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dozerboy

9/11 Where were you that morning

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Woke up early enough on the west coast to see second aircraft slam in to Trade Center. Mrs Z was on route PEK-YVR and almost ended up in King Salmon Alaska, but eventually made it in and was reportedly last flight into VR. Capt I.Hansen and F/O D. Stockill were extremely professional. AC29 was also to divert to YXY but they had there hands full with 2 B747's just landing ahead of them and were told to continue to YVR.

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In YYZ area, just hired my first employee there and she got to see me, not helping her, not caring about her first day and then crying. I let her go home.

She turned out to be a fabo girl.

Judy

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I was at home, watching Canada AM. I had just dropped the kids off at school. Initially they were reporting that a small aircraft had crashed into the WTC, and I didn't pay much attention. Then a girlfriend, whose husband was doing LGA turnarounds that day called me. She had heard it reported that it was a 737, and wanted to know what I had heard, because that's what her husband flew at the time.

For the next couple hours, I watched in disbelief and horror as the whole thing unfolded. I remember wondering if this was the beginning of WWIII.

The thing that is most indelibly etched in my brain is the panic and hysteria in the voice of the female reporter who was providing commentary on live video from the scene when the people started jumping out of the burning tower.

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I was in the classroom at our training centre facilitating a recurrent training session. My wife knew I'd be there that day, and knew that my cell phone should only be called for emergencies when I was in class. So when it went off, I knew something was up. All she said was, "Turn on the news, an aircraft hit the WTC. They're saying it was a small airplane but the hole looks too big to me." Literally as I tuned in to the only news channel we could get, we saw the second one hit the tower. At first we thought it was a replay until we saw the first fire burning in the background.

My most vivid memory of 9/11 is the reaction of my young nephew. He became very solemn, and it took a few days for his parents to realize that he was reacting that way because mommy worked in an office tower in downtown Toronto, and Uncle Jeff flew airliners. In his mind, both of us should have quit our jobs that day. It made us realize that our kids needed all of our love and attention, for they too were severely traumatized by the whole experience.

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Just starting engines for a quick flight down to KTEB when we got word to shut down and await further. Went inside to the lounge and wasn't long in realizing that we weren't going anywhere that day. Interesting how fate deals its hand....we had a minor technical glitch that morning that had delayed our departure. We had been scheduled to arrive at KTEB at 08:30 local.

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Heard the news of the first hit on the way to work. Went to the lounge on arrival and saw the whole thing un fold with several others. Not much got done that day.

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I woke up to CBC Radio 1 news at about 8:30 AM EDT in the TravelLodge on Carlingview in Toronto. They simply started talking about a "light airplane" had crashed into one of the WTC buildings in NYC. I casually turned on CNN and was presented with an image of a great big smoking hole that could not have been a light aircraft, especially as the wings and fuselage had made a distinct pattern. As the disbelief set in, and the off-screen commentators were babbling, out of the right hand side of the screen appeared another airplane. I couldn't figure out the contradiction of watching a replay while still looking at the burning, smoking hole.

It seemed nearly a minute passed after the second impact before the off-screen reporters figured out a second event had just occurred, and on national TV.

I watched as did millions of others as the fires progressed, the helpless decided to die by means other than burning to death and finally the collapse of both buildings.

These are things one will never forget.

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I was working Line Maintenance on YYZ ramp that morning. Someone heard on the radio that "a light aircraft" had hit the WTC... I remember thinking about other aircraft that have hit buildings, like the bomber that hit the Empire State bldg years ago... So someone wheeled out a tv into our crewroom on the ramp, and we watched the whole thing unfold. At 11:00 I took a walk down the line of aircraft at the gates on Terminal Two. It was silent, except for the birds singing. I knew then that all our lives had changed that day, and not for the better... Taking that walk down the ramp was very eirie.

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This day is at once, deeply individual and of the entire world. I woke up about 8am after arriving from Hong Kong the day before. The morning news was talking about a WTC building collapsing. Dreaming, I thought...We had stayed in the Marriott many times, with family; I tried to imagine what it was like in the hotel; were any of our crews there? I talked to my brother in Dallas and while doing so, the second tower fell before our eyes. We could see silent figures falling outside the buildings but no one was saying anything about them. We were no less transfixed by the singular reality that most of the rest of the world was experiencing at that moment with us.

