Why September 11th Is Important To Me

I want to avoid making this a “where were you 10 years ago?” post, I already covered that.

Instead, I want to bring your attention to the Rutgers Law Review 9/11 Full Audio Transcript1 from the various agencies involved with the air traffic control and how that’s affected me. There are 114 separate audio files covering everything from American Airlines Flight 11 first check in with Boston Sector to the Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS, now just Eastern Air Defense Sector) relaying that “The Region Com, the Region Commander has declared that we can shoot down aircraft that do not respond to our direction. Copy that?”

I want to talk about one particular line; someone at NEADS says the following:

[Background] Unknown: I just got off the phone with the Colonel and he has one E3 on, that’s on its way out here (indistinct)

The E-3 Sentry is an AWACS, the very system that I work on today:

From www.afcent.af.mil:

The E-3 Sentry is a modified Boeing 707/320 commercial airframe with a rotating radar dome that provides situational awareness of friendly, neutral and hostile activity, command and control of an area of responsibility, battle management of theater forces, all-altitude and all-weather surveillance of the battle space, and early warning of enemy actions during joint, allied, and coalition operations.

From www.airforcetimes.com:

AWACS kept busy since Sept. 11

Within an hour after the first commercial airliner crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, an AWACS heading for a training flight was redirected and ordered to fly between New York and Washington, D.C., to help watch for further attacks.

“We’ve had planes flying there ever since,” said Capt. Steve Rolenc, a spokesman for the 552nd.

AWACS crews take off every day from Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., to fly the racetrack-pattern route between the two cities. Each flight can last from 12 to 16 hours (at least five of which are spent just getting to and from the East Coast), and one plane doesn’t head home until its replacement arrives.

On top of that, the 552nd is flying radar flights in other parts of the country as needed by NORAD, and is flying overseas missions to support the war in Afghanistan and other operations in the Middle East.

I would have never guessed ten years ago that today I would be helping continue the legacy of system that has been and can continue to help keep America’s skies safe. I take an immense amount of pride and pleasure in helping to engineer that system. And I often think about the war-fighter who has to use the system we create, I think about what would happen if we were lazy or sloppy and didn’t do good work. Then I strive to make sure the system is as perfect as I can make it. I make the best damn system I can because it matters.

I wonder if the original AWACS design team in the 60’s and 70’s thought their product would ever be used in a situation like this. I doubt it. I don’t know what future threat the AWACS will take on. I just know that when it does, I want it to work.

You don’t hear a lot about the E-3 in the news and that’s fine with me — I’m not here to seek glory or accolades.

I just wanted to share one of the reasons why September 11th, 2001, is important to me now.


  1. Hat tip to Andrea James for pointing this out, she also has a blog that I like as well 

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