September 11th, 2009
05:37 PM ET

Flight 93: In my thoughts each time I board a plane

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/05/29/flight.dispute/art.flight93land.cnn.jpg caption="This plot of land is scheduled to house the permanent Flight 93 memorial."]

David Mattingly | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

To me, the most powerful image of 9/11 will always be the large, blackened pit outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

I was vacationing in Altoona, Pa. at my mother-in-law's house when the attacks happened. When the reports first came in of a plane crash in Shanksville, I remember the immediate confusion I felt and the questions that came to mind: Was the crash a coincidence? How could it be part of the attack? Why Shanksville?

Details came in slowly that day but it soon became clear that the passengers of Flight 93 fought back against their hijackers. Their bravery prevented the jet from reaching it's apparent destination to a target in Washington, DC.

Knowing this, it was almost overwhelming to see the crash site for the first time. All I could see were some small pieces of debris scattered around the impact crater. The destruction was so complete there was nothing I could identify as a piece of an aircraft.

Like many frequent flyers, the Flight 93 passengers' actions touched me deeply. The thought of how easily that could have happened to me still resonates. I've never stopped wondering if I have what it takes to rise up in the face of death they way they did. I still think about them every time I board a plane.

soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Tammy, Houma, LA

    For me, it's every time I go into Liberty/Newark and think that people walked the same places and ate breakfast and then boarded a plane for the last time. I fly in and out of NYC through there because it's hallowed ground as far as I'm concerned. It helps me remember than normal people endured extraordinary circumstances and made extraordinary choices on that day on all four planes, in the places that were hit, and in the aftermath that followed. What saddened me most today happened when I was talking to my students about the attacks and one of my girls (who was a first grader on 9/11/01) said she didn't think anything of 9/11 until she saw a program on the attacks. Then it mattered. It really upset me that kids who were too young to remember might minimalize this. Thanks for the coverage so it will always matter.

    September 11, 2009 at 6:47 pm |
  2. Annie Kate

    i admire their bravery and their determination that their plane was not going to join in on the atacks on our country. Giving up their lives for this was the only real option they had and I am so very glad they were unselfish enough to take that chance.

    September 11, 2009 at 5:28 pm |
  3. Carol B.

    Hi David. Thanks for writing this thoughtful blog.My children and i also went to the memorial site with family that have a nearby summer home. We read the names of the Flight 93 victims on wooden angels staked in the ground, prayed, and read the dedication granite memorial.It's good that permanent memorials are planned for here & the other 9/11 sites. Hopefully, people will also remember their life stories and not just how they died. Most sadly, is the fact that some of the passengers were children.

    September 11, 2009 at 3:29 pm |
  4. Heather,ca

    Thank you for your sharing your story.

    Those very brave americans did what any of us would do in that situation. Never ever let the terrorists win.

    I have always felt that this day, the day that changed our country forever should be a holiday of some kind.

    As for the rebuilding. Its symbolic to the world that the terrorists haven't won. Life, our freedom must move on. In Israel when a business is attacked by terrorists they rebuild. They live, they move on. We win by rebuilding our way of life only we are stronger and more determined.

    Every person on Flight 93 knew that. Every person who was killed on the other flights and the towers knew that.

    Our freedom our way of life has always been won by fighing for it.

    I remember that song that Paul McCartney performed. Freedom. Think about those lyrics and remember its all true about our spirit as Americans.

    September 11, 2009 at 3:26 pm |
  5. Lampe

    I also live in Pa. Have made the trip a few times to pay my respects. I wish in memory of all those people who lost their lives, on the terrible terrible day, we could put all of our differences aside, to work for what is best for all of us.

    September 11, 2009 at 2:07 pm |
  6. Susan


    Just as so many of our military men and women have made the ultimate sacrifice, so to did the passengers of Flight 93. I think their call was " Lets Rock " and so they did. They gave up their lives to save so may more, a very unselfish act.

    I have donated to the Flight 93 memorial fund, but have never been to
    the Shanksville, PA site yet. I am planning to go next year. I know that I will be humbled.

    September 11, 2009 at 12:44 pm |
  7. Kim

    It was so sureal watching it and I think a state of shock set in. How much faster organizing to emergency proceedures are we after 911 ? What's the testing drill time to organize and respond ? How fast is a building emptied and people out ? You can build a safer building but are practice emergency drills in place for employees ? What's your time to empty the building for protection ?

    September 11, 2009 at 12:33 pm |
  8. Mr. Britt

    makes me so proud to think that it was Americans that stood up against the hijackers. WE WILL NOT FAIL

    September 11, 2009 at 12:25 pm |
  9. Jill

    Even though I don't fly all that often, I still think of them whenever I do. The thing that still resonates with me the most is something I read in the weeks after the attacks. I beieive that the author of the article was a flight attendant herself and she mentioned how the crew on duty that day had, at some point, smiled at the men who were about to kill them. They had said "Good morning", they had offered assistance, not knowing what was about to happen. If nothing less, that thought should lend itself to more respect for their colleagues that continue to do this thankless work.

    September 11, 2009 at 12:22 pm |
  10. Katleen Crossley

    Dear David,

    As a fellow American and Pennsylvanian, I can relate to your letter.

    It seems like yesterday when the the world was changed forever.

    May we never forget..
    Our courage s firefighters and all of our men and women in uniform.
    All those who 's lives were lost in the fire and ashes.
    The last phone calls
    and the children

    We stand united in courage and grief.

    God Bless

    September 11, 2009 at 12:17 pm |
  11. Susan

    Why is 911 not a national holiday? Not only should it be a national holiday but Ground Zero should be a memorial park and historical site with a museum without the 7 new office towers. This holiday would not be changed to accomodate the long weekends off by changing the date. 4th of July is that only and 911 should be the same.

    September 11, 2009 at 12:14 pm |
  12. Stacy Beam

    I also think of that flight each time I fly.I pray we would all show that kind of courage in some way every day.

    September 11, 2009 at 12:05 pm |
  13. Arica M. Herron

    This is very moving and think the same things u do. I fly about once or twice a month and I do no think I will ever be a brave as the passengers of flight 93 were in the face of danger.

    September 11, 2009 at 11:59 am |