Hundreds of people called 911 Tuesday after seeing six parachutists who were trailing plumes of red smoke land at Austin High School. "People thought we were being invaded," said Ed Harris Jr., director of emergency communications for the Austin Police Department.
Wrong. It was the Army's Golden Knights parachute team landing as part of a recruitment drive.
It certainly didn't look like that to Leila Levinson, who called 911 about the soldiers with black and yellow parachutes she saw floating through the air as she drove down MoPac Boulevard.
"I saw everybody put on their brakes and pull over to the side," Levinson said. "My heart started pounding, because I thought it was anthrax or smallpox and I was evaluating how far it was from my son's school."
The landing was reminiscent of the 1984 movie "Red Dawn," in which invading communist paratroopers land at a Colorado high school. No invaders, Tuesday's paratroopers graciously greeted students, said Kathy Uplinger, an assistant principal at Austin High.
The Golden Knights frequently appear at schools and public events, said 1st Sgt. Harlan Dobbs of the Army's recruiting division. "I've been in recruiting for 12 years and watched them jump 30 times and never had anything happen like this," he said. "Everybody is in a state of alert right now."
The Federal Aviation Administration, city and school district police and the media had been notified of the jump, officials said. Paul Boyce, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, said the Army is careful to work with communities where the parachute team is jumping. "We are greatly empathetic with the concerns of the community."