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‘When the second plane hit … we’re in trouble’: Mount Airy airline pilot recalls living through 9/11 in New York

Twenty years after the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, took the lives of nearly 3,000 people, a Mount Airy resident recalls his experiences as a Southwest Airlines pilot who was in New York when the two planes crashed into the World Trade Center.

The attack entailed 19 men hijacking four fuel-loaded U.S. commercial airplanes bound for west coast destinations. Two of those planes were intentionally crashed into the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center.

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Another plane crashed into the Pentagon building in Northern Virginia and the last crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania It is believed that the hijackers on the last plane crashed in that location, rather than their unknown target, after the passengers and crew attempted to retake control of the flight deck.

Larry Hushour
Larry Hushour

On Sept. 10, 2001, the day before the attack, Southwest pilot Larry Hushour flew from Florida to Long Island where he would stay overnight and prepare for the next day’s flights.

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“The following morning, I awoke, showered, shaved and began to dress for work. I turned on the TV to check the news and weather … I saw the first plane had already hit,” Hushour said. “I was so surprised … I thought I was watching a movie.”

Once he began surfing channels, he said he quickly realized it was no movie.

“Even then, I did not believe a scenario existed for a commercial airliner to run into the World Trade Center … I thought it had to be a smaller private aircraft so I called the captain I was flying with,” he said. “That was when the second plane hit and we knew then, we as a nation, we’re in trouble.”

After the events unfolded, Hushour and a group of other pilots were stuck on Long Island for five days due to the bridges and ferries being closed to traffic.

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“At the time, I felt they wanted to keep anyone involved from escaping the Island,” he said. “Following the initial shock, I went to the top floor of the hotel and looked toward the west and watched the smoke rising in the distance from the towers.

“We all know where we were and what we were doing on Sept. 11, 2001,” Hushour said. “We suffered through the day together.”

The following day, he went down to the hotel’s restaurant for the scheduled meeting of Southwest employees stranded at the hotel and then ate lunch, he recalled.

“I remember my eyes shifting from the food on the table to the waitress ensuring my glass was full of water. Tears were streaming down her face and her hands were shaking … I was no longer hungry,” he said.

While looking around at other employees and local residents, he noticed there was not a dry eye in the room.

“I realized every one of them knew someone who either perished, were unaccounted for, or was still in lower Manhattan trying to save lives,” Hushour said.

Almost a week later, the airline crew was able to fly to Jacksonville to pick up firemen, paramedics and dogs trained in numerous skills and to bring back to New York. The crew then headed back to BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport as passengers in another aircraft.

“Prior to the events of 9/11, I never anticipated a scenario like this. It was not something we were trained for,” Hushour said, adding many changes were made to ensure safe air travel.

He said pilots are now trained how to handle similar situations and protocol requires locking the door to the flight deck if any incident is to occur on the plane.

“Airport design, policies and procedures make this virtually impossible to happen again,” he said.

Carroll County 9/11 commemorations

This year, a number of events in the community have been planned to remember the tragedy of 9/11 and to pay respects to first responders and police officers.

Three Carroll County veterans’ organizations have come together to host a “Remembrance Day” on the grounds of the Westminster VFW Post 467 at 519 Poole Road in Westminster.

The Remembrance Day events at the VFW will begin at noon. A remembrance ceremony will take place at 1 p.m. Westminster Mayor Dr. Mona Becker, among many folks, is expected to speak. There will be live bands, games, and plenty of food.

Tickets for “Remembrance Day” are available at the VFW or the American Legion at 2 Sycamore Street in Westminster. The tickets cost $5 in advance or $10 the day of the event. All proceeds go toward 9/11 charities.

In addition, the Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Services Agency is holding a memorial ceremony at the Carroll County Training Center 911 memorial at 8:30 a.m. It will be streamed by the Carroll County Media Center.

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