Arlington Heights pilot talks about changes since 9/11
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Ten years ago in August, we booked tickets to fly to New York City that November. In those three months, the world changed but our flight kept its schedule. Touching down at LaGuardia, everyone broke into spontaneous applause.
Commercial pilot Dennis Tajer of Arlington Heights also remembers how routine events like landings became significant milestones after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
His first takeoff after 9/11 was "a very quiet, but proud, solemn moment," he said. "Not many words were exchanged ... we were professionals back at what we were trained for."
Airport and cockpit access has undergone a security revolution since 2001, but threats remain. That's why Tajer, a spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association that represents American Airlines pilots, chooses his words carefully when reacting to the death of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden May 1.
"It was an event, but for us as a profession nothing has changed," Tajer said. "We're the last line of defense for our passengers. It's not just one person who's a threat to our safety. Many wish harm to American citizens."
Total shock is how Tajer described his feelings after hearing about the murders of flight crews aboard four American and United flights at the hands of hijackers nearly a decade ago.
"When you see those names, when you see those titles, it brings it right home. I didn't know them personally but the fraternity is very tight."
Adding to the agonized final moments of the doomed pilots must have been a terrible sense of concern for all aboard, Tajer said. "We take very seriously our responsibility and calling to protect our passengers. That's what makes it more cutting."
But there was no hesitation when commercial flights resumed. "I was eager to be part of getting the country back on its feet," he said.
In those early post-9/11 days, flight crews and passengers had a sense of camaraderie. "There was a mutual affirmation we're not going to let this stop us," Tajer recalled.
The country's moved on, but 9/11 is "still in our hearts. It gets muddled through time but that's good. It's not forgotten but it's not obsessing us."
Still, for today's pilots, Tajer said, "the reality is we have to remain just as vigilant."
Do the right thing. Move over into the right lanes — that is if you're on the Jane Addams Tollway near Elgin. The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority just finished setting up signage to shift drivers over to the right shoulder so workers can start tearing up I-90. The resurfacing project stretches from Barrington Road to the Elgin Toll Plaza and from Route 20 to Genoa Road near the Belvidere Oasis.
"They sell coffee and doughnuts on Metra trains?" I wrote in a column about the thriller "Source Code," shot using depictions of a Metra train exploding. Peter VandeMotter of Mundelein emailed that, "Not anymore, but they used to. For about 20 years on the Rock Island and both Milwaukee lines they did have refreshment cars on certain trains serving coffee and doughnuts inbound, soda and alcoholic beverages outbound. And the Chicago and Northwestern used to have a couple on the Northwest line. I understand Metra felt they took up too much space, with some trains standing room only." I stand corrected. Got a comment or question? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Did you know?
It's not a day for sloppy driving on Route 59. Ten police departments, three sheriff's departments and two state police districts will be looking for speeders and drivers who don't buckle up. The enforcement action will stretch along Route 59 from Will County to Lake County.
One more thing
Weekday ridership on the region's transit system is approximately 2 million trips — 9 percent of trips made each Monday through Friday, according to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. The GO TO 2040 comprehensive regional plan calls for transit ridership to reach 4 million, or 13.5 percent of weekday trips.
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