Two rarely heard accounts of United Flight 93 highlight this week’s episodes of The American Legion Tango Alpha Lima’s special podcast series related to the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The series, which runs from Aug. 16 through Sept. 10, is packed with memorable, inspiring and captivating stories.
One episode of the special series will release each weekday by 9 a.m. Eastern. The schedule for this week:
• Monday: “We lost a primary target of Flight 93. I don’t see him anymore.”
Robert Douglas, an air traffic controller, recalls the tense morning of 9/11 when he and other ATCs were ordered to land roughly 4,000 airplanes in two hours. “When United Flight 93 crashed, I said a quick, silent prayer for them. But we just kept going because we had other airplanes and people we had to get to safety.” He also recalls another situation when an airplane turned off its transponder, triggering a possible military response. “Do not shoot. It’s a friendly.” Listen to the audio version here or watch the video on YouTube here.
• Tuesday: “The passengers and crew of Flight 93 were heroes."
Retired Army Lt. Col. David Whelan is related to Richard Guadagno, a passenger on Flight 93. Whelan, commander of American Legion Post 504 in Jackson, N.J., knew Guadagno since 1965 “when he was a little guy, a bundle of joy.” Guadagno was an outdoorsman, played guitar and worked hard, Whelan remembers. “He went too soon.” Listen to the audio version here or watch the video on YouTube here.
• Wednesday: “Guard your cockpits. Aircraft are down.”
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Joe Lea received four Distinguished Flying Crosses for his tours in Vietnam. But the United Airlines pilot joins the podcast to discuss landing one of the final passenger flights as air travel shut down. It was his first flight as captain of an Airbus A320. Lea recalls asking a flight attendant to bring a uniformed pilot from his seat to the cockpit. Lea told the pilot what was happening and said, “If anyone tries to get into the cockpit, kill ‘em.” Listen to the audio version here or watch the video on YouTube here.
• Thursday: “To me, it was a big closure.”
That’s how Wilem Wong, an Army veteran who recently retired from the New York City Police Department, refers to the day when Osama bin Laden was killed. Wong, a member of American Legion Post 1291 in New York City, was in Afghanistan on the day that justice prevailed. But, as he points out, “I knew that was not going to be the end.” Listen to the audio version here or watch the video on YouTube here.
• Friday: “Everyone stopped in their footsteps.”
American Legion member Mark Otto, a Marine veteran who served during Desert Shield and Desert Storm, was walking to his job at the Stock Exchange on the morning of 9/11. He recalls watching one of the towers burn on a TV at the exchange when all of a sudden the entire building shook “like an earthquake.” It was the second plane hitting the other tower. His military training kicked in and he proceeded to evacuate his newlywed wife safely. “It was like a zombie apocalypse movie.” Listen to the audio version here or watch the video on YouTube here.
The first five episodes in this series are already published at legion.org/tangoalphalima. Visit that web page to download each episode in audio format or watch on The American Legion YouTube channel, youtube.com/c/americanlegionHQ.