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IAM members, like so many, has a close connection to the tragedy of 9/11. Twenty years later, we remember and reflect.

 

20 Years Later, the IAMAW Remembers 9/11

Sep 12, 2021

Recounted by IAMAW District 141 Legislative Director, David Roderick.

During the September 11 attacks in 2001, 2,977 people were killed, 19 hijackers committed murder-suicide, and more than 6,000 others were injured. The immediate deaths included 265 on the four planes (including the terrorists), 2,606 in the World Trade Center and the surrounding area, and 125 at the Pentagon.

The first plane to hit its target was American Airlines Flight 11. It was flown into the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 am. 

Seventeen minutes later, at 9:03 am, the World Trade Center’s South Tower was hit by United Airlines Flight 175

A third flight, American Airlines Flight 77, flying from Dulles International Airport, was hijacked over Ohio. At 9:37 am, it crashed into the west side of the Pentagon

The fourth and final flight, United Airlines Flight 93, was flown in Washington, D.C. This flight was the only plane not to hit its intended target when, at 10:03 am, it crashed into an empty field. 

I was transitioning to work in our Manpower office as a union steward.

When we heard of the first hit of A.A. flight 11, everyone working that day was shocked and scared. And, many of us thought it was just an accident.

Some of us had access to television and could see the events as they unfolded. Then moments we witnessed United flight 175 hit the World Trade South Tower. We couldn’t believe our eyes. We knew that this couldn’t be an accident.

Next, we heard the news about an A.A. flight 77 hitting the Pentagon and another U.A. flight 93 heading toward Washington DC but did not hit its target.

The airlines immediately shut down air traffic and ordered all planes to land as soon as possible.

While O’Hare United management was going into meetings, I went back to the ramp manpower office. I was asked to help answer the phone calls coming in, primarily from worried family members of employees working that day.

The airport became frantic with passengers waiting to travel. 

Even though no flights were leaving, if I remember correctly, overtime was being called, and authorities were ordering all flights to land at the nearest airports. As our planes landed, we had more aircraft than gates to park them, so many planes were double-parked for added space.

I also remember that, in the following days, employees were still expected to return to work even though no flights were going out. 

But we planeside workers could go outside on the ramp, and all we heard was silence. It was eerie; the silence from airport noise was overwhelming to workers who are used to wearing ear protection protecting us from hearing damage.

The attack of 9/11 change not just how airlines deal with air travel, but it affected the entire world. Anything that involved air travel, entering other countries, etc., generated a new norm for the world.

The actions of 9/11 created the need for TSA and Homeland Security.

Even for employees, if you drove to work and parked in an employee parking lot, as always, we were driven by employee busses to our work drop-off areas.

But if you took public transportation to work, it became required for all employees would now need to go through security and have their belongings, including our lunches from home, be screened.

TSA was looking for anything that may be a risk. If we had a bottle of water or other beverages, it would be confiscated. Metal utensils with sharp points such as knives and forks were seized, and the TSA took up pocket knives, box cutters, even knitting needles. There was no clear understanding of what we can or cannot bring to work.

For those that drove, we always had to pass security guard gates to enter airport property. But now, security began to require vehicles to have their cars and trunks inspected before entering the property.     

Even Chicago’s O’Hare badging for airline workers to enter the airport made it more challenging to get badged, mainly if you worked on international flights.

To this day, it can take weeks to renew a badge, including new hires. We have had employees who could not return to work if their airport badge expired and did not get it renewed before the renewable date.

Between 9/11, Covid19, and unions constantly fighting for workers’ rights in Washington, DC, the past twenty years has and will never be the same before 9/11.

Today we continue to fights for the protection of transportation workers. FAA Reauthorization Bill, which the President signed into effect October 5, 2018. This bill includes many actions that protect workers, including banning knives on planes and attacks on flight attendants.

Dealing with violence in the nation’s skies has not ended. Today, airline workers are coping with Air-Rage from angry passengers who think they have the right to violate Federal laws just because they paid for an airline ticket. They ignore instructions from Customer Service workers and flight attendants resulting in hours-long disruptions to flights.

Even though not in our job scope, many airline workers continue to look over our shoulders as they walk through airport terminals, watch for suspicious activity, or even spot an unattended bag that needs to be reported to airport law enforcement.

While 9/11 was traumatic for the entire nation, airline workers were among those who were most impacted; our industry can never return to September 10.