Fighter Pilots Were Prepared To Die On Sept. 11

Sep 9, 2011

As the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks draws closer, we're pointing to some of the stories being told about that day and the days since.

"We wouldn't be shooting it down. We'd be ramming the aircraft. ... I would essentially be a kamikaze pilot."

That's what Maj. Heather "Lucky" Penney tells The Washington Post in a remarkable story today.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Penney, then a lieutenant, "had her hand on the throttle of an F-16 and she had her orders: Bring down United Airlines Flight 93," the Post writes. But neither she nor her commander, who was ready to go in another fighter, had any weapons to fire at the hijacked jet — which was headed toward Washington, D.C. The jets only had dummy bullets, still loaded after a training mission.

So the plan was, if necessary, to fly straight into the passenger jet.

Penney and Col. Marc Sasseville did scramble their jets and were on their way to intercept Flight 93 when passengers on board took action and fought back against the hijackers. The jet crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pa.

"The real heroes are the passengers on Flight 93 who were willing to sacrifice themselves," Penney tells the Post. "I was just an accidental witness to history."

Other Sept. 11-related stories of note today include:

-- " 'The Banality Of Evil': Following The Steps To Sept. 11." (Morning Edition)

-- "Mission Unfinished: In the twilight of America's decade-long, multibillion-dollar intervention, Afghanistan remains highly unstable, the Pakistanis trust us less than ever, and it is not at all clear how 'the big things are going to turn out.' " (The New York Times)

And for much more, see NPR.org's "Reflecting on Sept. 11, 2001" page.

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