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Special ReportPortland Press Herald
America Attacked - Maine and the Nation Respond

Saturday, September 15, 2001

Mainers on plane with suspects

Copyright © 2001 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.

 

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America Attacked: Mainers & the Nation Respond

 

WINSLOW — Two central Maine men were on a flight from Portland to Boston early Tuesday with two men suspected of hijacking a plane hours later and crashing it into the World Trade Center.

Roger Quirion, 40, of Winslow, and Brian Guerrette, 34, of Oakland, drove to the Portland International Jetport on Tuesday to catch US Airways Flight 5930, a 5:30 a.m. flight to Boston.

Quirion and Guerrette were two of only about 10 passengers on the 19-seat Beech 1900, which arrived in Boston just before 7 a.m., they said Friday night during an interview at Quirion's home. While they did not think anything of it at the time, they observed two men in the waiting area at the Portland terminal whom they would later describe to FBI agents.

"They were, like, joined at the hip," Quirion said. "They went to the desk together, came back and sat together. They were talking. It was very serious. It looked like they were all business."

The men, who appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent, were short, clean cut and had small builds. Each wore casual pants and a long-sleeve shirt, according to the two local men. They said the men appeared to be in their 20s.

FBI spokeswoman Gail Marcinkiewicz, reached in Boston, would not confirm Friday night that two of the terrorists traveled on US Airways Flight 5930.

Quirion and Guerrette, who develop computer applications for the Bureau of Information Services at the Maine Department of Finance and Administration, were heading to Los Angeles from Boston to attend a conference in Palm Springs, they said.

They made their Delta connection in Boston, but ended up in Cleveland when their pilot told the 69 passengers aboard that he had to land in that city because "two small rental planes" had crashed into the World Trade Center, Quirion said.

In Cleveland, Quirion and Guerrette had to wait in the plane on the tarmac for three hours until FBI agents interviewed each passenger separately at a Federal Aviation Administration building. The airline then put passengers up at a local Holiday Inn.

At the airport, FBI agents asked the passengers a variety of questions about the Delta flight, so Quirion and Guerrette said they never thought at the time to give them any information about the Portland flight — or any of the people who were on it.

Guerrette said he did not believe that FBI agents at the time knew of the Portland connection. And being sheltered at the airport, the passengers were unaware of exactly what was happening in the rest of the country, they said.

It was not until Quirion and Guerrette arrived at the hotel at 5 p.m. that they were able to see a television and realize the magnitude of what had happened at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in a wooded area in western Pennsylvania.

When they woke up the next morning and turned on the news, they learned that two terrorists had boarded a plane in Portland early Tuesday, headed for Boston. That is when they remembered the two passengers from their first flight who struck them as suspicious.

"Brian came into my room and said, 'Remember those two guys?' " Quirion said.

He said he was not sure the information they had would help FBI agents, but they decided to contact the FBI anyway. They called at 9:30 a.m. Nine agents arrived in less than an hour and interviewed them separately for about 45 minutes, they said.

"We expected one or two guys and there were nine," Quirion said. "Our room was packed with FBI agents."

The agents asked them numerous questions, according to the men. "What did they look like? Were they young? Were they old? Would you recognize them again if you saw them?" Quirion said.

Quirion and Guerrette said they were anxious to get back to their families. But they were unable to get a flight, so they rented a car and arrived home late Friday afternoon.

Quirion's wife, Tammey, said she spent a stressful week with their year-old daughter, Christine, knowing that her husband traveled Tuesday on one of three flights leaving Boston at about the same time bound for the West Coast. "I feel there was some type of divine intervention because all of the events have just been too coincidental," she said.

Guerrette's children, Derek, 6, and Julia, 2, clung to their father's legs as he visited the Quirions Friday night. Guerrette's wife, Tessa, said she feels blessed to have her husband home. "I feel God is with us all the time," she said.

Quirion and Guerrette said they keep thinking of the people who died in the plane crashes — and of the families who are mourning. "I feel blessed that it didn't happen to us," Quirion said.

Added Guerrette: "Three planes from Boston to the West Coast, and we were on the only one that landed safely. That's the thing that gets us. It could have been us."

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"We expected one or two guys and there were nine," Quirion said. "Our room was packed with FBI agents."

Nine FBI agents arrived in less than an hour and interviewed them separately for about 45 minutes, they said.


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