**Posted by Phineas
All I can say is… wow:
As remarkable as it seems now, there were no armed aircraft standing by and no system in place to scramble them over Washington. Before that morning, all eyes were looking outward, still scanning the old Cold War threat paths for planes and missiles coming over the polar ice cap.
“There was no perceived threat at the time, especially one coming from the homeland like that,” says Col. George Degnon, vice commander of the 113th Wing at Andrews. “It was a little bit of a helpless feeling, but we did everything humanly possible to get the aircraft armed and in the air. It was amazing to see people react.”
Things are different today, Degnon says. At least two “hot-cocked” planes are ready at all times, their pilots never more than yards from the cockpit.
A third plane hit the Pentagon, and almost at once came word that a fourth plane could be on the way, maybe more. The jets would be armed within an hour, but somebody had to fly now, weapons or no weapons.
“Lucky, you’re coming with me,” barked Col. Marc Sasseville.
They were gearing up in the pre-flight life-support area when Sasseville, struggling into his flight suit, met her eye.
“I’m going to go for the cockpit,” Sasseville said.
She replied without hesitating.
“I’ll take the tail.”
It was a plan. And a pact.
I’ll point out that “Lucky” was Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney, one of America’s first female combat pilots. She was later part of the fighter escort that guarded Air Force One when Bush returned to Washington. This article is one of the first interviews she’s given since that day.
Historian Victor Davis Hanson has often written of the selfless valor and determination of the free citizen-soldier of a republic, as opposed to the slaves of kings and dictators; the pact made by Col. Sasseville and Lt. Penney on September 11th, 2001, is yet another example
No more commentary is necessary. Just read the whole thing.
via The Jawa Report
(Crossposted at Public Secrets)