MIAMI – As an airline pilot, I am often asked about my personal 9/11 story.  While I had many airline friends “on the road” that day, fortunately, I was off at home.

Our first indication came when my wife at the time and I were dropping our two kids off at grade school.  They were attending a private Christian school run by their grandma, who came running out to inform us. We went inside to watch CNN and try to make sense of the news.

The second plane had just hit, so we all knew it was a terror attack.  We spent the day riveted to the screen, while the teachers tried valiantly (and in vain) to give the kids a routine day of classes.

Meanwhile, the FAA took the unprecedented step of grounding all US air traffic for the next three days. Airline Crews were strewn and stranded across the country, having been diverted inflight to the nearest suitable airports—and then grounded.

Flight Crews tried valiantly to make the best of it, miles away from their worried loved ones.  Three days later, they became some of the many unsung heroes of 9/11, being the very first to return to America’s Free Skies.

United Airlines: Photo: Luke Ayers/Airways

Strong in the Wake of the Tragedy

When I finally flew again, about a week later, passengers and crew alike were still understandably skittish.  In the back of my head, I had prepared a pre-departure speech, which I’ll try to recreate here:

Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. Welcome aboard Flight XX, with service to XYZ. I understand that you may feel a tad nervous being onboard today, given the week’s unprecedented events. Let me personally assure you that we as a Flight Crew and airline have done our very best to give you the safest and most secure flight possible. I’d like to point out that, from now on, every airline ticket that you purchase is a vote for Freedom, and every flight flown is a victory over terrorism. So, thank you for your patronage, thank you for your  patriotism, and God bless America!

As you can imagine, I got a rousing round of applause from the cabin for that one…

And, that’s the lesson I’d like us all to take from this. Be bold, be brave, and vote for Freedom over Terrorism by getting out there and experiencing the most liberating endeavor man can undertake: to fly!

During an overnight in NYC, I took the opportunity to visit the Freedom Tower, and Memorial Park. As you can see from this video, the experience is quite impactful:

God bless you all,

Cap’n Aux.

Featured image: American airlines. Photo: Shon Fridman/Airways