Sunday, September 11, 2011


I think that anyone who reads this today knows exactly where they were on September 11, 2001. I was home, drinking my morning tea, just going about my usual routine of the day. I didn't have the television on. I had no idea what was happening. A friend called and told me to turn on the television, a plane had hit the World Trade Tower. I thought it had to be a plane that had lost its engines and was trying to make an emergency landing. No pilot would intentionally fly into a building. The men who did this were not pilots but terrorists who took planes and turned them into missiles.
A number of years ago I was doing Young Eagle Flights out of the lakefront airport that we had here in Chicago, Meigs. The Young Eagles Program is sponsored by the Experimental Aircraft Association to introduce young people to aviation and to hopefully encourage them to learn to fly. I have always felt that my role is only to encourage the children to reach for their dreams not to encourage them to fly unless that is their dream. The program that I participate in is in conjunction with the Tuskegee Airmen, such a great group of men. The children that we fly for the most part, would never have the opportunity to take an airplane ride. On one flight, I had three children in the plane. As I made my turn to go around the city, the boy who was sitting in the front seat panicked which made one of the girls in the back seat panic as well. The boy had grabbed my arm and pulled it back to bury his head in my shoulder. I had to let go of the throttle. The girl grabbed the back of my head and at that point all I could do was hold on to the yoke with my left hand. It was the most dangerous position to be in. I had just taken off, I was in a climbing attitude, and we were low to the ground. To this day I cannot remember how I got the two of them off of me, but by the grace of God, I did. I called the tower and told them that I needed to make an immediate return to the airport and declared an emergency. He cleared the airport and the runway belonged to me. He had told me to make a steep approach for landing. I knew that was impossible and that I needed to make shallow turns all on my side of the plane so I could try to keep the children as calm as possible. A friend of mine that was in the air knew that something was going very wrong in the plane when he heard the tower ask me if I needed assistance(fire trucks and ambulances) and I responded, "No, I just need to get on the ground. Hopefully we'll make it." What was going through my mind was I knew my plane was fine, I was fine, but I didn't know if my passengers were going to allow me to fly the plane. At that point I understood what a pilot goes through who has been hijacked. As I turned final, we encountered the snakey winds that were normal at Meigs and the girl started hyperventilating and screaming. I started telling her that we were going home. That would calm her for a bit. Finally, the gear touched down, we were home. I can only imagine what those pilots went through on that fateful day tens years ago. Every pilot I know feels a tremendous responsibility for the passengers they carry and will do whatever they can to bring those passengers to their destination safely.
Ten years later, we still wonder, why? There is no answer. It's a day that changed our lives forever.
Our lives are filled with whys. I wanted a family of my own. Even with all we did to try and have a family, nothing worked. Why? There was a verse I came across this morning and I will part with it,

What I know now is only partial; then it will be complete, as complete as God's knowledge of me. Meanwhile these three remain: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:12,13 

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