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Two Good Stories to Remember This Day
Most of us are reliving, remembering, and honoring the memories and people of that tragic day 20 years ago. We remember the anger and resolve, along with the sadness of losing friends and family. And the weather here, today, just four miles from the Pentagon in Arlington, VA, is eerily reminiscent of that fateful day.
We know that four commercial aircraft were hijacked and deliberately crashed into three buildings, the fourth into a field near Shanksville, PA, about 80 miles from Pittsburgh. Three of the aircraft each had five hijackers; United Flight 93, the one that crashed near Shanksville, only had four.
Many believe that the absence of a fifth hijacker helped the 44 passengers, including Todd Beamer, overwhelm the attackers and prevent the plane from reaching its likely target – the US Capitol building.
Jose Melendez-Perez is likely responsible for keeping Saudi national Mohammed al-Qhatani from his appointment that day with Mohammed Atta at Orlando’s International Airport. Atta was one of the other hijackers. Qhatani, now residing at Naval Base Guantanamo in Cuba since his capture in Afghanistan some three months later at the Battle of Tora Bora, was to be the 20th hijacker.
As best I can recall, when we flew to France and back in the late 50’s and early 60’s in Constellations, we stopped at Gander both ways.
Also, credit to Ben Sliney of the FAA, who…on his first day on the job at the National Command Center and on his own authority…gave the unprecedented order to ground all aircraft in the US, possibly preventing further hijackings.
I’m a private pilot. A couple of years ago, I had just landed at a nearby airport with my instrument instructor. A beautiful Stearman biplane came in, taxied up, and a tall blonde woman got out. We walked over to say hello. She introduced herself as Heather Penney. The name sounded vaguely familiar, and I asked her, “Are you famous for something?” She laughed and said she didn’t think so.
When I got back home, I looked her up. Here’s her 9/11 story.
I just watched a show on the History channel I’d never seen before. Two men in the North tower were walking down the stairs when the saw a group of people on the 68th (?) floor standing around. They urged them to leave, but then realized there was a woman in a wheelchair. Her chair was too heavy to carry, but they transferred her to one of those evacuation chairs and carried her down 68 floors.
At the bottom, they put her in an ambulance, but forgot to get her name, and when the North tower collapsed a few minutes later, they feared the ambulance was buried. A few weeks later, one of the two got a call from a journalist doing a story on them. The woman had survived, and given the reporter enough info to find the two men. A year later, all three were reunited at the wedding for one of the men.