On September 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. The plane was carrying 64 passengers and crew members. Two of them were on their way to a meeting with US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld when the plane hit.
Heather Penney was a U.S. Air Force captain who died on September 11, 2001 while piloting an F-16C fighter jet in the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) mission known as Operation Noble Eagle.
Heather “Lucky” Penney, an Air Force pilot, was challenged to perform the unimaginable on September 11, 2001.
On a beautiful September day twenty years ago, civil aviation as we know it was forever altered. As the horrific sight of planes slamming into the World Trade Center buildings and the Pentagon became clear, the world would never be the same.
Major Heather “Lucky” Penney was one of the first fighter pilots in the air following the 9/11 attacks as a young lieutenant. (National Guard Bureau/TSgt. Johnathon Orrell)
Heather “Lucky” Penney, then 25, was a rookie first lieutenant with the 121st Fighter Squadron of the District of Columbia Air National Guard, located at Andrews Air Force Base north of Washington, on that day. She flew F-16Cs on training flights in preparation for war as the first woman in her ANG unit. It was obvious that the United States was under assault when the 121st got news of the second Trade Center strike, and a half hour later the Pentagon was struck. Penney and her wingman, Colonel Marc “Sass” Sasseville, scrambled their F-16s and flew out to intercept a fourth aircraft potentially heading toward Washington.
Their job was straightforward but serious: locate the aircraft and bring it down by any means possible. Because they didn’t have time to equip their F-16s, they’d have to conduct a kamikaze operation, slamming their planes into the aircraft. Sass informed her, “I’m heading for the cockpit.” Lucky responded, “I’ll take the tail.”
“There was no way to avoid seeing the smoke that was pouring out of the building,” she recalled, as their flight route from Andrews brought them over the Pentagon. “I didn’t linger on it since we had more pressing matters to attend to.” “It was a totally strange experience,” Penney said of feeling detached from her emotions as she concentrated on the task.
She and Sasseville drove northwest into Pennsylvania in pursuit of the aircraft, taking care not to go too far. “We flew as far as Sass felt was appropriate to verify that we had cleaned the airspace far enough out,” she said, “but then we had to circle back home so that we could go over D.C. and make sure we weren’t flanked.” She’d have to wait a long time to hear that the aircraft they were looking for, United Flight 93, had been shot down by a brave group of passengers. They were the true heroes, according to Penney, because they were ready to sacrifice themselves, but she was as well.
“It profoundly changed the vector of history, and we are all living with the consequence of those events today,” she remarked when asked about the long-term repercussions of 9/11. And I believe that many of the catastrophes we are seeing now may be traced back to that point in time.” Penney criticizes the liberties that Americans have given up in the sake of security, stating that “being American is about sticking to certain values, goals, and aspirations that unite us all…. However, with it comes danger, and if we refuse to embrace risk, we lose something that defines us as Americans.”
“I believe the difficulty we all face is to stay connected to those values, convictions, and bravery, and to carry it out in our everyday lives of service,” Penney added. “And keep in mind that there are things more essential in this world than ourselves…things more vital than security.”
The 9/11 was an inside job is a conspiracy theory that claims the 9/11 terrorist attacks were orchestrated by members of the U.S government. Reference: was 9/11 an inside job.
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