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What If “Let’s Roll” Had Failed?


Almost precisely ten years out, one of the most striking things to me about 9/11 is how much we’re still learning about that day.  Unbelievable stories just keep emerging in the years since one of the worst events in American history.

Ever heard of Lt. Heather Penney?  I had not.  Well, Lt. Penney just happened to be one of the first F-16 pilots in the air on the morning of September 11th, 2001.  Everyone probably remembers that the military had scrambled fighter jets to intercept (and shoot down, if necessary) hijacked planes.  But I was shocked that, at least for some of the aircraft, there was one little problem:  they weren’t armed.

Incidentally, did you know it would’ve taken about an hour to load up a fighter jet that morning?  Or did you know that apparently there were no fully armed and fueled jets ready for scramble above the U.S.’s most sensitive real estate?  (There are, now.)

The lieutenant’s target was the doomed United 93.  Penney and her wingman’s impromptu plan was to take out the 757’s cockpit and tail…  by ramming them simultaneously.  And ejecting at the same moment.  Hopefully.

What we now know of the passenger heroics aboard Flight 93 avoided all that.  But read on for details about what very nearly could have been a possible ending.

Jalopnik:  This woman was going to fly her jet fighter into Flight 93 on 9/11

Washington Post:  F-16 pilot was ready to give her life on Sept. 11 

Note:  Also see this for some interview footage and background on Lt. Penney.

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