Posted by: harrisonjones | May 5, 2011

Remembering 9-11

The news this week evokes emotions and memories of the sadness of September, 2001. Like everyone else, it reminds me where I was and how it affected my life. At the time I was flying as a 767 international captain. On September tenth, I returned from a three day trip to South America and the next morning my wife and I watched Boeings fly into the trade centers and the pentagon. I viewed those events from the perspective of someone who sat in the left seat of a 767 and while the TV reporters speculated on how such a horrible accident could occur, Diane and I knew the answer. My annual training for the previous several years had included guest speakers from the FBI who updated us on various terrorist groups and their activities. The training was long on threats and short on solutions. 

We were shocked, but not totally surprised, when the second airplane hit the towers.  My first thoughts were for the crews and then their passengers. I was fortunate to be at home, but felt helpless as events unfolded. My next trip was scheduled to fly from New York to Tel Aviv, Israel and needless to say it was cancelled right away. In fact, all our flights to Middle Eastern destinations were suspended indefinitely. It would be ten days before I flew again and after an impromptu training session that basically told us, “Ya’ll be careful,” I was back in the air with new concerns for my crew and passengers. No matter how much training is provided, when the airplane leaves the gate you and your crew are pretty much on your own. Nothing new about that.  

Funny how the world changes. One of my subsequent rotations included a layover in New York where we visited ground zero. The sight and smell will always be with me. The next day we flew to Paris for another layover and then a night flight to Bombay (Mumbai), India. The flight plan kept us north of Syria and Iraq, but pretty much through the center of Iran. As I talked to the controllers in Tehran air traffic control, I wondered what their political persuasion was. They were very professional in any case. We flew just to the south of Afghanistan and knew that U.S. forces were busy cleaning out terrorist camps as we drank coffee and watched Kandahar slide by on the Nav screen. We passed Pakistan and across the Arabian Sea to Bombay where we stayed at the famous Taj Mahal Hotel. The Taj would be bombed later by a terrorist group but fortunately all the airline crews escaped unharmed.  

As I sit here blogging and looking out my second story window at a quiet neighborhood, I know that I have been blessed with more than I deserve and for that I am thankful.  


  1. Thanks for a new perspective on 9-11 for me. On 9-11 I was teaching school and couldn’t help but think of all the people that we’re responsible for the lives of others that day, especially the pilots, and all the rescue personnel. Doing their jobs while thinking about their own families and how they were being taken care of.

    I had some of the same feelings watching the men at the Japanese nuclear plants. Still doing their jobs to save the lives of others while their families needed them I’m sure.

  2. Time and place are elements of our lives that are controlled by fate, fortune and divine intention. Being in a particular place at a given time creates opportunities for heros and exposes cowardice in others. It can bring great fortune and fame or literally determine life and death. The intersection of time and place has been kind to me and I give thanks everyday. Ernie Gann’s FATE IS THE HUNTER is the most compelling title of any book I have ever read. I think most pilots would testify to his greatness. Thank you for remembering those in that time and place.

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