Rarely do I publicly recount my private experiences but this somber week, with the 20th anniversary this Saturday of the 9/11 attacks on our country, I feel moved to share a small portion of a very personal memory of that day with you.
Above, I’ve embedded a photo of one of my first pilot training log books.
The very first entry in this logbook: 2001, 9/11. I had just completed 7 Touch & Go’s, flight training out of Republic Airport, Farmingdale, Long Island, NY. We took off around 8:15 a.m. that lovely near-autumn morning. We never made the scheduled 8th T&G.
What we (flight instructor with me) saw that day remains irremovably embedded in the deepest recesses of my mind, coming to the forefront now as we near 9/11/2021. My flight instructor was a Lt., NYPD (Captain now) and Navy Reserves pilot.
From a relatively very short distance aerially, we saw an aircraft streaking across a “severe clear” cobalt blue sky. I had performed the 7th touch n go, we headed towards Captree in Suffolk County and… never made it. My instructor’s official police telecoms went off and simultaneously, the Tower@ FRG repeatedly screamed at everyone up to land immediately. In a rush to land, another training pilot cut us off within several hundred feet, nearly crashing us into the runway.
We knew immediately that we were under attack- given the level of information coming in to my instructor and, we had employees on the ground at the Federal Courthouse in lower Manhattan running towards the Twin Towers, yelling into our company Nextel two-ways along the way – telling us exactly what was happening. Chilling words that I will not, cannot, ever forget. I began calling my employees, family and partners, telling them to shelter in place – and those with children in the NYC/LI area, to pull their children out of school ASAP.
What we witnessed over the next several days remains a shell-shocked medley of sights and sounds usually only experienced on a battlefield. And, almost incoherently juxtaposed to pure bedlam, was the eerie silence we encountered along the now closed roads and highways as we made our way towards the City, in various response capacities, never imagining what we would see once we arrived at what is now known as Ground Zero.
At this point, I’ll move away from telling my story of 9/11, knowing you all have your own experiences and memories of that fateful day and offer a simple prayer, especially during these extremely challenging times today, that we may all come together again as the large, compassionate community that is our nation, and our world.
Wishing all peace and calmness in our daily lives as we strive forward in all things,
(Please excuse fluctuating tenses in the retelling of my story- the memories, as I write, are simultaneously vivid and recessed.)