On the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Fire Department based at Logan International Airport held a fire training exercise that included roaring flames and heavy smoke, leading many to question the timing of the drills on a day of mourning.
Governor Deval Patrick said the decision was “just dumb.” And the head of a 9/11 support group said that the Massachusetts Port Authority, which owns and operates the airport, should have been more sensitive to the families of the victims of 9/11, as well as a general Boston community that realizes the historical significance of the airport on that day.
“Sept. 11 was so traumatic for so many people, and it is emblazoned on so many people’s mind and conscious,” said Eric Lowrey, president of the Massachusetts 9/11 Fund, who was attending several memorial events as the training exercise was underway. “I could very much see it being an issue and very worrisome for anyone who saw that smoke and fire, knowing this date has some significance.”
The terrorist attacks of 12 years ago took the lives of 206 people with ties to Masschusetts. Two of the planes used in the attacks took off from Logan and crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City.
Patrick told reporters Wednesday about the exercise: “I didn’t know it was going to happen, and it’s just dumb. The timing could not be worse.”
Three hours after Logan announced the fire drills on social media sites, Massport apologized for the timing of the exercise, saying it understood that it might have offended many of those touched by 9/11.
“Safety and security is our top priority, and constant vigilance and readiness is critical, but the exercise should not have taken place on the anniversary of 9/11,” Massport said.
Massport also noted that the airport community recognizes the day with moments of silence, a service in the chapel, and a wreath at the 9/11 memorial.
Logan made the announcement regarding the drill about 9:30 a.m. Television news camera footage later showed a large structure similar to a plane with heavy fire and billowing black smoke rushing out of it.
Massport’s announcement of the drill was a brief two sentences: “The Fire Department will be training this morning. Smoke on the airfield is part of the training.”
Almost immediately, the announcement was criticized by the airport’s social media followers, one of whom stated, “Another day would have been smarter to do this . . . seriously????”
Another person who was at Logan at the time of the drills said he saw smoke at the airport. “Found it odd that there was an exercise on this day and place,” he said on Twitter.
Salvatore LaMattina, the city councilor who represents the East Boston neighborhood where the airport is located, said he took no issue with the timing of the drill.
“Sept. 11 happened 12 years ago, and it was a horrific event in America’s history,” he said. “My East Boston neighborhood was shaken. But now we . . . and the airport, must move on. The firefighters, those are our first responders, and so it’s only fitting that they train today.”
Patrick said he still had confidence in Massport’s leadership.
“I have to believe they just didn’t catch this,” he said. “The people who experienced 9/11 – many of whom work at Massport – I just feel so sorry.”
Massport representatives would not comment beyond the prepared statement.
But Lowrey, of the 9/11 Fund, said he was surprised with the decision to hold the exercise.
“People are going to be sensitive; you’re going to need sensitivity,” he said. “This is really a time of remembrance.”