I was scheduled out to Taipei that Thursday. I watched as our industry stopped dead in it's tracks. We saw broadcast images of blank radar screens and images of Halifax Airport, laden with passenger aircraft. On Thursday afternoon, after a morning of consultations with Ops to ensure we were all comfortable with the planned operation and that we had the necessary new clearances through US airspace and paperwork on board, we set out for Taiwan, the first, and only aircraft over the North Pacific that day. Security was a precursor of things to come. I haven't carried a jacknife in seven years. Don't even know where they are in the house. Because of the delays, we knew it was going to be a very long day. We had four in the cockpit and a full complement in the cabin for a full airplane. Though the entire crew was superbly professional, it was, without exaggeration, the most solemn, sad journey of my life. I will never forget it.

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I was in Berlin at an airline conference. It was mid afternoon and as we broke for a coffee break we noticed the pictures on the TV of the towers.

As a group of aviation professionals we watched the second aircraft hit and our minds refused to acknowledge the size and thus the type of aircraft. We could not believe that it was a commercial airliner.

On Saturday I connected through Frankfurt airport on the way to Dublin and to get from one wing to the other I took my normal 'shortcut' past the checkin counters. I was not prepared for the chaos at the airport. The building was wall to wall people both pre and post security. I knew of a quiet security point and quieter immigration checkpoint to get back to the holdroom but when I got through there were lines of people snaking all around the area and Fraport staff were going up and down handing out water and food.

I asked some people in the lines what the line up was for and they did not know. I found out later that it was the now customary second security check for USA flights. I thought that it was a temporary measure. How little did I know.

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I was just boarding an AC flight for my deadhead from LGA to YYZ. Our metal did not arrive the night before due to the thunderstorms that preceded the beautiful morning. Had it gotten in, we would have been crossing BUF about the time the first one hit. The fact that we were supposed to leave at 0800 makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. Even more so when they found a boxcutter in the overhead bin of a 320 a couple days later.

The afternoon before, the Mayor of Jerusalem was travelling to NYC with us. We had had a request to store the handguns of his bodyguards in the flight deck. Not happening... they went into the cargo hold.

The FO and I had gone out for Mexican food and got caught in the downpour on the way home. As we stood under a leaky canopy until most of the rain had passed, I looked at him and said "We won't forget this layover for a while".

We had stayed downtown at the Helmsley, having moved crew hotels from the WTC Marriott less than a year before. I am sure that some of those faces that became so familiar over the years did not make it that day.

As we were boarding the deadhead, a ramp worker came up the stairs and said that an aircraft had just hit the WTC. We all thought Beech or helo at the time. Nope... it was a DC-9... then a 737. Ultimately, the announcement came there was a ground stop and that we were delayed. People on board were calling their families or work to advise them. I called my wife to tell her that it looked like we were going to be late, whereupon she said "An airliner flew into the WTC" and while we were on the phone, she said "And another one just went into the other building and didn't come out the other side". I couldn't believe her, of course. The revelation from everyone who was on the phone spread through the cabin. I went up and told the pilots, who only knew the basics and that there was a ground stop.

Finally the flight was cancelled, then the order to evacuate LGA. The station manager, Lisa Pierce, and her assistant, Mary, herded us together and walked with us over to the Crowne plaza. I called Flight Ops HQ and talked with Michael Downey. He just said that we had flights diverting everywhere and to try to get accommodation for the crew, which we were already doing.

On our way, as we were exiting the parking garage, we could see one WTC building with black smoke coming from it. To the sight of white smoke coming from the other building, which was obviously hidden from view, the operating FO said "Look, it's just steam now, they must have gotten the fire out in that one". It was about 10:10.

Waited over by the Crowne... no rooms, of course, as the pax had beat us there. This wasn't even our airport layover hotel at the time, but Lisa knew the manager, so thought she might be able to get some rooms. Nope. They did have TVs set up in the lobby and it was at this time we first became aware (by this time) that both towers had collapsed.

