13 June 2024

The Unsung Hero of 9/11: The Pilot Who Dodged Disaster

 The Unsung Hero of 9/11: The Pilot Who Dodged Disaster

The attack on New York’s Twin Towers killed 2,753 people ( Image: AFP via Getty Images)

The unidentified pilot speaks to ABC reporters at the time ( Image: ABC)

On September 11, 2001, a day forever etched in the collective memory of Americans, the world witnessed an act of unsung heroism amidst the chaos and tragedy of the terrorist attacks. While the 9/11 attacks claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people and left a deep scar on the nation’s history, there was one pilot who played a crucial role in preventing further catastrophe.

The Heroic Evasion

The hero of our story was a pilot of a TWA flight, a company that would later merge with American Airlines. This pilot, whose identity remains publicly undisclosed, had taken off from New York’s JFK Airport just around the time when the first plane, American Airlines Flight 11, crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan.

As the nation watched in horror, this TWA pilot found himself in a harrowing situation. He had to take “evasive actions” not once, but twice, to ensure the safety of his passengers and crew. The first near-miss was with United Flight 175, the plane that would tragically strike the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

A Mid-Air Scare

The situation became even more tense as news broke of the Pentagon being hit and further hijackings. The pilot’s cockpit proximity alarms began to ring, indicating that another plane was dangerously close, within 1,000 feet. It was Flight 93, which had taken off from Newark and was headed directly for Washington, D.C., carrying its own tragic destiny.

A helicopter flies past the World Trade Center after a commercial plane slammed into it, September 11, 2001. REUTERS/Jeff Christensen

The TWA pilot, remembered only as “George,” had to take swift and evasive action once again to avoid a mid-air collision with Flight 93. The passengers on Flight 93 would later become heroes themselves, as they fought the hijackers and prevented the plane from reaching its intended target, ultimately crashing it in a field in Pennsylvania.

The Uncelebrated Hero

Regrettably, this courageous pilot has never received the recognition he deserves. He remains unnamed and unsung, a silent hero who made split-second decisions that saved lives. Retired FDNY Lt. Charlie Hubbard, who was on board the TWA flight, stated emphatically, “He saved our lives, without a doubt.”

A Fateful Twist of Fate

For Mr. Hubbard, the day of September 11, 2001, held a chilling twist of fate. He had just retired from his twenty-year career as a firefighter and lieutenant with the New York City Fire Department. September 11 was supposed to be his next workday, but he had chosen to retire. Tragically, the officer who replaced him was among the 343 colleagues who lost their lives that day.

Honoring the Memory

Pedestrians react to the World Trade Center collapse, September 11, 2001. REUTERS/Stringer


While there are no official reports from the FAA regarding near-collisions on 9/11, the eyewitness accounts of those on board the TWA flight underscore the uncelebrated heroism that unfolded in the skies that day.

On the 22nd anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we remember the victims, the survivors, and the first responders who rushed into danger to save lives. We also recall the resilience and unity of the American people in the face of such a heinous act of terror.

Patriot Day and Reflection

Today, September 11, is officially known as “Patriot Day,” a national day of service and remembrance. It commemorates the tragic events of that fateful day in 2001 when almost 3,000 innocent lives were lost. It’s a day to reflect on the enduring spirit of the American people and the strength that arises in times of crisis.

Quotes that Define Resilience

In times of great adversity, words can provide solace and inspiration. Here are some quotes that capture the spirit of resilience and unity that emerged in the aftermath of 9/11:

  • Former President George W. Bush: “These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed. Our country is strong. A great people has been moved to defend a great nation.”
  • Michael Hingson, 9/11 survivor: “I may never know the answers to the questions that plagued me after 9/11. But I know if we lean on God and each other, we will be guided to a better, brighter future.”
  • Former United States Secretary of State Colin Powell: “You can be sure that the American spirit will prevail over this tragedy.”
  • Former Secretary of State John Kerry: “Remember the hours after September 11 when we came together as one! It was the worst day we have ever seen, but it brought out the best in all of us.”
  • President Joe Biden: “We didn’t crumble after 9/11. We didn’t falter after the Boston Marathon. But we’re America. Americans will never, ever stand down. We endure. We overcome. We own the finish line.”
  • Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg: “Ten years have passed since a perfect blue sky morning turned into the blackest of nights… we can also see that children who lost their parents have grown into young adults, grandchildren have been born, and good works and public service have taken root to honor those we loved and lost.”

As we remember and honor the heroes of 9/11 and the resilience of the American spirit, we reaffirm our commitment to never forget and to continue the fight against terrorism. On this day, we stand united, just as we did on that fateful morning, showing the world that the spirit of freedom and unity will always prevail over acts of hatred and terror.

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