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Crash creates unease, not alarm

Whether it was foul play or mechanical failure that felled American Airlines Flight 587 Monday, residents were unsure, and reaction to the disaster around Pasco County was muted and thoughtful.

On the streets, many said they would continue to fly when travel requires or when holidays arise, though maybe not everywhere or at every opportunity.

"The mayor (of New York) said, "Come to New York,' so we're going to New York," said Claudia Madani, who is traveling from Dade City with her husband. "I'm not a fearful person."

Madani said she has tickets to some New York shows and reservations at the famous Tavern on the Green for her early December trip. As a veteran traveler, she planned to venture forward.

But not everyone was so ready to take to the air.

Jean Murphy, who owned Zephyrhills' Freedom Travel for 20 years before selling the agency, said she had been concerned about her annual mother/daughter trip to New York after the Sept. 11 attacks and discussed canceling it Sunday.

On Monday, Murphy canceled the hotel reservations. The crash was too much.

"It pushed me over," Murphy said. "It's so sad."

In Port Richey, Judy Treston, who works at Gulf View Square mall, said she was offered free tickets to see a friend in Texas for the holidays but decided not to go. When she does travel again, she said it won't be on American Airlines.

"It makes me sick," Treston said. "I won't go near that airline . . . They were picked. Just when you started to feel safe."

Debbie Triglia of Port Richey said she's reluctant to get on a plane.

"I'd only go in case of an emergency. I think you have to go on with your life, but still."

At AAA Travel in Port Richey, the agency's phone lines were quiet for a Monday, its waiting chairs empty. It was a change from last week, the agency's busiest since Sept. 11.

Normally, an airline crash has little impact on ticket sales, said Lori Kwiatkowski, manager of AAA Travel's Port Richey office. But after Sept. 11, the sight of black smoke filling the sky and F-15s overhead had a chilling effect.

"This is something new we're all dealing with for the first time," she said. "If it turns out to be mechanical, I don't think it will have any effect" on airline ticket sales.

Her office wasn't completely dead. About a dozen people called to book flights. One woman sought the price difference between flying to Iowa and taking Amtrak. Others asked about cruises.

Nobody mentioned the Monday morning crash, Kwiatkowski said.

"It's still unclear what happened," she said.

Bobby Thurman of Weeki Wachee said he was outside washing his car Monday when his wife told him about the crash.

He said the thought of another terrorist attack never crossed his mind.

"I don't think they will ever hijack another plane in this country," Thurman said. "We've been relaxed too long. People are more aware."

Thurman said he would be willing to fly again.

"I think it would be safe," he said. "I just feel safe in this country. We have the safest place to live in the whole world."

Ron Traner of Dade City said he refused to be scared by Monday's crash, especially before knowing what caused it.

"Jumping to conclusions can be dangerous," Traner said. "It's probably an accident."

Traner said he has traveled to Germany and Italy since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. And he has no holiday travel plans, but said he would gladly fly again.

"If something's going to happen, it's going to happen," Traner said. "The fact is, it's still safer to fly than to get in your car."

_ Times staff writers Brady Dennis, Cary Davis and Jennifer Goldblatt contributed to this report.

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