Capt. Prater’s September 11th Message

September 11, 2009 - Eight years ago today, tragedy struck our nation and filled our hearts. I don’t need to recount the events as each and every one of us lived through those prolonged moments of anger, grief, and helplessness. It was indeed one of the darkest days in American history.

And specific to airline pilots, it was the darkest day in our industry. The tragic events grounded our profession for days, leaving in their wake irreparable harm to our economy, our industry, and our livelihoods. But more than that, it left behind an anger that resonated among all of us—those sociopaths used our chosen profession as a means to cripple our nation. Our industry was a target. Our craft was a target. Our profession was a target. Indeed, the anger still burns inside me today. I am sure I am not alone.

But coupled with that anger and grief is the reinvigorated pride in our country and in our profession. We were down, but we were never out—not by a long shot. Our proven resilience is a strong indicator that we will not be defeated—not on a national level, nor as airline pilots, and definitely not on a professional level.

Our paralysis was certainly short-lived. We didn’t have the luxury of sitting back and waiting for someone else to fix our problems. We know all too well how airline managements used that opportunity to strip us of what we rightfully earned . . . with no intent of ever giving back. The loopholes they were able to find have had stinging, long-lasting effects.

Yet, through our own tenacious efforts and perseverance, we’ve made enormous strides in enhancing safety and security in our airports and in our cockpits. Working with regulators and legislators, we have had many successes. Thousands of our own pilots have volunteered to be the last line of defense as Federal Flight Deck Officers. We have worked with manufacturers to develop better and more efficient ways of protecting our cockpits. We are in the final stages of seeing nationwide implementation of CrewPASS—a secure identification system that targets those who wish to do harm, not those charged with carrying families and travelers to and from their destinations.

My ALPA brothers and sisters, we have come a long way. And as long as we remember the feelings we all experienced on that fateful day, we will never let the deaths that took place on September 11 be in vain. Our profession will forever remember the crews and passengers on board those two United flights and those two American Airlines flights, as well as the 2,800 senseless deaths that occurred at the World Trade Center towers, at the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, PA. We honor you today. We honor you every day. We are committed that we won’t forget.

I ask each of our members to use the memory of that fateful day to spark the energy you need to demand better working conditions, demand a new contract, and demand the quality of life you deserve. Our needs aren’t different from those of this country.

This year, as we remember, there will be many who observe and participate in a “National Day of Service and Remembrance,” in hopes of turning that dark day into a brighter day, filled with community, service, and compassion for a renewed country and a renewed profession. Today, as you stop to think about the gravity of 9/11, recall with pride the countless acts of compassion and caring that also mark this day. No airline crew who were grounded for days in diverts to Canada will ever forget the kindness and assistance offered by so many of our union’s brothers and sisters. Their selfless acts of caring and action were repeated around the nation and the globe. No borders or differences separated any in our profession. So let us each in our own way never forget while we continue to move forward with dignity and with pride. However you choose to honor our fallen fellow airmen and the victims and heroes of 9/11, as you fly your trip or look skyward as others fly theirs, do it with pride, and do it with respect for our profession and for your fellow airmen from this day forward.