Hey, everybody. Back with another chapter.
So, this will be the last chapter, and will kind of wrap things up. Hope you like it.
Let's get to it.
Chapter 10- Final Flight
(September 11, 2003)
"Dad, when are we gonna get on the plane?" Ada asks her father.
Rommel smiles as he looks down at his daughter. "Don't worry, honey. It won't be much longer," he says. Ada sighs in response.
Rommel looks up and around the terminal of Pittsburgh International Airport. It's been two years since the events of 9/11. This airport still holds many memories for Rommel.
Following the attacks, the United States government considered making a museum exhibit about the attacks, or an entire museum. Eventually, they decided to make an addition to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air and Space Museum at Dulles International Airport. The exhibit would feature a number of displays showing what had happened that day, as well as some recovered artifacts from the three crashed airliners and pieces of debris from the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. There would also be displays showing the faces of each of the 19 hijackers and displays detailing the planning and execution of the attack, gained from interrogations of Ahmed al Nami, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
However, the centerpiece of the exhibit would be located on the taxiway outside the addition to the museum. The government and United Airlines had decided to have the centerpiece of the exhibit be the Boeing 757 that had been United 93, which had been stored in a hangar at Pittsburgh International Airport ever since 9/11.
Now, the exhibit is almost completed. The only display not yet ready is United 93's 757. The government had decided to have one final symbolic flight of the airplane. All of the passengers and crew, along with their families, had been invited to fly on the airplane as it was flown from Pittsburgh to Dulles. A few passengers had decided not to, not wanting to relive the memories of that flight quite yet. However, of the 39 surviving passengers and crew, 36 had decided to fly on the plane.
Rommel looks around the terminal at the rest of the passengers and their family who are waiting for the call for them to go out and board the plane. Some are looking bored. They've been waiting for a while, and all had been asked to come early. The plan was for the plane to take off at the same time it did on 9/11.
Suddenly, Rommel sees Lauren Grandcolas walking over to him, holding her 18 month old son in her arms. The boy looks a little cranky.
"Hey, General. Dennis here wants to play with his godfather," she says, making Rommel smile. Lauren had been three months pregnant at the time of 9/11. Following 9/11, after learning the baby was a boy, they decided to name him Dennis, after Rommel. They also decided to make him Dennis' godfather. They weren't the only ones. Todd Beamer's wife had been expecting at the time of 9/11, and when their daughter Morgan was born the following January, they chose Rommel as godfather.
"Alrighty," Rommel says. He takes Dennis from Lauren and starts trying to entertain the boy as Lauren sits down and strikes up a conversation with Rommel's wife, Erika. The two women had become good friends following 9/11.
After just a few minutes, as Rommel is trying to entertain Dennis with a children's book, an announcement comes over the PA, saying, "Attention. All passengers of United 93, please make their way to gate A-24."
"Alright, kids. Let's go," Rommel says. He stands up and hands Dennis back to Lauren. He then takes Ada's hand, and the Rommel family leads the way to the gate.
A United Airlines staff member is waiting at the gate. As all the passengers gather around the gate, the staff member leads everyone down the jetway and down a staircase down out onto the tarmac, where a number of buses are waiting to take them across the tarmac to where the plane is parked outside the hangar it's been stored in for the last two years.
After the buses reach the plane, everyone climbs off the plane and begins boarding. Many of the passengers sit in the same seats they were sitting in on that day. Rommel and his family settle into the final row of first class. Rommel takes the time during boarding to look around. The plane is in the exact same shape as when he left that day. None of the damage has been repaired, and not even any of the rubbish has been cleaned up. He even notices that some of the blood stains on the floor and walls are still there.
In the cockpit, Captain Dahl and First Officer Homer are making their final checks. After recovering from their wounds from the hijackers, both men had returned to flying duty. Both of them had accepted the request from United to fly the 757 from Pittsburgh to Dulles.
Rommel watches from his seat in First Class as everyone continues to board. Finally, at about 8:15, everyone is on board, and the flight attendants close the door.
In the cockpit, Captain Dahl calls out on the radio, "Pittsburgh Tower, United 93, ready to taxi." Although United Airlines had retired the flight number 93, they were bringing it back into service just for this flight.
In the cabin, everyone can hear as the engines begin to rev up, and slowly the 757 begins to move along the taxiway, moving under its own power for the first time in two years.
As they pass along the taxiway, a squad of fire trucks is waiting. As the plane begins to pass by them, the fire trucks begin to spray their hoses into the air, letting the water rain down on the plane as a tribute to the two who had died on the plane and everyone else who died on 9/11. The water running down the windows looks like tears, and several of the passengers begin to feel their own tears sliding down their cheeks.
The 757 taxis along the taxiway, everyone watching its progress. Finally, right on time, at 8:41, the 757 reaches the runway.
The 757 holds short to allow a plane to land, then turns onto the runway. In the cockpit, Captain Dahl calls out, "Pittsburgh Tower, United 93, ready for takeoff."
"United 93, Pittsburgh Tower, you are cleared for takeoff," the tower controller responds.
