The alarm sounded early to start my second day of a four day rotation. I was in Atlanta Georgia and scheduled to fly to Hartford Connecticut, back to Atlanta then to LaGuardia Airport in New York to spend my second night but those plans would soon change.
The date was September 11, 2001, the infamous nine eleven, that changed everyone’s life. My Co-pilot and I reported to Hartsfield Airport on a gorgeous day to fly, one of those days that makes flying the best job in the world.
The flight was uneventful up to just south of Washington DC when we heard Air Traffic Control mention that an aircraft had hit a tower and crashed. I first thought it might be a small aircraft having clipped a tower flying into a close by airport so I contacted our flight dispatcher who had heard similar chatter but knew nothing more. The visibility was unlimited as we approached New York City but that beautiful view changed quickly. A large plum of black smoke had just emerged from one of the Twin Towers and, I knew then, what the chatter was all about.
I thought there must have been a major mechanical or even a medical reason for such a large aircraft to collide into such a large visible tower. Air Traffic then gave us a change of heading and a new identification code as they began their emergency procedures for a terrorist attack.
We were given an order to descend directly to the Hartford Airport and after landing we taxied to our assigned gate The agent opened the entry door telling everyone to deplane quickly including the crew since the aircraft would be locked and the jet way removed.
“America has been attacked”
I told my crew to call their loved ones to say they are ok but to keep the conversations short since there would be a lot of calling.
We were told that a United and American Airlines aircraft had crashed but nothing more so, as I talked to my wife, I asked where Chris, our son, was. He was a new pilot for American and she too had almost no new information.
The crew was taken to our layover hotel and assigned to our rooms by a very worried and confused hotel staff. There had been four hijackings today, all of which had ended tragically. As I sat in my room and tried to gather my thoughts I couldn’t help but think of January 26, 1980 when I too was being hijacked.