I don't know about you, but I still struggle to comprehend (that) 15 years have passed so quickly.
5 years ago I posted the following first-person account authored by a former Delta pilot.
I think his perspective was fascinating ... and, since I didn't 'know' many of you in 2011, I'd like to share it once more.
My experience on 9/11.
We were just ready to close the door for our Delta 767 flight from CVG to MCO when the gate agent came on board and asked if we had heard anything about a small plane hitting the World Trade Center, we had not, so she said goodbye and closed the door.
Shortly thereafter we were airborne climbing out on a beautifully clear crisp fall morning heading to Florida with not a cloud in the sky or a care in the world. I heard a bizjet ask for a reroute since he could not get to New York and I thought that was strange. Then another bizjet said "well I guess we won't be going there either" and asked for a clearance to an alternate.
At that point I asked center what was going on. There was a pause and then the controller came back in a very excited voice and said "they have hit both of the Trade Center Towers, they have hit the Pentagon, they have hit the Capitol and the White House"
...well you can imagine it got really lively on the frequency. I turned to my Co-Pilot and said "I don't know what has happened, but I do know that things will never be the same", and I think I got that right!
Within seconds the controller had composed himself and said all flights on this frequency standby, and it was dead quiet. He then said all flights are to land immediately and went down the list of the planes under his control..."American 235 turn right heading 230 you're landing at Pittsburgh, Continental 456 turn left heading 180 for Cincinnati, Delta 235 (that's me) turn right to 250 and descend to 8000, you're landing at Knoxville, airport your 2 o'clock 40 miles....etc" It was the best, fastest and most efficient handling I have ever had from ATC...they had everyone on the ground all over the country in minimum time.
After all the initial confusion, their professionalism, and that of all the flight crews was exemplary! We spent two days in Knoxville and then ferried an empty 757 back to Atlanta and I believe were one of the first flights to land back at our main hub.
Our arrival at ATL was one of the most moving experiences of my flying career. The airspace was totally empty, there was no talk on the radio, and we were the only plane in the sky over ATL, the busiest airport in the U.S., but we did have, unknown to us until informed by the controller, an F-16 right on our tail, but we never saw him! When we taxied in the normally frantic ramp area was dead quiet, all the ground equipment, tugs, baggage carts, tugs, fuelers etc. were lined up in military precision and the ground crews were standing at attention and saluted...wow, I'll never forget that.
They needed a sign that things were getting back to normal...that we were moving and flying again.
... and the people said, "Amen."
Hugs from Phoenix,