Today marks the 22nd anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks. I consciously try not to single out this day on the blog, but after reading the stirring recollection of an airline passenger on that fateful 9-11 day, I believe it merits sharing.
Flyertalk member Putt4eagle posted a vivid recollection of his 09/11 experience in a post titled, “Listening to Channel 9 on September 11, 2001”. Channel 9 is (well, mostly was) the “From the Flight Deck” audio channel on United Airlines that allowed passengers to listen in on ATC communications.
You can read his full story here, but I’ll quote this expert:
ATC got on the air and started by saying this was going to go quick and pilots needed to listen up. “Protocol responses are not required, just do exactly as I say quickly”. Then it began. “UA ###, turn right heading blah, blah expect Springfield airport. SWA ###, turn left heading blah, blah expect Rockford. Delta ###….” This went on for about 3 solid minutes before I rang the bell for the FA who was passing out breakfast. Our number had not yet been called. The FA came by and I said “We are all going back to O’Hare, they are landing every plane in the sky. What is going on?!?” She looked at me in disbelief and kind of leaned down to look out the window. I could see that she was about to start to tell me not to worry about it when we pitched right at about 45*s. It was so quick it nearly dumped the FA in my lap.
Her expression changed quickly. I could see she knew that was no turn you make in a 757 under normal conditions. She said, I will be right back and picked up the comm. She went flush. Not saying a word, not “ok”, not “goodbye”, not “I understand”… nothing, she hung up the phone. I don’t know why I remember that she did not respond so vividly in my mind but it took the whole thing up a notch for me. I knew she thought this was very serious and was scared. She walked right back to me, scooped up my tray and said in a voice full of authority, “Pull up your chair, put away your tray table and buckle up, now. We are landing in a few minutes. The pilot will be on with more instructions in a few minutes.” I was frozen.
Many of you remember exactly where you were on that day that changed history. I was sitting in a high school chemistry class when I first heard about it. What I like about the story above is the ending (not included in the excerpt). Just like the tragedy of Hurricane Harvey brought out the best in people, so did the 09/11 attacks.