9/11 and Flight Simulation–My Memories

Tomorrow marks the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.  Tomorrow I’ll begin my day just like I did on 11 September 2001 and each year since.  I’ll wake up early, take my shower, get dressed and head downstairs for my morning coffee and to watch the morning news.  I’ll spend a few minutes thinking about my grandfather as this year would have marked his 98th birthday, then between the thoughts of my grandfather and the images of the 9/11 memorials, reading of the names and the moments of silence, this 52 year old man will ball his eyes out for much of the rest of the morning.

On the morning of Tuesday, 11 September 2001…it was like any other morning for me.  My weekday morning ritual hasn’t changed much since college.  For much of my adult life I have been an early riser.  At this particular time in my life I was living alone.  My now wife (who I had met a few months prior) was still living in England and I was scheduled to leave Denver to fly to London on Friday, 14 September.  I had just sat down on my sofa with coffee in hand about 6:30 AM MT.  I remember (just like it was yesterday) the morning news anchors (Fox News) talking about what a beautiful fall-like day it was in New York City.  As I only lived about 5 minutes from my office, I would often leave my apartment about 6:45 AM to allow myself plenty of time to be in the office just before 7.  But this morning…and I can’t explain why, I felt the need to stay on the sofa a bit longer and finish that first cup of coffee.

The first plane hit the World Trade Center at 6:46 AM MT.  Within what just felt like seconds, Fox News was showing the smoke pouring from the north tower.  The news folks kept talking about what a beautiful day it was in NYC and initial speculation was somehow a sightseeing aircraft must have accidently crashed into the WTC.  Being interested in aviation, I decided to continue watching the news that morning for just a few minutes longer.  With my coffee cup in one hand, and the TV remote in the other…I was just about to click the off button when the second plane crashed into the south tower.  It was obviously clear the first plane was no accident and something terrible was playing out before our very eyes.

At the time, I was working for a small tech company and part of my day to day role dealt with crisis management, business continuity and disaster recovery.  Without knowing everything that was occurring in New York City, I decided I had better get to the office as we had offices and customers in the NYC area and I would need to begin looking into how these events would impact our operations.  By the time I reached the office, the third plane had crashed into the Pentagon and we all watched in shock and horror as both the South and North towers collapsed and we eventually learned of the fourth plane crashing in Pennsylvania.

In the days after the attacks, I would come home, have dinner and watch the news to try to understand what had happened and why.  Generally just before bedtime, I would go for a walk around the park next to my apartment.  The extremely noticeable lack of aircraft was deafening.

What does all this have to do with flight sim?

Just a few months prior to the 9/11 attacks, the VATSIM network began operations and I had just started flying (virtually of course) for an American Airlines virtual airline.  Just a few days before 9/11 I had assumed the role of VP of Operations of the VA.  After the attacks of 9/11 and during the period of time the FAA had grounded all civilian air traffic, VATSIM also shut down their servers out of respect.  As I felt then, and still do to this day…the actions taken by VATSIM were correct and extremely commendable.

What I’m going to say next is going to be very unlike me.  I don’t typically mix politics and/or real world issues into my writings.  But in the days after 9/11, everywhere you looked American flags were proudly flying.  We were all Americans…we were all proud to be Americans and we stood behind our President as proud Americans.  Today, 17 years later…we barely resemble the same country.  We’re as divided as we’ve ever been in my lifetime and there’s so much hate towards not only our President, but also for law enforcement.  No longer can people simply just disagree.  Disagreement often leads to various accusations including racism, sexism etc.

I pray daily for peace, I pray daily that the events we witnessed on this day 17 years ago won’t happen again and I pray daily for our country.  I pray that we as once proud Americans can once again be at peace with one another and that patriotic spirit which makes this the greatest country on earth can heal our divided wounds.

Thank you for reading.


P.S.  I’ll return next Monday with my usual non-political style of writing, until then…..may God continue to bless us all and may we all strive for peace and kindness in everything we do.

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