Stunned: A Personal Memory

ALPA MECs Remember

By Capt. Bruce Freedman (ret.), former Chair, on behalf of the Piedmont ALPA Master Executive Council

On September 11, 2001, I was scheduled to deadhead from BOS to CLT for my recurrent training with Allegheny Airlines. As I was making final preparations that morning at 9:00 a.m. to head to the airport, I received a call from my wife to turn the television on. She had some unusual concern in her voice but wasn’t sure what was happening. I turned on the TV and saw the north tower of the World Trade Center on fire and smoking terribly. Before I had time to grasp what may be happening, I saw the second plane fly into the south tower. Stunned hardly explains the emotions of what I was seeing. All I could do was watch and listen to the news broadcasters’ commentary.

I sat and just stared at the TV, listening and watching the events unfold. Everyone was overwhelmed at what was happening in New York. The rest of the morning I just watched and waited as most everyone did except for the first responders, and even they were stunned.

As the morning went on, I was witness to the collapse of the towers and the Pentagon and Shanksville crashes. At some point I knew these were no accidents, but I didn’t know the extent of what we would later learn.

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I returned to flying status on September 14 and flew one flight for an hour, a ferry flight to reposition an airplane from SYR to BTV. The next day I deadheaded from BTV to LGA, then to PVD, then put into a taxi to BOS where I flew another reposition flight to BGM followed by another taxi to ITH. On the 16th, my flight schedule started to resume more normally.

I recall that some crewmembers were not emotionally prepared to return to flying, and management was completely understanding; no pilot or flight attendant had to fly until they were ready.

I had spent many years flying around the World Trade Center, always impressed with the view. When I saw from the air what had happened, I felt horrible. It was surreal and so sad. It was eerie to fly around what had become known as Ground Zero. Words were hard to come by, and all I could do was look down and stare and wonder.

The union came out with a pin and quote, “Never Forget”—and I can’t. I have attended the memorial events at the ALPA Remembrance Garden several times, and it is a somber and reverent moment. September 11 was a wakeup call that the airline pilot profession must be forward-thinking and proactive to protect itself from any potential threat. I hope those who enter the profession learn the history and the many events that have shaped the industry, and the importance to never forget 9/11, so they may remember the price paid for wearing the wings of their airline.

Originally published September 2021

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