”Many aspects of everyday life were changed by the tragedy, but none were changed so much as the aviation industry,” said retired airline Captain Rod Wooley of Alvord. “It caused a tightening of security at airports and new regulations that you still see, even to this day.”
Wooley and his wife, Carol, were both pilots with Southwest Airlines at the time of the terrorist attacks.
“Thankfully my wife and I weren’t flying that day,” Wooley said. “We turned on the TV just in time to see the second plane hit the towers. It was heart-wrenching to watch. We had a lot of friends flying that day.
“There was so much chaos and confusion at airports in the days that followed. Civilian aviation was grounded totally for three days after. Airports didn’t resume full schedule, until the following Monday.”
He recalled planes crammed into every available spot at Love Field in Dallas. Pilots all over the country were forced to land wherever they could as soon as the attacks started.
The terrorist attacks also changed the way the airline industry approached hijackings.
“Before 9/11, if a plane was hijacked, we were instructed to keep calm and do whatever the hijackers wanted you to do,” said Carol Wooley. “Most of the times when a plane was hijacked it would be diverted to Cuba, and it would land safely. No one was injured.
“Of course, no one ever imagined hijackers would use the plane itself as a weapon.”
The 9/11 attacks led to the creation of Federal Flight Deck Officers (FFDO). An FFDO was a flight crew member licensed to carry a handgun on a flight.
Mr. Wooley was one of the first FFDOs through the program.
“After the training, they gave me a weapon and little locked metal box,” he said. “I could unlock the box in the cockpit … Fortunately, I never had to defend the cockpit. And I hope no one ever has to.”
The couple was asked to speak Tuesday morning for Patriot Day at Wise County Veterans Memorial Park. The day was signed into law Dec. 18, 2001, in honor of the 2,977 people killed in the terrorist attacks.
“It pulled everyone together,” said Bob Johnson. “It brought people together in a way few of us have ever seen. People of all races and religions came together. The purpose of this observation is to keep that spirit alive.
“We always remember the first responders, firefighters, police officers, medics – but one of the groups that kind of gets left out of the picture are people who work in the airline. They also lay their lives on the line every day.”