I will never forget September 11th 2001.
I was about to go flying that day as a captain for American Airlines but all flying in US airspace came to a grinding stop after the terror attacks happened in New York, the Pentagon, and Pennsylvania. One of my colleagues, Charles Burlingame, was the captain on flight AA 77 which got hijacked by 5 Islamic terrorists and crashed into the Pentagon near Washington D.C.
My wife Valeria and I were friends with “Chip” who until recently had been living in Fort Lauderdale, like us, but Chip moved to Washington D.C. to be closer to where he worked when he was not flying. Chip had started working at the Pentagon and it was utterly absurd that it was Chip who was in command of AA 77 which crashed into the Pentagon.
As a side note, several pictures of Chip and his family as well as his wallet he was carrying that infamous day he died, are now at display at the magnificent 9/11 Memorial & Museum in downtown New York.
Our daughter, Sophia, who is now 16 years old, had been born just 3 weeks prior to 9/11, is seen here with her mom Valeria in my cockpit on a B777-200 in Miami before flying them to Dallas, Texas.
On the morning of 9/11 I was in our bedroom watching my wife Valeria breast feeding Sophia when all hell broke loose while watching TV and we watched the 2 airplanes fly into the World Trade Center twin buildings where 50.000 people worked.
It was an absolutely horrible day which I will never forget. I almost immediately started receiving E-mails, texts and phone calls from family and friends from Europe, South America and the USA. Everybody were deeply concerned and wanted to know if I was one of the captains that crashed and if Valeria and Sophia were alright. Hearing from family and all the friends was very moving and touched my heart.
About 7 months after the 9/11 attack, I had a very frightening experience when I was on my last day of a 3 day trip. I met a police officer on the jet bridge on the way to my airplane, who informed me that there was a bomb threat on the airplane I was about to fly from Miami, Florida to Cancun, Mexico. The message was very clear: my airplane would explode over Miami after takeoff !!!!
After an about 3 hour delay where every single passenger got interviewed by FBI, American Airlines security and the police and the bomb sniffing dogs had checked the inside of the plane as well as every single bag, I ended up ordering two passengers off the airplane and we finally departed for Cancun.
It was longest 75 minutes of flying time for all the passengers before we landed safely in Cancun, Mexico.
Over the years, first an First Officer and since the summer of 1996, a Captain, I have flown and been introduced to presidents, royalty, sport stars, movie stars, bands, singers etc. etc. but the one person that made me almost speechless and somewhat intimated, was an elderly gentleman, who in November of 2009 on a flight from Orlando, Florida to Miami, came up from First Class, while still on the ground, with his hand out ready to shake mine. He smiled and I knew that I recognized his face but at the time could not place it and he said:”I just wanted to come up and introduce myself. My name is Buzz Aldrin”.
I stood across the man who in 1969 was the second human being after Armstrong to set foot on the moon while on the Apollo 11 mission and spent 19 hours on the surface of the moon !!!!
Incredible experience to meet him….
I have loved my life as an airline pilot and am now in my 32nd year flying for American Airlines and unfortunately only have another 19 months left before I reach my mandatory retirement age of 65. I am not looking forward to that last flight as an airline captain but will be requesting my last flight to be from Miami to Buenos Aires, Argentina on the B777-300. I will be having my wife Valeria ( who is from Argentina), my daughter Sophia and quite possible my sister Marianne from Denmark onboard and take the family and the crew out in Buenos Aires for a last celebration of this wonderful job before that last flight back to Miami in late August of 2019.