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911 20 years later


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I've watched a couple of shows tonight that were both sad and uplifting.  One of the shows was about children who were just born and now 20 years old and lost fathers, mothers, and family members in 911.  It was quite interesting to see how many of them followed the footsteps of their lost love one.  One group of children has recently got to hear the firefighters voice as he went up the building to rescue people he didn't know.  He was called iron man because he carried the heavy gear to open doors.  Tewks...you can probably tell us more about that position.


Where were you....I was in my bedroom getting dressed for work in San Francisco.  Like many it seemed like the first plane was an accident.  Soon thereafter it was clear it was not.  I put out a call to all of my team to stay home.  At the time I was working for EDS, Ross Perot Company.  That was my full time job.  I was also a contract civilian pilot for the USAF.  About 2 hours into the tragedy I was asked to come to the airport and standby for direction.  When I got there, there was my mentor pilot and the person who got me in the program some 7 years earlier.  About 3pm we were advised to report to the Oakland airport with the airplane we had been assigned.  Since the FAA had ground and air halted all flights, it was quite an ordeal  I'll save all the detail as it would take pages to describe how we got airborne and landed at Oakland.  We were met by armed military as we landed.  We were not allowed out of the plane until the MP's cleared us with the codes we had been assigned.


We were hustled off to a briefing room to find out why the wanted 2 civilian pilots on contract.  I was actually a little scared.  They told us they needed us to fly blood to help with the wounded, but the blood had not arrived.  That was during the aids crisis.  All the blood had to be screened and packaged before we could receive it.  Our first load arrived at about 9pm.  We loaded the plane, got our security instructions and headed to San Diego to drop it off.  Upon landing we were surrounded again with MP's to get cleared to exit the plane and go to the building.  They unloaded the plane quickly and we were off to Oakland for further rounds.


While we were airborne that night it was very eerie.  It still wasn't clear what happened that day.  The aviation radios and ATC was nearly dead quite.  There was not chatter at all except when you had to get security clearance to continue on.  We flew over LAX on departure and it was blacked out.  Spooky and surreal.  On more that one occasion fighter jets pulled up along side and we had to flash a code to them.  There was probably less that 10 aircraft in CA airborne.


To this day I consider it one of the greatest opportunities we had to try to give a little help to people who gave their lives.  I don't know if I could have mustered up the courage the firefighter, LEO's, and other people in NYC had to try and save people.


I've never spoken about this publicly.  Why now?  On the 20th year, I look back and see how united we were as a country, as a humans.  It didn't matter if we were red or blue in our beliefs.  We were Americans.  I'm hoping we won't forget and somehow year 20 will help us all try to come together again.  


God bless those who lost in 911.  Stay safe, never forget.

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