Aeronautical Randomness
My two cents on 9/11
September 11, 2012

Note: I wrote this post on the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001.  For several reasons, I decided not to publish it.  The entry has sat in my draft folder for an entire year.  I will share it this year in memory of the aviation professionals who perished on that horrific day.


Have you ever really sat back and thought about what actually happened on September 11, 2001?

The pilots of four flights were settling into their seats to begin the cruise across the country.   The busy takeoff and climb were complete and it was probably time to relax.  Time to sip a cup of coffee.  Time to talk about the various ups-and-downs of the airline business.  Time to be an airline pilot.

Suddenly, the flimsy cockpit door flew open and madmen rushed the cockpit.  Before any of them realized what was happening, they were cut with box cutters.

Think about it… I mean, forget about how diluted the images have become over the last eleven years and really give it some thought.  Human beings… men, husbands, brothers, fathers of young children… In a matter of seconds, they went from flying a jet to lying dead in a pool of their own blood.  In the cabin, some of their coworkers had already met the same fate.  It must have been gruesome.  It makes me uneasy to write it… but, I think it is important… to remember.

It got worse.  Three of the groups of terrorists crashed the jets into buildings.  One jet was intentionally crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.  Think of the passengers on those planes.  Until the moment of impact, they must have been horrified.

I don’t think the television images truly capture the day.  Had you ever been to the World Trade Center?  If not, have you ever been to any of the largest buildings in the world?  Those buildings were enormous.

How about a Boeing 767?  Have you ever walked close enough to one to appreciate the size?  Think about being on the ground close to an airport.  How big do the largest airplanes appear flying overhead?  A 767 is smaller than a 777 and 747, but, it is still pretty darn large.

Can you even fathom the tens of thousands of pounds of jet fuel that were stored in the wing tanks?

It took a couple of hundred thousand pounds of flying metal and exploding fuel to bring down those buildings.  Go to a major city’s tallest building and look up.  Imagine a Boeing 767 slamming into it.  Again, the video just doesn’t capture the moment.  Everything looks too small.

The other problem is the footage looks like a Hollywood movie with great special effects.  With all the great action thrillers over the years, I’m afraid we’ve all become desensitized to the reality of 9/11.

You know the rest of the story.  The fire was so hot it melted the steel.  Structural integrity was breached and the towers crumbled.  It really did look like one of those casino implosions.  However, you are insane if you believe the United States government somehow secretly planted explosives in the walls of those buildings.

Everyone remembers 9/11 their own way.  Personally, I like to remind myself that really bad people committed really atrocious acts.  I like to remember all the heroes who made me even more proud to be an American.

As you commemorate the day, please do not forget about the men who violently lost command of their airplanes.  In particular, the four United Airlines pilots who lost their lives that clear, crisp September morning.  They were real people… doing the same job as me.  That’s what strikes the biggest nerve.

United Airlines pilots lost on 9/11

It sounds cliche after eleven years, but, I will never forget.

About author

Renewed Pilot

I've endured a roller coaster career in the U.S. Aviation Industry. Currently flying the 737 on my third try with the same legacy carrier, I have also flown for a regional, fractional and start-up carrier. My piloting experience includes the 737, A320, 727, Citation Excel, Citation Bravo, Saab 340 and many light singles and twin engine aircraft. I reside in the suburbs of Nashville, Tennessee.

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There are 5 comments

  • Leslie Storie-Pugh says:

    So hard to think about. Thank you. LSP

  • Elena Hargraves says:

    Always Remember.. Never Forget..

    Not cliche at all. Well said my friend, well said.

  • Lisa Stockschläder says:

    Very touching story. It brought tears to my eyes. It`s so hard to think about. Thanks for sharing.

  • Always remember those who were lost. This is a well written and interesting point of view. Thank you for sharing.

  • Pam Deveau says:

    Every time I wrote the date today, I remembered…the phone call to your dad and his response…”He’s not flying today.” Then I disolved into tears.

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