After two fighter pilots saw two planes collide with the World Trade Center 20 years ago, they knew it might be their last mission, their F- I scrambled 16.
Air National Guard pilots Vice Admiral Mark Susville and Heather Penney had no time. The country was under attack. They knew that there was at least one plane still flying low in the sky. It was United Flight 93.
“As soon as I saw the image, I knew I needed protection and protection,” said Penny. “We understood what the threat was. We were looking for a low-flying fraudulent airliner that was not communicating with air traffic control.”
Pre-flight checks usually take 20 minutes, according to Sasseville. This time he entered the cockpit and took off. The duo didn’t have time to arm the jets with missiles to unload the plane as needed.
“We are not training to” unload “passenger planes. We never have it, “said Sasville. “There were no missiles or bullets. I had to hit the plane and somehow disable it.”
Penny said neither of them had ever thought about flying their F-16s into the plane. “As an army, we don’t send our soldiers to suicide missions, but it was clear what we needed to do that morning,” she said.
The order did not come through a chain of command — the pilots took it on their own. “I had no other choice, and when I saw the United States attacked again, we weren’t going to get caught on the ground,” Sasville said.
What they didn’t know was that Flight 93 passengers and crew counterattacked and drove a plane to the field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Sasville said he was thinking about the day every day. “People on Flight 93 who paid the final price, they are real heroes,” he said.
“Sus and I owe them our lives,” Penny added. “But that’s also why when I think of 9/11, instead of being overcome by trauma, fear and tragedy, I’m actually overcome by hope. That’s the best of who we are. Things were shown that day. In a sense, living my life as normal as possible is the best way to say that terrorists couldn’t win. “
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