As the ten-year anniversary of 9/11 approaches, Lieutenant Heather "Lucky" Penney remembers what was asked of her, and the decision she faced.
To take down Flight 93-- the fourth and final hijacked airborne craft that day-- she would have had to ram it.
She was a rookie Air National Guard combat pilot, and had been asked to give her life for her country.
Lt. Penney's F-16 was the second to take off in pursuit of Flight 93. Having just returned from training in Nevada, her fighter plane was outfitted with dummy munitions.
The heroism of the passengers aboard Flight 93 kept Lt. Penney from having to ram the jetliner. But she clearly recalls the decision she made to prevent that fourth plane from becoming a guided missile and killing hundreds more innocent people. Penney told New York Magazine
about her ordeal:
"We wouldn't be shooting it down. We'd be ramming the aircraft, I would essentially be a kamikaze pilot."
She remembers that day with the grace and humility exemplified by our brave men and women in uniform:"I was just an accidental witness to history," she says.
Even a decade later, she rarely speaks of her experience. When Lt. Penney does, she insists the first-responders are the true heroes from that fateful day.
At this time of reflection on the loss and sacrifice of 9/11, we must also honor the bravery of those in uniform who gave their lives to protect others, and those who continue to safeguard our lives and liberty.