood for, what it meant what it did to the country," said Ploehn. "It caused a lot of anger and sadness."

He recalled how airport closures affected people on and after Sept. 11, 2001.

"They shut down air traffic," Ploehn said. "They said every airplane in the sky, land. And then the military planes came out. They were pushing people down if they had to. And what was interesting is that for three days there were no flights in the sky. None. And I can remember standing in the baggage claim area, and there's nobody in there except for one guy trying to get a rental car because he had to drive to Florida to get home."

Ploehn said changes with security have made flying safer.

"Not saying it couldn't happen but it would be very difficult," he said. "You'd have to have some very extraordinary circumstances for something like that to happen again. Yeah, I feel perfectly safe getting on an airplane nowadays."

Watch this video of Q2's coverage of Billings Logan International Airport in the days after Sept. 11, 2001:

A look back: Billings airport in the wake of 9/11