Today is September 11th.
This day has immense meaning for people in America, as well as all over the world. It is the day that many realized just how deeply the darkness can penetrate; it was also the day that we realized that darkness cannot overcome the tenacity of the human spirit. It is the day when everyday heroes were birthed in a moment of necessity and the day when the world reached out across socioeconomic, racial, and religious boundaries, grasped hands, and for a fleeting moment stood as one against evil and hatred.Today is the day when everyday heroes were birthed in a moment of necessity and when the world reached out across socioeconomic, racial, and religious boundaries, grasped hands, and for a fleeting moment stood as one against evil. Click To Tweet
For the aviation community, this day holds even further meaning. It was the moment when wretched, withered hearts took something we love and cherish, something beautiful and breathtaking – the gift of flight – and turned it into a weapon of mass destruction. We lost Americans that day…and we lost members of our close–knit aviation family.
It also changed everything. Aviation as it had been previously known ceased to exist that day. A new, very different version would eventually rise up from the ashes, but it would take a very long time to emerge. And it’s never going to be the same again. No more mid-flight cockpit visits for starry-eyed little boys and girls. No more candid peeks into that magical world of the flight deck for everyday fliers. Lost jobs. Changed esteem. Fearful passengers. Suspicious glances. Some of the magnificent, innocent beauty of flight was forever destroyed the moment those planes crashed into the Twin Towers. A fantastic past written in the inks of wild imagination became a reality of stark procedure written in blood.
Every day that the members of our aviation community take to the skies to get PAX safely to their destinations, they are deeply affected by the ripple effects of the events of that tragic day. Every security measure, every procedure, every action has been in some way molded and altered by 9/11.
The majority of the world gives brief remembrance to 9/11 once a year; I think the majority of us remember it every day that those wheels pull neatly up into the belly of a plane with our loved ones behind the yoke. Though I find no need to linger endlessly on the ‘what if’s of this life’, I do understand that his career makes him a possible target of terror by default. It is a good reminder for me to keep my husband and the people whose lives are placed in his [very capable] hands every day in my sincere prayers every single time that he flies.The majority of the world gives brief remembrance to 9/11 once a year; I think the majority of the aviation world remembers it every day that those wheels pull neatly up into the belly of a plane with our loved ones behind the yoke. Click To Tweet
This day in history is a stark reminder to myself and aviators everywhere that we live, every single day, every single flight, every single takeoff and landing, but by the grace of God. The amazing ability to defy gravity – putting 300 tons of metal into the air and bringing it safely back down again – is a marvelous feat that I do not take for granted!
I remember exactly where I was standing, what I was doing, and who I was with when I heard the news 19 years ago. My husband and I were not aviation at the time. He also was not my husband at the time. In fact, we were both area managers at a big home improvement box, and it was the dreaded day of inventory. I was in the hardware department on my hands and knees counting and recounting packages of Stanley fasteners when he came up behind me, his face deathly pale.
“Come with me,” he said. “Something has happened.” As I walked through the store, I realized that it was uncannily empty considering a full staff of both store employees and the outside inventory crew. It was like the whole world had ground to an inexplicable halt.
He led me by the hand to the break room, and as we entered I noted with confusion that there was a crush of bodies packed into that small space, faces all upturned towards the tiny television mounted from the ceiling. Yet you could have heard a feather drop in the deathly silence that filled the space. Except, that is, for the drone of the newscaster. I looked up toward the screen with dread, my eyes joining with the thousands of others in that room and around the world. That’s when the breath was sucked involuntarily from my lungs.
I remember the sheer horror of standing in the crowded but silent room watching over and over as the American Airlines Flight 11 barreled into the North Tower, and I remember clinging momentarily to the hope that it was nothing more than a tragic accident. I guess if I had been aviation back then, I would have known better the moment it happened – our pilots don’t have ‘accidents’ like that – but I wasn’t…and I didn’t. So I dared to cling to a flicker of ignorance.
I remember the feeling of complete, enraged, blood-curdling, helpless disbelief as United Airlines Flight 175 hit the South Tower, ameliorating any thread of hope that it was anything other than a blatant act of terrorism. And again as Flight 77 hit the Pentagon. And again as Flight 93 crashed in PA. Inventory forgotten, we all stood there as one in shocked horror, unable to tear our eyes from the devastation on the screen.
It was like my heart…and that of all Americans…and all human beings around the world…stopped beating as one.It was like my heart...and that of all Americans...and all human beings around the world...stopped beating as one. Click To Tweet
That night, I remember the conversation I had with my someday husband as we tried to make some kind of sense of something that is completely insensible. It was, of all things, the night he decided to become a pilot.
“I want to fly,” he said simply, softly as we sat talking after work.
“What’s stopping you?” I asked just as simply.
And that is exactly what we did. I know it sounds completely crazy (because it is), but on the day that the world was reeling head-over-heels from the terrorists’ evil ploy to overwhelm us all with fear, we decided to defy their fear-invoking, evil plots. On the day when most of the world shied away from the skies, we reached for them with all of our might. On that fateful day, we shook our fists at those who would destroy our joy and steal our liberties and screamed at the top of our lungs,
“WE WILL NOT LIVE IN FEAR!“
Fast forward 19 very busy and chaotic years! Today he is an incredibly talented pilot. He soars through the crystal blue skies (and sometimes the ugly gray ones!), head held high, following the passion of his heart. He trains others pilots day in and day out to do the same. How far we have come. The path has never been an easy one, but perhaps that’s why we covet the destination all the more. I love this life because we chose it, fought for it, and achieved it. And we do not live our lives in fear…
Because we are FREE!
We are free because we are Americans. We are free because we are human beings with inalienable rights. We are free because Jesus died on a cross to give us freedom from the fear of death.
As for our family, we refuse to live this life like those who have no hope, but rather as those who have received the gift and knowledge of these precious rights of freedom.
Every time he takes off from that runway, he honors the memory of those who died on that dreadful day when those planes were so tragically overtaken and the Twin Towers fell. Every time he lands safely, he defies the fear and terror that hatred and evil seek to evoke in our world. Every time he soars through the skies like an eagle on those beautiful metal wings, he proves that we do not have to be cower in the corner when evil arises, but rather we can defy fear, be driven by it, and become more in spite of it.
And I could not be prouder of him – of us!
Today, September 11, 2020, many of our husbands are flying through the very same skies, sitting on the exact same tarmacs, and looking down on the exact same cities as our aviation brothers and sisters of Flight 11, Flight 175, Flight 77, and Flight 93 did that fateful day 17 years ago. It’s a very real and sobering thought. So today I will be praying extra hard for them…and all of my beloved family in the skies. Because I love you more than I can ever begin to express.
To all of those who were affected by the events of 9/11, to all the heroes that emerged from the ashes, to all those who lost their lives to terror…
I love you, aviation family.
Angelia (a Pilot Wife)
Just Winging It: Prayers for My Pilot Wife (autographed)
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