“September 11, 2001 – Was it real or was it a film?”
Ever so often we all must digress from the norm of sports to mention other things. When there was the last big earthquake in Haiti, I did similarly to what will transpire in this column. Hang with me, please!
People of a certain age always say; “Everyone remembers where they were when John F. Kennedy, 35th USA President, was assassinated, at 6:30pm (GMT), on Friday November 22, 1963.” I was 10 years old!
I certainly remember that I was sitting on the steps at home; Unity-Lancaster, Guyana; eating mangoes!
That is not so anymore, not for the young. Regardless of whom you are, if you were born around 1991, you will remember September 11, 2001, at which time you would have also been 10 years old!
Anyway, before I continue this article, which will not be about sport, or cricket, I must apologize for two errors made last week. You may not believe me, but I do make mistakes too – but very seldom indeed!
Firstly, in my World’s Athletic Championships 2011 overview, I misplaced the gold medal of Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser (now Pryce), who won 100m in 2009, not Veronica Campbell-Brown, as I intimated. V-C-B was 2nd in 100m in 2011, and improved on her 2009 silver, in 200m, winning that event in 2011.
Both also managed more silver, part of Jamaica’s women 4 x 100m relay, 2011, while Jamaica also won silver in women 4 x 400m relay, 2011. This, to go with Jamaica’s men’s 4 x 100m world record! Papa!
Also, alas, I did not even mention Ms. Melanie Walker, also of Jamaica, even though she had managed a truly wonderful silver, in 400m hurdles, in 2011, after being champion at that event in 2009. Amazing!
Tremendous stuff from these classy ladies, but the Jamaican men, and U-B, were not too far back either!
That our Caribbean athletes have done so well, especially our ladies, should never go unacknowledged.
So, with that apology out of the way, let us proceed, on a somewhat more macabre note.
I do not know how many have seen the movie: “Towering Inferno’, starring two Hollywood legends, Paul Newman and Steve Mc Queen. Uncannily, its main opening credits suggested: ‘To those who give their lives so that others might live, to the firefighters of the world, this picture is gratefully dedicated!’
‘T-I’ is one of my favorite disaster movies. When that real-life disaster happened, in New York’s World Trade Centre’s ‘Twin Towers’, I could not help thinking, like most others; is this a movie too?
This piece is not on terrorism, ideas of mortality, or immortality. This is for my undying love for aviation.
Also, as much as more than 3000 people died on “September 11’, many more than those may have died this week alone, from famine, in Somalia and such places. Life if life, anywhere, precious and singular!
I had been an airplane enthusiast long before I actually became an Assistant Air Traffic Controller in 1973 and Commercial Airline Pilot in 1981. I still have aircraft models that are not even built anymore. To see airplanes desecrated as they were in 2001 was a personal insult!
Last week, in awe, I listened, and looked, at actual Air Traffic Controllers and Flight Dispatchers, who were directly associated with the crashes on September 11, 2001. I still marvel at their presence!
I have seen all airplane movies with crashes, miraculous saves, even comical spoofs. More realistically, I look at ‘National Geographic’ and read ‘I learned flying from that’ – real airplane horror stories!
What I was looking at, via Cable News Network, (CNN), on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, just after 9:00am Eastern Caribbean Time, seemed so surreal, so unbelievable, that I stood, transfixed, stunned!
Travel anywhere is special and should be enjoyed. This last month alone, as I mentioned in last week’s submission, I drove over 5,000 odometer miles across North America and Canada. This was not done from fear of flying; just the opposite. I always drive when I get a chance, as I fly so very much normally!
If, however, I had to choose between airplanes and cars, automobiles will be a distant second. Airplanes are magical, mechanical, physical, physics-full, and magnificent flying machine. The presence of airplanes in our lives has become so matter-of-fact that we take them for granted. We should not!
Please do not think that I am equating the existence or destruction of beautiful airplanes with even one life. Life as we know it is always precious, and valuable, so the more than 3,000 lives that were lost on “9-11’, were irreplaceable. Events that day were such a waste of lives, all of them, involved!
I remember, while living in Florida, parking curbside at Miami International Airport (MIA) on Fridays, in mid-1980’s, flying to Piarco International, (POS), returning on Sunday evenings, to find the car exactly where I had left it, with no tickets attached. Things were just so very simple those long-gone days!
Even with the spate of hijackings that occurred in the Middle-Eastern and African regions in 1970’s and 1980’s, what happened that September morning 10 years ago changed the face of aviation forever!
American Airlines Flight 11 – Logan International Airport, (BOS), Massachusetts, to Los Angeles international (LAX) – was a Boeing 767-223ER, Reg. No. N-334-AA; passenger capacity 158, and 11 crew. The airplane carried 92 people that day and was flown into North Tower, first to crash, at 8:46am local.
United Airlines Flight 175 – also BOS to LAX – was another Boeing 767, but a slight variant – 222ER, Reg. No. N-612-UA, passenger capacity 168 and 11 crew. That day, they were 65 persons, passengers and crew, on board. That craft, seen by so many ‘live’, hit the South Tower at 9:03am local.
American Airlines Flight 77 – Washington Dulles International (IAD) to LAX – was a Boeing 757-223, Reg. No. N-644-AA, passenger capacity 176. This time, the gorgeous silver bird had 58 passengers and 6 crew on board. That sleekest of Boeing airplanes hit the Pentagon, in Virginia, at 9:37am local.
United Airlines Flight 93 – Newark international Airport, (EWR), New Jersey, to San Francisco International (SFO) – was also a Boeing 757, variant –222, Reg. No. N-591-UA, passenger capacity of 182. This flight, and lightest load; 37 passengers and 7 crew; crashed in a field in Pennsylvania at 10:03 local.
None of this was any film. This was real life, and death, coming live and direct to many, via new media!
I had travelled through all of these airports for personal activities, so I knew them fairly well. Ironically, too, I was very seriously married then, to a BWIA Flight Attendant, who had gone to Washington Dulles the previous day. I did not see her again for over two weeks, the credit cards taking a severe beating.
That was the least of the problems. Firstly, the airways were locked down, then gradually, ever so slowly, brought back to some normalcy; a fallacy. Nothing will ever be back to normal again in aviation!
If you travel anywhere nowadays with airplanes, it is no longer fun, as was my first flight, 1971, on a BOAC VC-10, from Timehri, now Cheddi Jagan International. September 11, 2001, changed all that!