Terrorist fear closes ferry docks to cars
June 25, 2008 · Updated 2:09 PM
"VFW Commander Jesse Groeschen watches activity at the ferry dock. He likened the terrorist attack to Pearl Harbor.Jim Larsen, staff photoShock waves from massive terrorism on the East Coast hit Clinton at 9 a.m. Tuesday when for the first time in history Washington State Ferries suspended vehicle service to and from Mukilteo for reasons unrelated to weather.The last ferry containing vehicles left the Clinton dock at 9 a.m., and normal service did not resume until 2:30 p.m.Most ferries systemwide were closed to vehicles out of fear there could be a bomb on board. State Ferries spokesperson Patricia Patterson said that at the request of the Coast Guard, all terminals were closed to vehicular traffic with the exception of Vashon Island and the San Juan Islands.The ferries continued to carry foot passengers on the regular schedule. We're not going to cut any runs. Hopefully they'll resume service before long, said John Rover, terminal agent.Cars arriving for the 9:30 ferry were turned away at the ticket booth. But there appeared to be no anger, as one might have expected from people whose plans for the day were ruined.Ticket agent Genevieve Black politely apprised drivers of the situation and they slowly turned around, leaving the ferry dock entirely empty of vehicles.Everybody's pretty sad today, Black said, explaining the subdued reaction of those turned away.Carol Kildow drove her new VW Bug to Black's booth, ferry ticket in hand. She was caught completely by surprise, because she hadn't heard about the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon and other sites. Kildow had two friends from France in her car, and she was planning to take them to Seattle. I haven't heard about anything, Kildow said as she turned her car around.Another would-be ferry user, Jacque Hansen, was almost relieved to be turned away. She was headed to Costco to purchase supplies for Tuesday night's GOP picnic at Useless Bay Country Club.Hansen said she had dropped her kids off school, where it was normal procedure there. She headed for the ferry, but gladly turned around when told of the situation. She had long since heard the terrorism news.This doesn't surprise me, Hansen said. I'll go home and gather my thoughts; figure out Plan B. It's devastating.Another woman, Carol Ripley, gladly gave up her planned visit to the doctor. That's fine, she said as she turned her car around. I didn't want to go across anyway. It's going to be a mess this morning.Jesse Groeschen, commander of the South Whidbey Veterans of Foreign Wars, visited the ferry dock just to watch. This is history, he said. That's the one reason I'm down here. This is equivalent to Pearl Harbor. He's a 26-year Air Force veteran whose career included time in Vietnam.Ferry dock worker Terry England went to work at 4:30 a.m. and had heard only rumors about the terrorism incidents. He wasn't sure what to believe. Everybody's got it a little different, he said.But England knew there was a big problem. Sea-Tac Airport was shut down early in the morning, and he saw many people turning around or pulling their baggage back off the ferries.Island Transit driver Larry Stadtlander said he first heard about the terrorism from a passenger who boarded his bus at Lagoon Point. All morning passengers discussed little else. There's a lot of disbelief, the bus driver said. We can't even comprehend the devastation back there. We're trying to carry on as normal as we can.Shirley Wilson, owner of Shirley's Kitchen next to the ferry dock, had no customers at 9:15 a.m. We have enough bomb scares without this, she said.But Wilson wasn't complaining about lack of business, and she, too, noticed that nobody was complaining about being turned away from the nearby ticket booth. They all had more important things to worry about.It's scary, Wilson said. I'd be amazed if we don't go to war over this. "