Sunday, September 11, 2011

A remarkable 9/11 story

Everyone is writing about their memories of 9/11/01, and being a bit of a contrarian, I wasn't planning to write anything special, since my experience was quite similar to that of millions of other people. Shock, disbelief, anger, etc.

But today I found a story worth sharing. It involves a pilot named Heather Penney, who was a Lieutenant on 9/11, stationed at Andrews Air Force base outside of Washington. You can read the entire account here, but the story in a nutshell is this:

On duty as a newly-minted Air Force pilot, Heather and her commanding officer learned of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks much like everyone else. Then came the news that a fourth plane was in the air, and believed to be heading for Washington. The two of them were told to get in their jets and stop the airliner.

The kicker to the story is that there was no time to put ammunition or missiles on their planes. The two of them went up in the air, prepared to fly their planes directly into the airliner, sacrificing their own lives to bring down the plane.

Read the story for all of the details, but it's a remarkable story of heroism that Lt. Penney - now a Major - has not talked publicly about until now.

I remember being with some friends a week or two after 9/11, and we talked about how encouraging it was to see people flying the flag, singing "God Bless America" and the general sense of patriotism that was becoming part of more people's daily lives. I said that while it was uplifting to see people reacting that way, I wanted others to know that some of us felt that same way on Sept. 10, and that we didn't need to be attacked to understand how much we loved America.

Heather Penney loved America as well, and was prepared to give up her life in a war that none of us even understood we were fighting at that point. She went on to fly two tours in Iraq, and still flies for the National Guard. As long as America continues to produce men and women with her kind of courage, we'll continue to be the land of the free.

Enjoy her story.

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