MIAMI – Anyone born before 1995, knows exactly what you mean when you say “9/11 or September 11.” It’s an event that shocked the world.

You will never forget where you were, or what you were doing on that day. Although anyone born this century has become aware of what happened, just like I’m aware of the JFK Assassination, even though I was only a month old. 

20 years ago, on September 11, 2001, the world witnessed true terror in the USA.

The first reports were of a light aircraft, “accidentally” hitting the World Trade Centre in New York City. We all turned on the News, wherever we were, to see smoke coming from high in the North Tower. 

17 minutes later, we witnessed the horror “Live” as the second airliner plowed into the South Tower. We immediately realized this was no accident!

I remember thinking “how could this happen and why?” My pilot mind realizing that flying directly into each tower, so accurately, would take a certain level of flying experience. These acts of terror were performed by trained pilots. It unfolded later that this was the case. Up to 19 al-Qaeda terrorists had spent months in the, US planning this attack with 4 of them secretly learning to fly.

Watching the Twin Towers burn and then collapse, I also realized that Aviation would never be the same again. Within a few weeks, Security was enhanced Worldwide, every airliner cockpit door was replaced or strengthened to be bulletproof, requiring entry codes and locking procedures. 

The Interjet check-in counter at JFK. Photo: Chris Sloan

Flying before 9/11


Prior to 9/11, catching a flight was an almost carefree affair: park, check-in, a basic metal detector scan, then straight to your boarding aircraft., all within 30 mins of arriving at the airport. There was no time for shopping or restaurants; however, these became standard at airports, by-products of the enhanced security requirements. It now meant arriving at the airport, 2-3 hours before an International flight. 

Prior to 9/11, the cockpit door was open or at least unlocked and we encouraged people, especially kids, to visit the flight deck during the cruise. I’ve had most of my family and many celebrities visit the cockpit. Flying was fun and carefree, but the events of 9/11 scared many people away from flying for years. 

Even though flying has never been safer, I still notice that passenger numbers are lower each Friday 13th and I’ve never operated a full flight on any September 11 since 2001. 

I will never forget the events of that day. If you’re ever in New York City, you must visit World Trade Centre Memorial and Museum, for a truly moving experience of remembrance. 

Photo: Francesco Cecchetti/Airways

Featured image: NYC Skyline post 9/11. Photo: Francesco Cecchetti/Airways