Constant Reminders

ALPA Pilots Remember

By First Officer Linden Hillman, AirTran

September 11, 2001. Every pilot remembers where he or she was that morning. It is a moment etched in our memories that we will truly never forget. While every American shares in the pain of that day, it was different for airline pilots. For us, it hit far closer to home. It is a rare day when we show up for work and don’t think of what happened that day. Signs of it are around us everywhere, from the TSA agents in their government uniforms to the reinforced cockpit door that we lock before every pushback. It is impossible for us to escape the reminders of the terrible events of September 11.

Like all of you, I remember that morning like it was yesterday. I was scheduled to catch a noon flight from my home in Orlando to an MEC [ALPA Master Executive Council] meeting in Philadelphia. I turned on the TV to CNBC at about 8:30 a.m. and gave my attention to getting ready for the day as the news played in the background. Overhearing a reporter mention that there had been an incident at the World Trade Center, I dropped what I was doing and watched the horrific events unfold on live television. First described by the reporter as a small plane accidentally hitting the North Tower, it quickly became obvious that this was no accident. American Airlines Flight 11 had struck the North Tower, and I watched in disbelief as United Airlines Flight 175 struck the South Tower.


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As I’m sure many of you did, I remained motionless for quite some time, trying to process the shock of what I had just seen. And then, like so many people have done in the years since, I began to ask myself how and why. As the dust settled in New York and Washington, D.C., I pondered what the attacks would mean for our profession. Before this “day of infamy,” our profession as airline pilots seemed relatively secure from hijackings, or at least so I thought. I was jolted by this sudden attack on our nation. September 11, 2001, snapped me out of a false sense of security. Every time we don our uniforms and enter an airport to go flying, we are constantly reminded of that dreadful day.

I want to take a moment to recognize all of our fellow pilots who work to keep our country safe—to make sure that we don’t have to wake up to another horrific morning. From the many military veterans in our ranks and the FFDOs who protect our cockpits to the safety and security volunteers in our union who work to make the skies safe for us and our passengers, our fellow pilots are constantly at work to make sure that while we will never forget that horrible day, we also will never have to relive it. Please thank your union brothers and sisters who do this important work. We owe all of them a debt of gratitude.

Never forget.

This article was originally published in the September 2011 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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