September 11, 2001: You Will Never Forget Where You Were


Old enough to have watched Wings live on TV.
I wrote the following on September 11, 2002 -- a year after the attacks. At the time I was furloughed from a major and had gotten a job flying a Dornier 328 turboprop for a commuter. At the risk of seeming negative, I thought it appropriate to post it here.


One year ago the cockpit door clicked shut. I took another sip of my coffee before setting it down.

"Turn Two" the captain called and I complied, turning the start selector of engine number two. The familiar vibration and soft whirring reverberated through the airplane from 70 feet behind my seat.

We were in Allentown, Pennsylvania and the Captain and I were frustrated with -- of all things -- security. We had just "beeped" when we went through security and were forced to suffer the indignity of being "scanned" in front of our customers. When I climbed into the cockpit I noticed ground-support workers, many in civilian clothes, walking across the ramp -- they had never gone through security. "Look at that!", I quipped, "Those guys have been in the country for about 2 weeks and they dont have to go through security -- we FLY the planes and we get molested!"

But the time for anger and frustration had passed. We started the left engine as the tug pushed us away from the terminal building. The 120,000 pound Boeing slowly lumbered across the apron and towards the runway. The ACARS flashed "W/B" and I ran my finger across the touchscreen, transcribing the weight and balance data from the ACARS to the FMS. I programmed weights and speeds until the familiar "Preflight Complete" message was displayed.

It was my leg and the captain relinquished the controls of the 737 to this "newhire" -- at US Airways if you worked there less than 15 years you were a newhire. For me after two and a half years in the right seat of Douglas and Boeing jetliners, I still loved the feeling of pushing the throttles forward. I'd "stand them up" and wait...god I loved that sound...the engines slowly spooling up from somewhere behind me. I pushed them up to within 10% of the calculated takeoff thrust and clicked the TOGA buttons, the Boeing autothrottles precisely setting the power for me.

"80 Knots....V1....Rotate...Positive Rate...Gear Up." The airplane roared skyward just as the rising sun flashed across the eastern horizon. "1000 feet", called the Captain, "N1, Bug-me-up, flaps 1" I replied. I hand-flew to 10,000 feet and then selected the autopilot. Now coupled to both Lateral and Vertical Nav the airplane settled in to its preprogrammed course towards North Carolina.

Out of ten-thousand feet we grumbled a time or two about security again, but soon settled into our own thoughts. For me, I stared out the window. I had 3 weeks remaining before I was to be married. There was still quite a bit to be done when I came home from this trip. The sky was so smooth... not a cloud to be seen anywhere.

An hour later we descended towards Charlotte with no idea that our nation was under attack. We were vectored towards runway 36-Right and, as I often did, I disconnected the autopilot, flightdirector, and autothrottles below 10,000 feet. The captain chuckled and mumbled something about how I'd be happier in a twin-Cessna.

We saw the airport from 50 miles northeast on the arrival. We were vectored over Lake Norman, and then directly over Charlotte and past the airport on a right downwind. The Captain had pulled his seat up and was peering over me towards the airport below. "What the hell?" he muttered... directing my attention to the airport over my right shoulder.

"They're all going back to the gate...", I commented. We turned base, and then final. Sure enough the airplanes on the ground were turning around. Runway 5/23 was nearly filled with parked airplanes. The frequency filled with chatter, dozens of airplanes asking what was going on.

"We're out of business", the Captain whispered, his voice cracking. "This is exactly what happened at Braniff". The captain, obviously, recalling a memory from his own troubled past, had determined that our airline was being shut down -- we still had no idea.

The main gear brushed the ground and, holding the nose from the pavement, I pulled the thrust-reverse levers to the first detent, the cascade-type reversers sliding backwards. I did not pull them any further, not interested in applying reverse thrust. We would not exit the runway until after we had passed the intersection of 5/23 on the north side of the field. I held the nose off and allowed the autobrakes to apply their soft pressure. I tapped them off with my feet and we taxied clear of the runway.

The ramp control frequency was nightmarish. Dozens of airplanes returning to the gates, demanding information. "Silvertop Boeing just off 36R -- proceed to the gate, deplane your passengers and flight attendants, then call me to push back, we're going to put you on 5/23"

I never had the opportunity to respond. The captain was already on his cellphone, calling his wife. He clicked off his phone and looked at me -- "There has been a terrorist attack in New York", he told me "an airplane just hit the World-Trade Center".

"An Airliner??? I gasped. We were marshaled into the gate and the jetway quickly attached. The captain got on the PA, with a final announcement for our customers who would now, for at least a week, be stuck in Charlotte with us.

