Employees Evacuate Little Rock Office Buildings After Terrorist Attacks

The Little Rock National Airport and the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport closed Tuesday after two airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City and another airplane crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

The Federal Aviation Administration reportedly has cancelled all flights in the United States and ordered all flights in the air to land immediately.

The Little Rock National Airport is closed, and about 24 planes have taken refuge there.

Area hotels have been warned that hundreds of displaced passengers will need lodging.

"American Airlines has about 1,000 people that they need to locate in hotel rooms. I don't have a number from Southwest Airlines," said Tim Gonser, vice president and general manager of the Excelsior Hotel in Little Rock. "I'm assuming we'll be full by the end of the day."

The hotel has set a special rate for passengers displaced by the national shutdown of air traffic.

"We assume we'll be feeding a lot of people today, so we're setting ourselves up," Gonser said. And while the situation is "unprecedented," he said, the preparations are not unlike those that he experienced during 14 years of hotel management in hurricane-prone Florida.

Frank Thomas, a spokesman for Stephens Inc., the Little Rock investment firm, said it is allowing all non-essential personnel to go home and not evacuting its offices, as orginally reported. At New York City, Boston and Chicago offices, Stephens let employees go home, Thomas said.

Some employees at the TCBY Tower and Bank of America building have evacuated as a precautionary measure.

At the Federal Building on Capitol Ave. in Little Rock, sources said the office of Sen. Tim Hutchinson, R-Ark., are being evacuated. Sources said Hutchinson, who is in Washington, D.C., at a staffer's home, is reportedly safe.

Officials put the Federal Building on alert this morning, later telling individual offices that could leave if they wanted, the source said. The Federal Building is also home to the offices of Rep. Vic Snyder, D-Ark., the Internal Revenue Service and the Army Corp of Engineers.

The Arkansas National Guard said it is restricting access to Camp Robinson in North Little Rock and Fort Chaffee near Fort Smith. Only those who work on post and who have a valid reason to be there will be allowed to enter.

Traffic is usually open to the public and will open again once a decision has been made to do so, the National Guard said. The closing is not a response to any direct threat but a "routine precaution," the guard said.

Security at the Pine Bluff Arsenal was tightened after the attack, according to a source outside of the Arsenal.

Gov. Mike Huckabee, who is in Lexington, Ky., said he would return to Arkansas as soon as "flights are allowed or by vehicle if necessary. We will be home by tonight at the latest." Huckabee said he has been in touch with Lt. Gov. Rockefeller, who is at the Capitol.

Arkansasbusiness.com will update this story.