I hadn’t planned on writing two blog entries on this 15th anniversary of 9/11, but this evening I spent some time listening to the ATC tapes from that day. As a relatively new pilot, this was the first time that I had listened to the Air Traffic Control recordings and had an appreciation for what was really going on with ATC that day.
I made it through a lot of the recordings (they’re available on YouTube) until I got to the recordings of United Flight 93, which ultimately crashed near Somerset, Pa. as a result of the actions and reactions of the crew and passengers of that flight. It was then that the tears flowed when it was apparent, even on the recordings, that the crew and passengers had made a purposeful decision to not allow United 93 to get to the diverted destination. The crew on the flight deck, knowing their fate, had apparently made the conscious decision to put that airliner on auto pilot and switch the radio so that it would default to external transmissions (instead of the intercom for the passengers). This is why ATC and other aircraft in the area was hearing about the bomb and the fake announcements the hijackers thought they were making to the passengers.
All of this is common knowledge today. But still hearing those transmissions, coupled with knowing what the courageous crew and passengers did to prevent the airliner from making its intended target, brought me to tears this evening.
In 2002 Earl and I visited what was at that time a very makeshift memorial to United Flight 93 near Somerset, Pa. I remember seeing the chain link fence covered in mementos and seeing these two memorials at the site.
I hope that if I am ever in a similar situation that I will have the courage that the crew and passengers of United Flight 93 exhibited that day.