"Ladies and gentlemen. Look at your watch. Today we are witnessing history in the making. The United States has been attacked by terrorists. The government has, for the first time in history, elected to shut-down all of the airspace over our country. Hopefully there will be more information when you get into the terminal. God bless us all."

The flight attendants - supposedly trained to be calm during emergencies - were in tears, desperate for information. Already it became difficult for our cell-phones to connect. Cellular traffic was high. I managed to get a call to my fiance's voicemail... to my brother, and to my parents.

We taxied the airplane to runway 5 and were marshaled to a stop, parked close to the string of airplanes that lined the runway. As the engines shut down airstairs pulled to the airplane a van awaited the captain and I. We boarded the van with other flight crews and it quickly drove to the crew-room where a supervisor was handing out hotel information.

"Remove your stripes, jackets, hats and ID. Go to your hotel and dont call us -- we'll call you."

5 days laters the phone rang in my hotel room...scheduling asking us to ferry an airplane to Buffalo. The sky was silent that night...very few airplanes in the air. Neither the captain, nor I, said anything -- save our checklists.

He was the first to break the silence. "The world has changed," he sighed. "You know, there are going to be furloughs", he said matter-of-factly.

That memory is burned into my mind. I can picture the look on the Captains face. I can feel the wheels touching the ground in Charlotte that morning. I remember the relief I felt when I finally spoke with my then-fiance'.

It seems like it was yesterday.


Well-Known Member
Nice write-up Zap (yet again). It gave me chills thinking about all those events again.


Staff member
Yeah. I don't want to think about it. Again.

Do a search for old 9/11 threads if you want my story. It's there. I don't feel like telling it again.

I hate the anniversary of 9/11. It's the only time some people think about it. I don't need the anniversary to remember, I remember it pretty much every day. Those were my co-workers. Those were my airplanes. And that was the end of my career.


Well-Known Member
Wow, I certainly can appreciate your story. I often wonder about the point of view of others during traumatic instances. I certainly remember my own.

I was a junior in highschool. I was not yet a pilot nor did I have any serious ambitions to become one. I had just stumbled out of bed, and was passing through my living room on the way to the kitchen for breakfast, but the TV was on. At my house, the TV was NEVER on in the mornings before school. I don't recall if I even got breakfast that morning. I sat down and watched the horror in front of me and saw the second plane hit the second tower live, as it happened. It was horrible.
I just remember seeing replay footage over and over. It was awful. Eventually we went to school and the entire day, in every class, we just watched the news as new theories developed. It was quite a day, filled with confusion and chaos; people trying to contact loved ones in NYC etc. The footage of people running in and out of buildings through the smoke was touching, and traumatizing at the same time.
When all air traffic was grounded, I thought "this is unprecedented". This really is something big. We found out about United 93, and the plane at the pentagon. It was just a horrific day for the country.
I was proud when the country came together as one nation after the event to stand up as UNITED STATES. People took a new pride in what it meant to be American. While many ignorant people used their xenophobic tendencies as excuses for hate crimes against many law abiding Americans simply due to their race or religion, I feel that overall the country changed as a whole for the better. Yes air travel, and airport security and legislation like the Patriot Act certainly annoy the public, but the WORLD changed that day.

I remember it vividly. It seems like it was yesterday.


3rd regional in 1 year
I was driving into school when the first plane hit. i was in 10th grade. I heard it on the radio. The morning show did the whole "This just in deal". I was like wow thats too bad. And went about my morning. At school during first period some one mentioned that they had heard in on the radio so the teacher turned on the TV. Literally 10-20 seconds later the second plane hit the building. I must tell you that was shocking because it was live. A few people thought it was a replay. Immediately afterwards a kid said i'll bet they will blame this on Osoma Bin Ladin. The whole day class after class we just watched the news except our Calc class. I guess our teacher did not realize what had happen and was trying to get us to calm down and get going with the math class. Every one was like "Just turn on the TV!!!". she was like "you guys are just trying to get out of doing this. we are NOT turing on the TV". I could not believe that she did not believe us. Later she claimed that she new but she did not want us to be freaking out in her class. That was a weird day. I could not stop watching CNN. Finally my parents were like "No more news" and i just went on with my life. Weird to think about though.



Tre Kronor
Unfortunately, I think that "thinking" about it is the only way for us to all truly be connected as Americans. If you think about it, 7 years later, we're back where we were prior to 9-11 in politics and many other American issues. Sure, some of the talking points have changed, but we're just as bad as ever in pointing fingers, laying blame, etc.

