For family members, the devastation of Sept. 11th, 2001 is as clear today as it was two decades ago.
As each plane hit its intended target, the threat became more evident. At 9:45, all aircraft in the U.S. were ordered to land at the nearest airport.
“I knew my brother was traveling that morning,” said Gordon Felt, whose brother Edward died on United Flight 93 at age 41. “I got a call from Sandy, his wife, saying that Ed is flying. He’s in the air. He’s on United 93. She hasn’t heard anything from United Airlines, she’s trying to get information.”
Gordon Felt said Edward was brilliant — a computer engineer and technology director at a software company. He had earned degrees from Colgate and Cornell universities and two patents in the field of encryption technology..
Ed’s strengths were his potential seemed to be unlimited.
“He loved solving problems, he loved communicating, he loved helping people,” Gordon said, “and he was a very gentle man.”
But beyond the professional success and the intellectual curiosity, what was most important to Ed was his family, his wife and two daughters.
“It was magical,” Gordon recalls. “Ed would do anything for his daughters: Take up running, take piano lessons, because he wanted to share the experiences that they loved [and] their hobbies.”
On the morning of September 11th, Ed’s wife and his brother were anxiously waiting to hear from him.
“I called Ed as soon as I got off the phone with Sandy and said ‘call us as soon as you touch down. We’re concerned. We want to hear that you’re safe.’ And it wasn’t until the second call from Sandy that I realized that Ed was gone, that the plane came down and that there were no survivors.”
It was later that Gordon and the world learned of the extraordinary action taken by the passengers of Flight 93 before the fatal descent.
When the plane changed course, some of them called their families, knowing something was wrong, and learned of the other hijacked jetliners crashing into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
One of the very last acts of Edward Felt’s life was his call from flight 93 to 911.
“The FBI believes that what he was trying to do was help establish where the plane was and where it was heading.” Gordon believes Edward, the problem solver, was involved in efforts by passengers to decide what to do.
“This group of 40 people decided to choose what path they were going to take in a democratic way and they voted to fight, and they took it to the terrorists. And we’ve always said that our loved ones weren’t victims. They were heroes.”
20 years after the events of 9-11, Gordon said it’s important that we remember what American heroes did that day — the passengers of Flight 93 who kept their plane from striking the capitol, the first responders who risked their own to save others at the twin towers — and never forget how we all came together on Sept. 12th.
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