Posts Tagged ‘Air Force’

What almost happened on 9/11

Friday, September 9th, 2011

As we reflect on the events that transpired 10 years ago Sunday, I was both intrigued and surprised to read a story I don’t recall hearing about previously: that of the first F-16 sortie scrambled to protect Washington, D.C., from United Airlines Flight 93–the fourth airliner presumed hijacked that clear September morning.

Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney had just returned from two weeks of air-combat training in Nevada. She and Col. Marc Sasseville quickly launched to intercept the airliner. Not one of their squadron’s aircraft was armed, however–no missiles, no bullets. Their only plan, if they found the jet, was to ram it. Like high-tech kamikazes.

There are many places I was thankful not to be on Sept. 11, 2011. The cockpits of either of their fighters just shot to the top of my list.

Hours later, they learned that the passengers on the flight had accomplished their mission for them, causing the plane to crash in Pennsylvania. Penney’s story, recently printed in The Washington Post, is a short but compelling read.

That unselfish willingness to sacrifice all for the greater good has been seen in–and sadly, demonstrated by–so many of our military personnel and first responders in those dark days, and the days since. That’s what I will remember and honor this weekend. It’s also a fair bet that was the last morning there were no armed jets on alert in Washington.