‘We will never forget’: American Airlines pilot remembers father who was flying 9/11 hijacked plane


Tom McGuinness, a pilot for American Airlines, is urging his fellow aviators to honor the memory of those who died on 9/11 by showing gratitude for what they have. McGuinness was just 14 when his own father, also an American Airlines pilot, was flying one of the planes that was hijacked by terrorists and flown into the World Trade Center. (Johan Ordonez/AFP via Getty Images)

Tom McGuinness was 14 years old on Sept. 11, 2001 when his father went to work that day as a pilot for American Airlines. 

McGuinness’ father, whose name was also Tom, was the co-pilot of the American Airlines flight 11, which was the first plane to crash into the World Trade Center tower with 92 people on board.  

It was early in the flight — which had taken off from Boston and was bound for Los Angeles — when hijackers commandeered the aircraft and flew it into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, the first strike in a terror attack that reverberates to this day.

Two decades later, that 14-year-old boy is also now a pilot for American Airlines. And this weekend, he’s urging his fellow pilots to honor the memory of those lost on 9/11 by being grateful for what they have.

“Those that know me know I don’t typically lead my introduction with my personal connection, however, I was 14 years old when 9/11 happened, and the [first officer] on AA 11 was my dad,” McGuinness wrote in a post shared on the Allied Pilots Association website.

Most are still in mourning over the loss of life suffered that day, McGuinness said. But he also urged readers not to forget the way the nation — and the airline industry — pulled together in the aftermath of the attacks.

“The way our country came together, the way our crews treated each other and our passengers, and the way my dad lived his life are all shining examples of what we want to remember this weekend,” McGuinness said.

Airline workers for American and United Airlines are seen at a wreath-laying ceremony on September 11, 2021, for their colleagues who died in the attacks on 9/11 in 2001. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

He remembered his father as an accomplished Navy aviator and F-14 Tomcat pilot who always put his family and faith first in life. 

“As we remember our own stories this weekend, take a few minutes and be thankful for what we have. For those with kids, spend time showing them examples of compassion and kindness. This type of remembrance would honor our pilots and exemplify what my dad stood for,” McGuinness said in the post.

McGuinness added that he hopes people will not only focus on the sadness of Sept. 11, but the gifts of life. He also thanked airline passengers who might be flying this weekend, for staying vigilant.

“Together, we remember what happened 20 years ago on board our aircraft, and we will never forget,” he said.

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