It was a beautiful day for golf and Steve Aaron, then-deputy communications director for Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, intended to enjoy a few rounds with coworkers who were enjoying a last leisure day before state senators and representatives returned to session in Harrisburg.
Most folks still carried beepers in 2001, instead of cell phones. That morning, Sept. 11, high-level state workers on the golf course all started receiving beeper messages about the same time. Soon they learned that two planes struck the World Trade Center towers in New York.
Aaron and others quickly went to the state Emergency Response Center in Harrisburg.
“Not long after arriving, we learned that a plane somewhere above Pennsylvania was not headed in the direction it was supposed to be going,” Aaron told The Epoch Times.
By that time, a third plane had crashed into the Pentagon in Washington.
Next, they heard that United Airlines Flight 93 had crashed on a former strip mine near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
In the terrifying minutes before the crash, hijackers forced passengers and crew to sit quietly in the back of the plane. Using Airfones from the seatbacks, passengers made 37 calls, reporting the hijacking and having final conversations with family and friends. Through the phone calls, they learned of the other hijacked planes and realized Flight 93 was part of a larger attack. They held a vote and decided to fight back. Passengers and crew stormed the cockpit. According to the 9/11 Commission, the terrorists remained in control of the plane and at 10:03 a.m., some 20 minutes short of the intended target of the U.S. Capitol, they intentionally crashed into the Pennsylvania ground rather than risk the passengers and crew regaining control.
Ridge was in Erie visiting his mother and the Federal Aviation Administration shut down all air travel.
“It took us time to get permission to fly him to Harrisburg on a state police helicopter,” Aaron said. “It became apparent we had to make arrangements to get out to Shanksville so he could see what was going on on the ground. A contingent of media was gathering there.”
By Beth Brelje