I'll make mine short: it was barely into the first month of college for me. I had gone flying the day before and was pretty bummed out about my instructor. That morning, I was woken up by someone in the dorm who knocked on our door and told us to come check out the TV. Apparently, some plane had "gone off course" and hit the trade center. As we stood there, watching the first building smoking, the second airplane streaked across the image and impacted building two. I felt a chill in my spine because I couldn't fathom that TWO airplanes had gone off course. I think that watching the second one live is the memory that will stick most, because we, watching, weren't quite sure prior to that what was up.

May all those who perished on that terrible day rest in peace.


Well-Known Member
Great Read Zap.

I still remember that day like it just happened a few hours ago, it was my first day of high school, and wouldn't you know it, my school (Stuyvesant High School) was four blocks north of the WTC. I swear that walk/run from lower west side Manhattan to the Brooklyn Bridge seemed to take forever.


3rd regional in 1 year
I think watching the buildings fall was the sadist/most shocking. All i could thing about were the people trapped above the fire. It was a terrible tragedy what happened to the original who perished in the impact but after that, i had hope that the trapped people would and could be saved.

Sad terrible story.

I was talking with this guy about 911 and he insisted that it was a government conspiracy so that the US could go to war. He explained that no one was on the planes and that there were charges placed in the buildings. I'm not one for public confrontation so i just kind of nodded and changed the subject.

I was not there so i only know what i saw from the news. Also i did not lose any one close to me but there is no way you can tell me that all those grievers were actors.

Personally i think it's a huge insult to the memory of the people who died to say that this was all a conspiracy and that the building and the planes were empty. I can not believe that it was just a huge display of pyrotechnics. Thousands of good people died at the hands of an evil few! I'm not trying to jack this thread but I can't believe how many people buy into the conspiracy BS. Like saying the moon-landing was a fake. I think it is such an insult to the brave astronauts (and test pilots) who lost their lives to get us to the moon.

just my .02



Gone West
I was shaving

watching CNN in the bathroom mirror

something about a plane hitting the tower, smoke rising

it hadn't clicked in my head yet

half my face was shaved when the second plane came in

it clicked then


Well-Known Member
I was getting ready to head to class for my last semester of college. In a few months when I graduated I was going to start my path to become an airline pilot. I was planning on attending an accelerated flight training program and then make my transition to the airlines once that was complete. Needless to say, that did not happen because the industry began to move downhill after 9/11. At that point, just shy of my 21st birthday, making a transition in to aviation just seemed to risky.

It took me almost 7 years, but I finally made it back to aviation.


Well-Known Member
It was almost 6am here in Vegas and I was sleeping when my mom called. "Turn on the T.V. The world wont be the same after today" I didnt understand what she was talking about until I turned on the TV to see one of the buildings in flames and smoke. I asked her what happened. "A plane crashed into it, I think this is a terrorist attack" All I could think about was that the pilot must have had a heart attack or got the sun in his eyes, surely a terrorist coundnt do this. Moments after that thought UAL 175 hit. I went numb. My mom gasped and said she knew this was going to happen one day. She is a retired analyst from the CIA and her specialty was the Middle East and counter terrorism. Her main duty was intel gathering for the Presidential Daily Breifing. She was very familiar with the terrorist organizations there. It really hit her hard. She had just retired from there in 99 and the last thing she was working on was the increased modivation of Al Qeada. She even wrote a brief about it in the PDB for Clinton that following morning of her retirement.

I then drove to my parents house. My dad had been out on his daily walk with the dog. When he saw the images on TV and the report that it was a 767 UAL flight he instantly started calling and emailing co-workers who were still flying the 767 at UAL checking to see if they were okay. It took a few days before he got called back from everyone he contacted. He didnt know any of the pilots who died that day but many of his fellow UAL buddies did.
It was by far the most surreal day I have ever experienced. I dont think too many days go by when I dont think about 9/11 and take a second to think that it was real and did happen.

Great story Zap and eveyone else.


New Member
I was in week 2 of boot camp at Ft. Benning, GA. Just got done morning chow and the drill called us into formation and had us all sit around him in a horseshoe and told us the news. Oddly enough the day before we did our "terrorist" training (how to identify someone suspicious on base more or less) and it sunk in pretty quick that as soon as we were done training we'd be hitting the sand. The drills were saying the president can sign an order to speed up basic training for the military to get more troops out, but that didn't happen. Some kids freaked out (the ones in it for the college money mostly). Kids with family in the NY and DC area could call home to check up on loved ones and we spent the rest of the day watching news on a small tv sitting on an upside down garbage can in the corner of the barracks. Then the weeks following letters came in with all the patriotic stuff put into newspapers and magazines, stuff from like boeing and lockheed martin showing bombers and fighters, and the drills pasted them everywhere, even put picks of Bin Laden inside the toilet bowl covers. Needless to say it was pretty tense, the training took on a whole new meaning when you know you'd be using it in a few weeks.


