About 15 minutes after the twin towers were hit in New York City, the FAA got a terrifying message. Delta flight 1989 might have a bomb and terrorists on board.
After departing from Boston, the pilot of Delta #1989 was ordered to land immediately at Cleveland Hopkins Airport. The Cleveland Police SWAT Team was mobilized and rushed to the tarmac at the airport.
"There was an indication that this might be a terrorist plane," According to Fred Szabo, Airport Commissioner. "We didn't know if there were bombs on board, or if it was a hijacked plane."
After landing at Hopkins, Flight #1989 was ordered to park at a remote section of the airport near the empty NASA hanger. Meanwhile, a team of FBI agents was mobilized and brought to the plane. The Cleveland SWAT team was lead by Lt. Bernie Barabas and took up a position about fifty yards behind the jetliner. Ever officer knew that this was a potentially deadly mission.
"Realistically, you had to consider multiple casualties on our end," said Lt. Barabas. "It was possible that we could lose the whole team."
For the next hour, FBI agents carefully removed small groups of passengers from the plane. The SWAT unit was prepared for the worst.
Recalling that difficult day, Lt. Barabas said:
"If there had been some sort of problem, and this turned into a situation where this was a live hijacking, or if they started killing Americans, we were going to act."
High above the scene in the airport control center, city officials were nervously waiting for word.
"We didn't know what we were going to see," Fred Szabo said. "I think the fear was that we were about to see a devastating event."
About two hours after Flight #1989 landed in Cleveland, the situation started to resolve as FBI agents reviewed every passenger.
Meanwhile, every piece of luggage and carry-on baggage was opened and then examined by security agents.
There was no bomb onboard.
Seven hours later, the passengers and crew were free to leave the airport.