Search and Rescue
By CHRISTY ARNOLDStaff Writer
VENICE — Paula Grapentine immediately recognized the face of a suspected terrorist who may have trained for the World Trade Center attacks at Huffman Aviation in Venice.
He was her next-door neighbor.
Postal Carrier Neil Patton also recollects the names and faces of Mohamed Atta, 33, Marwan Alshehhi, 23, and four other Middle Eastern flight school students.
The lived at the Sandpiper Apartments, unit 26, in Venice until earlier this year.
Atta and Alshehhi are suspected of helping crash airliners into the World Trade Center on Tuesday. The two men may have been planning the bloody terrorist attack when they enrolled at Huffman Aviation in Venice from July 6 to Dec. 21, 2000, said the school's owner, Rudi Dekkers.
Authorities first recognized Atta's name on one of the flight's passenger manifests. They then found a car abandoned at Logan Airport in Boston which connected Atta's name to a South Venice address of Charles and Drucilla Voss.
The two men stayed with the Vosses for a short time in July 2000 until they were asked to leave for being disrespectful and rude, the Vosses said.
The Sun obtained a handwritten list of names the FBI is reportedly pursuing Thursday: Gamil, Rami, Mukadam, Ibrahim and Mogadem. Stapled to the list FBI agents gave Patton was a special agent's business card. The FBI would not confirm or deny the pursuit of these five individuals.
Patton said he remembered all the above-mentioned names as those being used by some of the six Middle Eastern students allegedly attending Huffman Aviation.
Atta also may have gone by the name Youseff, Patton said.
He delivered no unusual mail at the Venice address, Patton said.
Only once was a 8-by-3-inch box mailed to the apartment, he said. Patton stopped delivering mail to the men at Sandpiper Apartments on Jan. 18, 2001 — which means they probably moved out seven to 10 days before, he said.
The postal carrier said he never suspected anything unusual about the men because "that's an international flight school."
But the Grapentines, who manage Sandpiper and Lemon Bay Apartments, didn't like the six men — especially Atta.
"He was very unfriendly," said the apartment managers of Atta. "He wouldn't talk to women."
Atta stopped by the Grapentines' apartment to discuss something regarding the complex, she said.
"He came to talk about something and said, 'I don't talk to women and you're supposed to look down when you talk to me,'" Grapentine recalled. "He treated women like they were under him."
Paula Grapentine also told the Sun there were "a lot of visitors."
As the world learns that Atta and others may have trained for the terrorist attacks in Venice, the apartment complex's owner, Vicky Kyser, is now turning over all the leases to the FBI.
The students reportedly smoked a strange tobacco which smelled like marijuana, Kyser said.
She also called them "standoffish."
Prior to their days in the Sunshine State, Hamburg investigators said Atta and Alshehhi had studied at the Technical University in Hamburg and were from the United Arab Emirates.
The two suspected terrorists also took two three-hour courses at SimCenter Inc. in Opa-Locka, said Brian George, son of flight school owner Henry George.
''We were completely stunned and shocked,'' Brian George said. ''My father said that if he didn't have a family to support he would stop teaching tomorrow. To think that someone would take what he taught them and turn it into a weapon.''
Both men trained on a Boeing 727 full-motion simulator, he said.
Germany's largest newspaper "Bild" — which translates to "Picture" — reported Thursday that Hamburg may have ties to Osama bin Laden.
In addition, Bild stated that Hamburg officials stormed a three-room apartment that Atta and Alshehhi rented at $500 a month until May 2000.
FBI agents also spoke to both aviation schools at the Charlotte County Airport in Punta Gorda at around noon Thursday. Both schools — Aero Precision and Bald Eagle — were closed late Thursday afternoon, and the owners couldn't be reached for comment.
"I don't think either had international students," said Cindy Anderson, the airport's interim assistant director.
Anderson said she didn't know if investigators confiscated records from the two schools.
Staff writer Garry Overbey and reports from the Associated Press contributed to this story.
You can e-mail Christy Arnold at email@example.com