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Passengers from Fort Lauderdale land in St. Louis, learn of shooting

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ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – The trauma in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida rippled across the country as news spread of a mass shooting at an airport.

There was a tremendous feeling of gratefulness at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport among passengers who flew out of Fort Lauderdale just minutes before the shooting began.

Lambert Airport Director Rhonda Hamm-Niebrugge said the job requires constant consideration of safety.

“It’s one of the things that keeps you awake at night if you’re an airport director,” she said.

Immediately after the shootings, Lambert beefed up its own security. Hamm-Niebrugge said it was a precautionary measure; there were no known threats, plus she believes the show of force also comforts passengers.

“You feel better when you see the presence of police and presence of the canine unit, so we did put extra staff out,” she said.

Within the past 12 months, Lambert Airport has conducted its own active shooter drill, Hamm-Niebrugge said.

“We work very closely with the federal agencies obviously both the FBI and TSA hand in hand, partners always looking at threats that may be out there,” she said.

Passengers on a flight arriving from Fort Lauderdale took off from Florida just 15 minutes before the shooting began. Some learned the news from the plane’s WiFi.

“My friend was sitting next to me and pulled up Fox News and it came on; he told me it was like surreal. It was really frightening,” said passenger Kathy Rock.

Most heard about the tragedy when the plane landed and their cellphones started ringing with text messages from concerned loved ones.

“I actually started crying because you don’t know what’s going on,” Celia Roark said.

“Our flight was delayed leaving could you imagine if we had been there another half hour?” said passenger Mike Barnes.

Godfrey Mayor Mike McCormick and his wife arrived in Fort Lauderdale and left the airport. Seven minutes later, the first shots rang out.