JFK Gun Scare and Evacuation: My Evening at Terminal 1

Check-in counter in Terminal 1 at JFK

By Jonathan Spira on 15 August 2016
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After an unfounded report of shots fired resulted in an evacuation of three terminals at John F. Kennedy International Airport, passengers found themselves in a chaotic scene.

I was there and witnessed the terrifying evacuation of one of the terminals.

To recap, around 9:30 p.m. EDT, police received a report of shots fired in Terminal 8, American Airlines’ facility at the airport. Two witnesses told Port Authority police that they heard loud popping sounds that they believed to have been gunshots. While no evidence that suggests shots had been fired has been found, one airport official is advancing the theory that the passengers who thought they heard shots fired actually heard banging on tables or other loud noises when Usain Bolt won the gold medal for the third straight time, as his 9:25 p.m. victory fits the timeline.

My brother and I were driving on the JFK Expressway, the road that winds its way through the airport, towards Terminal 1, the terminal owned and operated by Lufthansa, Air France, Japan Airlines, and Korean Air, for his late-night flight to Paris. As we continued on the highway, we saw that the exit for Terminal 8 was blocked off by police cars and we noticed a lot of activity in front of the terminal.

After we took the exit for Terminal 1 departures, police cars started whizzing by us, stopping in front of the terminal. Neither of us truly realized what was going on. We tried using Google to see if there was any news online about the goings on but found nothing. I continued to look after he exited the car and noticed a strange group of what I thought was possibly a tour group moving in a hurry, somewhat crouched down. “Must be late for their flight,” I assumed, not giving it a second thought.

About a minute later, the doors of the terminal burst wide open and hundreds of people streamed out. It was, as my brother put it, as if someone had stepped on an anthill. I called him as he was ahead of me and told him to walk down the ramp. I was at that point unable to go anywhere because people were everywhere.

It was both maddening and terrifying. I saw numerous passengers walking around the busy roads that ring JFK, bags in hand, because the AirTrain had been shut down and they had no other way to leave.

It’s still not clear what prompted the copycat report at Terminal 1 and, beyond a confirmation from a Port Authority spokesman, little has been said as to why Terminal 2, operated by Delta, was also closed. By midnight, all terminals had been reopened but many flights were either delayed or cancelled at that point.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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