What We Do Best

ALPA MECs Remember

By Endeavor ALPA Master Executive Council

This year marks the 20th anniversary of an event that forever altered the course of our lives, our profession, and our country. Everyone throughout the nation experienced the shock of watching American Airlines 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 strike the World Trade Center towers. Just a short while later, American Airlines 77 hit the western side of the Pentagon, while finally United 93 came to rest in Shanksville, Pa., after a heroic attempt by the passengers.

Unlike the events of Pearl Harbor, this nation watched in real time as these terrorist attacks unfolded. However, we also immediately saw the heroic first responders of the NYPD and NYFD immediately jump into action. Without any regard to their own safety, and knowing the imminent danger that lay before them, they still did not hesitate to save lives, even at the expense of their own. The American spirit, our resolve, and our mettle and tenacity were on full display that day.

As pilots, we experienced an unprecedented grounding of all aircraft and the complete shutdown of the airspace system as controllers worked feverishly to land over 4,300 aircraft and divert several hundred more as we closed the skies. Crews were stranded for days away from home, loved ones, and family at a time when they needed them the most, when being together was paramount. Even after the system was restarted, we knew without doubt that our industry and lives would be in upheaval for some time.

Read more 9/11 memories from ALPA pilots and join us for our 20th Anniversary Remembrance Ceremony, in person or webcast.

Although Endeavor did not exist at that time, the three carriers that eventually became our airline—Pinnacle, Colgan, and Mesaba—were in operation, and the trajectory of those carriers and pilots was permanently reshaped in a matter of moments. Our strength as an airline today is built on those very same aviators who went through the darkest of days in late 2001. They forged the path for many of us today in the industry, and we are forever grateful for their exemplary leadership.

Even as we began to recover from those horrific events, recovery itself meant a streamlined industry. Pilots suffered bankruptcies, furloughs, and consolidation, all resulting in a loss of seniority and earnings that would take years to recover. We had to navigate rising oil prices and an economic recession later that decade that continued to make recovery uncertain. However, despite the emotional toll of September 11 and the fallout to our industry over the next 10 years, our own resiliency and steadfastness consistently showed through.

Being an airline pilot means we must expect the unexpected and adapt quickly to ever-shifting sands. Whether those events are global or local, within our control or outside our purview, we know how to handle these sea changes in a fashion that yields a positive outcome for us, our families, our profession, and our country.

We remember 9/11 as a day when lives were lost, and the skies were quiet. Twenty years later, we honor those whose lives were ended too soon and find comfort that through the American spirit we can once again look to the skies and see our pilots doing what they do best!

Originally published September 2021

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