Unknown Member
I was in Fifth Grade. Everyone was marshalled into the gym and we just sat around while kids were going home all day. One of my friends told me, when I asked him what was going on, that "two planes collided into each other over New York." When 3:00 PM rolled around, there were about ten of us students left in the whole school. I didn't find out what really happened until after I had gotten home and turned on the news.

JA Yawd Bwoy

Well-Known Member
I was in Fifth Grade. Everyone was marshalled into the gym and we just sat around while kids were going home all day. One of my friends told me, when I asked him what was going on, that "two planes collided into each other over New York." When 3:00 PM rolled around, there were about ten of us students left in the whole school. I didn't find out what really happened until after I had gotten home and turned on the news.
:yeahthat: Almost the exact same story on my part, There were about 4 of us left in my class, To tell you the truth, I did not really understand it until I got home and watched the reruns over and over again. My dad was actually driving on the Gowannas Expressway for those who know what it is and saw AA 11 hit the north tower:(


Well-Known Member
Nice read Zap; thanks for posting...

I was a senior at Texas A&M, doing homework at the student computing center when I got an AOL Instant Message from one of my friends saying "the pentagon is on fire". I tried logging into any news site I could find, but they were all overloaded. I eventually got to one that showed a picture of the WTC. I IM'ed her back and said, "that's the WTC, not the pentagon, but that's REALLY REALLY bad." She wrote back and said, "no, they're both on fire". I went back to the dorm and turned on Fox News just in time to see the second tower collapse live on TV. I had planned to teach a PPL groundschool that night, which I ultimately cancelled. I just remember spending several days feeling very numb and glued to the TV, it was much like the feeling I had right after our Bonfire tragedy just a couple of years earlier.

At the time, my dad was a 767-300ER Captain for Delta; for awhile I was very concerned about him, because I knew he was on a trip and all I knew at the time was that at least one of the aircraft involved was a 767 and all other details were very sketchy. While I had thought he was flying that morning back to ATL, he wound up getting stuck in South America. I used my calling card and called an emergency number for DL and managed to get patched through to his hotel; I'd never been so glad to talk to my dad before.

This has never been the same country, the same world, or the same industry since that day.


Never say die
Great story Zap!

I was doing touch n' goes at KFWS training for my commercial single ride. The tower told us the next one had to be to a full stop. I explained that we would just depart the pattern to our home base at KGKY. He said "No, you must do a full stop" I thought we had done something wrong.

As we depart the plane the fueler comes up to our plane and I asked what was going on and he said " We have been atacked by terrorist." I ran inside and their was a bunch of people huddled around a TV and the girl working the counter was crying. One of the guys offered to drive up back. On our way back listening to the radio we heard the Pentagon attack, my instructor (a gulf war vet) looks at me and says "we're going to ####ing war".

You're right, it was like yesterday.

Never forgive, never forget!!


Well-Known Member
Great read. I lost a mentor in the attacks at the pentagon, thought I lost my Mom when tower two fell. She made it out, on the last subway out of Wall, last train out of NY. I finally heard from her 1100 PDT. I was getting ready for work, putting on my uniform, getting ready to drive into work when the first plane hit. I remember driving through the gate, and telling the gate guard he may want to be on alert, our country was under attack. I remember flying a maintenance check flight for one of our airplanes headed to AFG a few days later, I was the only airplane up Seattle Center, it was eerie.


Well-Known Member
Great read. I lost a mentor in the attacks at the pentagon, thought I lost my Mom when tower two fell. She made it out, on the last subway out of Wall, last train out of NY. I finally heard from her 1100 PDT. I was getting ready for work, putting on my uniform, getting ready to drive into work when the first plane hit. I remember driving through the gate, and telling the gate guard he may want to be on alert, our country was under attack. I remember flying a maintenance check flight for one of our airplanes headed to AFG a few days later, I was the only airplane up Seattle Center, it was eerie.
Very interesting story, MJG.

And great post Zap

I was asleep when my one of my college roommates woke me up to the first attack. Few minutes later we watched the impact of the second tower. The room was speechless as the whole thing unfolded. Days went by before any of our classes resembled any sense of normalcy. You just knew that everyone around you had the same confusion and shock that you did.

It's amazing how so many different people with such different lives and perspectives could be drawn together and find common ground through one act of hatred.