#September11: The Flight Crew

#September11: The Flight Crew

#September11: The Flight Crew

The airline industry was rocked and forever changed on a clear morning on the east coast one September 14 years ago. Pilots and crew went about standard procedures while prepping for their flights and looking forward to another day’s work in the skies-not expecting the horror of what happened shortly after takeoff.

Maybe you were on your way to work on the east coast when American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the north tower of The World Trade Center. Perhaps you were on the west coast sleeping or just waking up. By the time the second aircraft, United Airlines Flight 175 hit the south tower, America knew that these jets, ready to embark on cross-country flights were loaded up with fuel and were not intended to be used as means of transportation that day but a means to crumble and destroy structures, lives and shake our country to the core.

It is hard to determine what was going through the minds of the flight crew on these aircraft in the final moments. We take the time today to honor the fallen crew of all four flights that fateful September morning.

American Airlines Flight 11: North Tower, World Trade Center

Captain John Ogonowski was a Vietnam Vet who flew C-141 transport planes that carried equipment and sometimes bodies of the fallen back to the United States. He was a farmer in his spare time.

Ogonowski’s First Officer was Tom F. McGuinness. McGuinness’ wife, Cheryl has since published a book on her relationship with God after the 9/11 tragedy entitled “Beauty Beyond The Ashes, Choosing Hope After Crisis”. Among the flight attendants on board were Barbara Jean Arestegui and Betty Ong, the first flight attendant to provide authorities with much needed information about the hijackers to include seat numbers to determine their identities. Betty was on the air phone with ground control for about 25 minutes confirming a hijacking was under way. Madeline “Amy” Sweeney was also assisting Ong in the cabin of. Sweeney made the call to flight services manager, Michael Woodward at 8:20am that morning which gave the F.B.I a head start on the investigation that day.

“Something is wrong. We are in a rapid descent… we are all over the place. … I see water. I see buildings. We are flying low. We are flying very, very low. We are flying way too low. … Oh my God, we are way too low… Oh my God, we’re —”-Amy Sweeney

Also on the flight were attendants Jeffrey Dwayne Collman, Sara Low, Karen Martin, Kathy Nicosia, Jean Roger and Dianne Snyder.


United Airlines Flight 175-South Tower,World Trade Center

Captain Victor Sarcini was a former Navy pilot. He left behind his wife, Ellen and two daughters. He taught his daughters how to practice and execute flight plans during his time on the home front.

Sarcini was assisted by First Officer Michael Horrocks, who supposedly joked on the phone to his wife, Miriam before boarding United Airlines Flight 175 that day that he “was flying with some guy with a funny Italian last name.” Horrocks, a Philadelphia native, was a retired Marine and left behind a son and a daughter. The flight attendants on board the aircraft were Robert J. Fangman, Amy N. Jarret, and longtime boyfriend, Michael Tarrou and Alicia Titus.

American Airlines Flight 77-The Pentagon

Captain Charles F. Burlingame (call sign: “Chic”) was described as a “go-to-guy”. He was a graduate of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland and also attended the Navy’s Top Gun fighter pilot school in Miramar, California. He was to attend his 30-year college reunion the week after the attacks.

First Officer David Chalrlebois was born in Morocco and lived with his family in Paris, France and Arlington, Virginia. Upon graduating from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 1984, he served as a corporate pilot and began his career in the commercial sector in 1988 with US Air. He joined the American Airlines team in 1991. Burlingame and Charlebois were assisted by flight attendants Michele Heidenberger, Jennifer and Kenneth Lewis and Renee Ann Mae.

United Airlines Flight 93-Shanksville, PA

Captain Jason Dahl began flight training when he was only 13 years old; he lost his brother in Vietnam a year later. He traded flights with another pilot so he could take his wife to London to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary the following week.

First Officer LeRoy Homer graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He flew cargo planes in the Gulf War during his eight-year career with the military. He was with United Airlines since 1995 and left behind a wife and then, 10-month old daughter.

The flight attendants on board were Lorraine G. Bay was a 37-year veteran with United Airlines, Sandy Bradshaw who was, reportedly along with the other flight attendants, boiling water to toss on the hijackers before the plane was brought down, Wanda A. Green, former police officer CeeCee Lyles and Deborah Welsh.

In glancing at all of the bios of the crews aboard these flights, it was apparent that all walks of life have come together with one common thread: the love of flying. The poem, High Flight by John Gillespie Magee Jr. comes to mind here:

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air….

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
– Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

As we reflect on these souls lost that day, we look to the skies today. We pass them in the hustle and bustle of our airports as we head to our next business meeting, visit with family across the miles or embark upon our next adventure of a new destination. They’re rushing from plane to plane, terminal to terminal, prepping the cabins and the cockpits. Maybe they came from home and are beginning a four day stretch of flights. Perhaps they came from a crash pad at their local domicile and they are finishing up their line to commute home to their families.

I remember the sentiment in the months after 9/11 and vowed to never get annoyed about safety delays when traveling by air ever again. I also remember in the months that followed how travelers thanked the pilots and the crew. Here we are, 14 years later. The airline industry is ramping up once again. More people are traveling. The aviation community is in the process of hiring and training more pilots and crew to satisfy this demand. The airline industry now is experiencing growing pains that will be positive in the long haul but may cause inconveniences in the interim. Despite the shock wave that was sent to the world on the morning of September 11th 2001, travelers get aggravated at canceled schedules, delayed flights, ground holds, extra safety checks and computer glitches and they continue to rush on and off the aircraft without so much of a glance at the flight crew.

These pilots and flight attendants were military veterans, law enforcement officers, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters and dear friends. To some, they may be just another pilot or a flight attendant designated to take them from point A to point B but to others, they are their everything. I know this because this is my life now. Our prayers are with the fallen crew members and passengers of these flights and their loved ones and our current airline employees and families. We see you.

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