Standing outside, it was eerily quiet until a fighter screamed overhead. To this, one of the FA's responded by running over to a limo and asked "How much will you charge to take me to Canada". It was clear to her that a World War had begun, and maybe she wasn't far off. We calmed her down a bit, but everyone was rattled.

Mary knew of a motel in her area about 15 minutes away, near JFK, in the town of Long Beach. "Not fancy, but it's a place to stay". She, Lisa and Larry, the local maintenance rep, would drive most of us in their cars. One group was able to rent a van. The 15 minute ride took 4 hours. Cell phone service was almost non-existent.

Lisa lived in New Jersey but, instead of instinctively heading west to be with her family, she spent the day making sure that her Air Canada "family" was as comfortable as possible and checked on us every day. After 911, I always stopped in to see Lisa and Mary when I passed through LGA.

There was 25 of us, from various flights, including the crew of the second-last aircraft to land, and were on the 220 vector after passing LGA VOR when the second aircraft hit. I can't even imagine seeing that live from the air.

The motel was about a 1/2 star if it even qualified for stars. When we returned from dinner, there was a young man in the lobby, girlfriend in the car, asking through the hole in the taxi-cab thick safety glass that went wall to wall and desk to ceiling for "4 hours". Not sure why they needed that much time... maybe a DPG kind of thing...

It was my job to keep in touch with flt ops crew sked. When I called them on Wed AM, they said, "We're trying to get a flight out of EWR this afternoon at 1400", to which I responded that I had better start swimming soon because it wasn't possible to get to EWR from where we were by road without going about half way to Albany. The flight, of course, was a figment of optimism.

Crew meetings were held in the parking lot twice a day. Not all of the FA's were holding up really well. Couldn't blame them too much, crappy accommodations, bad information, not much to do in Long Beach, missing their families... if nothing else, the week turned into a fast lesson in human dynamics.

The motel was on a "satellite" system that had previously used the antenna from the WTC as a transmitter, so no TV to speak of, and news coverage and information was spotty at best. Rumours abounded. One of the pursers came with news that 212 aircraft had diverted and were on the ground in Calgary. (It turns out that this was the number for all of Canada.) This was only one of his wild stories that got so bad I had to take him aside and ask him to stop giving us news breaks. He was not helping by making things seem worse than they were.

It did amaze me, though, that some of the flight attendants did not seem to grasp the significance of the events with respect to their long term impact on the company, or the industry, for that matter.

Most of the crew, thankfully, was stable and grounded.

On one of my walks, I stopped into a cell phone store, described my predicament and asked if they had a way to recharge my phone. They didn't have any AC chargers, but the girl took a new car charger out of its package, walked my phone out to her car, plugged it in and said "Come back in an hour". Could have charged me for the charger, but when she handed me my phone she said "No charge". Funny how the little things really make you understand what many people are made of.

My walks often took me down to the long stretch of unrefined silicon and boardwalk along the south shore of the sandbar that was Long Beach. From there I could see the constant stream of smoke and steam blowing to the south from what was once the WTC. An aircraft carrier and its minions ploughed back and forth a few miles off shore with the occasional launch, the visual followed by a hollow rumble 10 or 15 seconds later. The ghost wake of TWA800 lay just above her.

Mary put on a spaghetti dinner at her house for us on Thursday. A great way to take some of the pressure off.

Call after call to hotels near the airport finally got us back to the Crowne on Friday. I paid the entire motel bill with my VISA.... between $200 and $250 per night, per room. $6000 for a couple of nights. (Not everyone was as gracious as the cell girl). Now, to be fair, some rooms did have heart shaped hot tubs and there was no charge for the smell of stale cigarette smoke or the putrid vapour they used to try to cover it up.

One disadvantage of moving back to the Crowne was that we were now closer to Manhattan and the wind had shifted, so it was now possible to smell the continuing aftermath of the attacks. New York, to me, has always been a city of, generally unsavoury, smells, but this trip underlined that fact forever in my olfactory memory.