"United 93, on our way," Captain Dahl calls over the radio. Both Dahl and Homer push the throttles forward, and the 757 begins advancing down the runway.
Across the airport, people watching the 757 cheer as they watch it begin to move down the runway. The 757 continues to accelerate before finally nosing up and climbing into the air, bringing an explosion of cheering from across the airport.
Rommel smiles as he feels the plane climbing into the sky. As it passes through 10,000 feet, Rommel sees movement out of the window. Looking out of the window, he smiles as he sees a blue nosed SF-23 pulling up alongside the 757. The military had decided to have the same two SF-23 pilots which had escorted United 93 on 9/11, flying the same SF-23s they'd flown on that day, escort United 93 again.
Rommel waves to the pilot. The pilot, seeing several people waving, waves back.
The 757 begins its slow turn to the south-east, setting course for Dulles International Airport, settling in for a one hour flight.
For almost 45 minutes, Rommel entertains his children while chatting with the other passengers in first class. Finally, about 45 minutes into the flight, Sandy Bradshaw, serving as the head flight attendant for this flight even though she had quit working with United Airlines a few days after 9/11, walks up to Rommel and says, "General, it's time."
Rommel nods and stands up, following Sandy to the cockpit. The government and United had decided to have Rommel land the plane at Dulles, just like he did at Pittsburgh on 9/11.
Sandy has the pilots open the door. Captain Dahl is waiting on the other side.
"A pleasure to see you again, General. Take it from here," Dahl says. The two shake hands, and Dahl exits the cockpit before Rommel walks in.
Rommel takes his seat in the captain's seat and slides the headphones onto his head. He quickly dials in to the tower and begins the landing cycle.
For the next 15 minutes, Rommel and First Officer Homer guide the plane down. Finally, the tower calls out over the radio, "United 93, Dulles Tower, cleared to land Runway 12L."
"Dulles Tower, United 93, cleared to land Runway 12L, copy," Rommel says.
Homer lowers the landing gear as the 757 descends lower and lower, and Rommel deploys the flaps to further slow the plane down. Up ahead, the runway gets closer and closer.
Rommel holds the plane steady in the proper angle as it continues to descend. Finally, the 757 descends the last few feet, and the rear landing gears touch down.
Rommel hears the squeal of the rear wheels hitting the ground. He rotates the nose down as Homer deploys the spoilers. A roar echoes through the plane as it slows down. Finally, it slows down to taxiing speed as it nears the end of the runway.
Rommel turns the plane off of the runway, guiding the plane over to the main ramps near the terminals.
As they approach the terminals, a little guiding car is waiting for them. As they approach, the car begins driving, leading them in the direction they need to go. Rommel follows the car, which leads him across the ramp, eventually leading it to the taxiway connecting Dulles to the museum.
Rommel guides the plane along the taxiway, then around the side of the museum to the spot where the 757 will be parked permanently. As he approaches the spot, he sees a large crowd waiting for the plane.
Rommel guides the plane into the right spot, then stops the plane. He turns and smiles at Homer, then gets on the radio to the tower and says, "Dulles Tower, United 93. We have reached the museum. I am nor shutting down the engines and power. This is United 93, signing off."
Rommel and Homer shut down the engines as the passengers and crew begin deplaning. Finally, once everyone is off the plane, they fully shut down all power systems. Rommel and Homer then get up out of their seats and head back to join Captain Dahl, and together the three of them leave the airplane for the last time.
They are met by an explosion of cheering from the assembled crowd. At the bottom of the stairs, they are met by President Bush, who came to witness United 93 coming to its final home himself.
Bush walks up to them, shaking each of their hands. He then invites them over to a small podium that has been set up for a small press conference. Reporters have gathered from all of the major news stations to witness this.
Bush speaks to the press first, talking about the meaning of this day and about how America must always remember 9/11. Dahl and Homer then each share a few words about the honor of flying this plane one more time, and their memories of what happened on 9/11. Then, at last, Rommel is asked to take the podium.
Rommel walks up to the podium and faces the reporters. After a moment, he says, "It's been two years since the events of September 11. I have thought about that day every day for the last two years. Now, flying this aircraft one more time has brought me some sense of closure. I am glad that United 93 has found its final home, and that thousands of people over the coming years may remember the events of September 11 as they visit this museum and visit this aircraft. This aircraft is now much more than an aircraft. It is a reminder of all we lost that day, and it is a symbol of the human will to survive and protect their own. As we say in the military, 'Always Remember, Never Forget'."
Many reporters begin cheering as Rommel steps away from the podium. Rommel turns back to look at the 757, memories of 9/11 flooding through him. His thoughts turn to the future. Not just his future. But the future of America, ad hoping that through the coming years United 93 will continue to inspire not just Americans, but people around the globe.
And with that, this story comes an end. I hope you like how I did this story, and this ending. I may reference the events of this story in other stories in the future.
I've said this already, but this story is dedicated to the victims of 9/11, and especially to the heroes of United 93.
Well, that's it for this story. I truly enjoyed writing it. I especially enjoyed writing so that the people on United 93 succeeded in their revolt.
Please leave a final review, and continue following the Terran Alliance series! Thank you all for your support!