Oklahoma State Fair to open on schedule; agents visit flight schools

Friday, September 14th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Officials grappled with whether to open the Oklahoma State Fair on Friday, but ultimately decided the event would begin on schedule and pay tribute to those killed in Tuesday's terrorist attacks.

``After deliberation and consultation with civic officials, we decided plans for this year's Oklahoma State Fair will continue,'' said Skip Wagner, president and general manager of the fair. ``Let me be clear, however; this decision was made with great thought, taking into full consideration the backdrop of (Tuesday's) tragic events. We did not take it lightly.''

Hundreds are confirmed dead and nearly 5,000 are missing after hijacked jetliners crashed into the towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington Tuesday morning. Another hijacked jet crashed into a Pennsylvania field west of Pittsburgh.

Wagner said officials are hoping ``to provide some sort of diversion from the tragic events of this week'' by opening. Officials will lower the flags to half-staff after a flag-raising ceremony, at which Mayor Kirk Humphrey will speak.

Mounted patrols, Oklahoma County sheriff's deputies, Oklahoma City police, plain-clothed officers, and private security will maintain a constant presence at the fairgrounds, officials said.

While the fair will go on as usual, sporting events on the college level have been postponed.

The University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University and the University of Tulsa will not play games scheduled for Saturday, but the University of Central Oklahoma will continue, officials said.

The Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association urged its member schools to postpone weekend competition.

Also on hold is the national gun lock give-away scheduled for Saturday. Project HomeSafe was to begin at 10 a.m. that day nationwide, Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin said. The date has been pushed back to Sept. 22.

Meanwhile, FBI agents asked questions and checked student enrollment records at two flight schools in Oklahoma on Thursday.

Officials at the Airman Flight School in Norman said agents inquired about particular individuals and whether any foreign contract students were missing.

``It's routine in this type of investigation,'' said Dale Davis, an official at the school. ``I've talked to flight schools across the country, and they're hitting all of them.

The FBI also contacted the Spartan School of Aeronautics in Tulsa about four hours after the terrorist attacks, said Douglas Yost, the school's executive vice president.

Agents wanted to know about foreign contract students and attendance patterns, he said.

Elsewhere, travelers stranded in Oklahoma continued to search for ways to reach their destinations.

Charles and Teresa Sparks, who traveled in an airplane for the first time two weeks ago, boarded a bus Thursday to back to their home in Fort Smith, Ark. The couple was returning from a family reunion in California when their flight was diverted to Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City.

``Next time we go anyplace, we're not taking a flight, we're not taking a bus,'' Teresa Sparks said. ``If we go anyplace, we're driving.''

Others got out of Oklahoma by Amtrak train service and some obtained whatever rental cars were available.