Once we got back to the Crowne, the company decided that enough was enough... there was no guarantee of when things would start to fly again... the crews were getting edgy... and laid on buses to take us to Montreal on Saturday morning. Long drive along with the first time I've ever had to clear customs OUT of a country, quick flight back to Toronto and my family and another adventure ended, and continued, all at once.

Quite a week, and quite a 7 years since.

Everyone has a story and there were millions of people way closer to the events than was I, but thought I'd share a story from a crew's perspective stuck within view of ground zero.

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Everyone has a story and there were millions of people way closer to the events than was I, but thought I'd share a story from a crew's perspective stuck within view of ground zero.

There may have been millions closer but thanks for sharing your story. It is very interesting to hear what an airline crew was doing - I have often wondered what operating crews did while waiting.

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I will never forget that day........thankfully we didn't have kids at the time.

I was on the final layover of a 5 day YYC-YYZ-KIX-YYZ-YYC pairing when news broke. We were about 1 hour prior to pick-up at the Sheraton Centre in Toronto for our final leg back to YYC. I phoned all my crew members to ensure they didn't check-out of their rooms......I was worried about being stuck in YYZ without accomodations and not being able to get in touch with crew sched for alternate arrangements.

My wife, who was working for Canadian at the time, was on her last layover of a 5 day YYC-YVR-HNL-SYD-HNL-YVR-YYC pairing in Honolulu.

Suffice it to say, both of our pairings were extended to 9 days.

It must have been really tough for airline couples with children who were both out of town at the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

As much as we were inconvenienced, it pales in comparison to those directly affected and directly impacted by the attacks......hopefully we never forget the emotions we all felt in the days following the attacks - it was powerful stuff.

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Wow... It's great to read these tales...

Like I've said elsewhere, I was on the hangar floor fiddling with a 767, and had another couple of airplanes that needed some sort of attention before they could go. We were a small crew working in a somewhat alien environment (we'd only just begun to blend the Red and Blue maintenance teams), and had a lot on our plates... Our priority was the 67 in bay 9.... First word we got was someone from one of the shops telling us an airplane had hit one of the towers... Somehow, we all thought it was something small. Next thing we heard, another airplane had hit the other tower, it was terrorism, and airplanes might be getting shot down now... oh and by the way, the airport is closed - nothing going out at all. That changed our priorities... So we found a TV some place and watched in horror as CNN showed towers getting hit in re-run and towers falling (maybe in re-run too - I don't know)

Soon it was clear that parking airplanes was going to be a task and a half.... I went outside to start helping wherever I could and I met the most friendly AC guy I'd met to that date... (we "darksiders" [from CAIL]were aliens with horns in our heads and green blood still at that time) He invited me to go raid galleys with him... "It's all going into the garbage!" he said... biggrin.gif (to this day that man is one of the friendliest I've met, who's never made me feel lesser than he, just because I worked for a different airline - aside from Robert and Conehead of course wink.gif )

I remember watching a few big birds taxi in some time later on... late arrivals whose crews must have felt some serious puckering over threats of "answer or be shot down" sort of stuff.... I wanted to go hug the damn airplanes, but all I could do was wave and clap my hands in the air... I probably looked like some kind of a damn fool out there, but I didn't care... as far as I was concerned there weren't enough safe passengers and crews as long as anything was flying.... Odd how your mind works - or mine anyway unsure.gif

Earlier that morning.... on my way to work, I'd seen a car in the ditch off Brock rd., not far from here. (frost on the road, maybe?) As I passed the car I thought to myself: Poor guy, this is a day he'll remember. huh.gif and I bet it is.

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We had stayed downtown at the Helmsley, having moved crew hotels from the WTC Marriott less than a year before. I am sure that some of those faces that became so familiar over the years did not make it that day.

Having spent probably more than 50 nights at the Marriott World Trade Centre, I'm still haunted by thoughts as to whether some of the regular faces survived the attack.

I always picked up a couple slices of pizza from the Sbabarro Italian restaurant/counter in the food court area and a coffee from the Starbucks in the Borders book store on the 2nd floor. Although I never even knew their names, each place had an older lady working that would always remember I was a flight attendant and ask were I had been recently. It would be very interesting to know whether they survived or not.

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