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Controllers Remember United Flight 93, Sept. 11 Events in Flag Day Ceremony - (6/14/2002)

OBERLIN, Ohio - Speaking at a Flag Day event commemorating the connection of Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center with United Flight 93 on Sept. 11, National Air Traffic Controllers Association President John Carr said the holiday “is a fitting time to pay tribute not only to the fallen heroes of United Flight 93, but to the unsung heroes of that day,” the men and women of Cleveland Center.

A donation of $14,200 to the Todd M. Beamer Foundation - collected from employees of both Cleveland Center and the Federal Aviation Administration Command Center in Herndon, Va. - was presented to Todd’s best friend, Doug MacMillan, representing the Foundation. In addition, a sandstone and stainless steel plaque dedicated to both Cleveland Center and the passengers of Flight 93 was unveiled. Carr, noting that on the morning of Sept. 11, a new war for freedom began with cell phone calls from the back of an airplane, said: “In the air, almost directly above this location, United Airlines Flight 93 was hijacked and began its suicide mission toward our nation’s capital. The cowards who hijacked that aircraft counted on the passengers in back to cower in fear. They counted on intimidating the passengers and crew. But on that horrific morning, when hell was in session, what the terrorists didn’t count on was ordinary citizens doing some extraordinary things. They didn’t count on hardiness and valor. They didn’t count on justice.”

On the ground inside Cleveland Center, the world’s busiest air traffic control facility, located southwest of Cleveland, “a different kind of hell was in session,” Carr remarked. “People saw the unspeakable, heard the unthinkable, and thought the unimaginable. Men and women, controllers, supervisors, technicians, managers, staff - all of them given a front row seat on a nation’s nightmare, with the audio and the video provided by the devil himself.”

“When United 93 reversed course,” Carr continued, “controllers tried desperately to communicate with the aircraft, even as they issued rapid-fire transmissions, bursting onto the airwaves, moving other aircraft out of harm’s way. The radios and the radarscopes betrayed an agony beyond reason, and yet a job was yet to be done. On the morning of Sept. 11, somewhere between 250,000 and a half-million people were in the air over the United States. The order was given to land every single one of them.”

Cleveland Center controllers participated in the greatest recovery of aircraft in the nation’s history. Almost 700 were landed in the first five minutes after the airspace was closed and in a little over two hours, almost 5,000 were put safely on the ground. Carr is convinced this unprecedented action “prevented other hijackings and other horrors from taking place.”

He concluded: “The men and women who work here, and in air traffic control facilities all over this great nation of ours, did something extraordinary that day, yet each and every one of them would tell you they were only doing their jobs.”

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