Eyewitness to History: 9/11 Fighter Pilot and Artist Unite recover & # 39; First Pass & # 39; over Washington

Mayor Dean Ekman with & # 39 is a soft-spoken North Dakota native who lifelong love for the military aviation has turned him into one essential point September 11, 2001, in that it recognizes that "the eyewitness story of the day that changed all America, forever. "

9/11 morning, Ekman, 36, with its Fargo was based 119th Pilot wing fighter Virginia & # 39; th Langley Air Force Base for routine week & # 39; sending notifications & # 39; protect seven US sites are marked in the "post-Cold War and ready-to 9/11 naive," he says, as potential targets.

In known ditch klaxon horn, he abandoned his planned mission of training and been ordered its armed fighter, and became the first pilot to fly scrambled – only 700 feet above – the flame covered the Pentagon, just about four minutes after the terrorists attacked.

He managed two spent more than five hours on the same day, and to ensure the protection of miles of air space in Washington, White House, Washington Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Capitol and other US landmarks, from the ground up to 30,000 feet in the air.

His perspective the horror of that tragic day, when seen from the cockpit of his F-16 fighter, was captured for posterity and history books in the Air Force ordered the painting, "The first pass: Defenders of Washington," the artist Rick Herter,

Herter, 44, also completed for the Air Force painting titled «Ground Zero, eagles at the station," the restoration of the scene of terrorist attacks on New York and # 39; s World Trade Center twin towers.

The pilot, artist prints and paintings on the & # 39; traveling the country to rave reviews, giving the Americans a bird & # 39; s kind eyes the magnitude of the tragedy of the brilliant September morning.

Original oil visualize both scenes hang in the halls of the refurbished Pentagon in Washington, DC, along with many other original artwork depicting famous battles and events in American military history.

art of Fighting

Herter & # 39; mother, Diana, with & # 39; is the president of Dowagiac (Michigan) Art Guild, who describes her son as "an artist with a pilot at heart." As a member of an elite Air Force Art Corps, he spent two weeks of flight combat missions in Iraq as studies for paintings by the current hostilities.

Pilots and artist are now good friends, but they did not know each other as long as the Air Force called Herter in November 2001, and asked about his interest in painting scenes of the official 9/11.

Despite the fact that he gives all of his Air Force authorized by the Government of pictures free, Herter said he never allowed when asked if he would speak with the pilots, investigate the events and to make September 11 attacks on the canvas.

"I jumped at the opportunity, I knew this story," he said, pointing to the "Defender of Washington" painting, with its mountainous clouds of black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon almost touch the underbelly of Ekman & # 39; s F-sixteenth

September 11: Normal Morning

On the morning of 9/11 began "just fine," says Ekman. "I was preparing for a training mission when the Klaxon alarm is gone, and we rushed to our & # 39; Hot & # 39; (Armed) aircraft.

He and # 39; d heard that the plane hit the World Trade Center, but suggested that it was a "puddle jumper plane travel has lost its way and had an accident." As a former commercial pilot for Northwest Airlines, Eckmann said the idea that commercial jet aircraft fully loaded could be plunged into an occupied building was "unthinkable.

"We all had a false sense of security," he says. "Even in a state of readiness, prior to 9/11, we have focused on the danger posed to us from the outside, not coming in as it happened that day. To a commercial airliner full of people and make it into the building? In America I could imagine anything evil. "

Eckmann says he was originally ordered "heading 010" and immediately realized that this was New York. Looking back, though he did not know it at the time, he says that at the time he took to Langley, a second airliner plowing the second tower of the World Trade Center.

On the way to Manhattan, Eckmann received a revised order, and a new course, which he learned as a Washington, DC However, it has been reliably carefree, he says, while still 75 miles away, and no smoke is not yet visible on the horizon. It is connected only traumatized problems in New York with his new heading, and suggested that it & # 39; d be a "fly CAP» – Combat Air Patrol – over Washington as a preventive measure.

In 50 to 60 miles from Washington, Eckmann got his first sight of smoke – thick black smoke – pouring across the Potomac.

As a rule, you & # 39; You see gray smoke or white smoke in a conventional industrial accident or fire. Black smoke means very bad things. "

Smoke & # 39; with Source: Pentagon

Flying high, more miles and are unable to make a building or structure, he searched his memory, he says, to determine the smoke & # 39; s source. At 35 miles, and the oceans of smoke continued to pour from the site, he realized that the unknown horror occurred somewhere near the Pentagon "accident Reagan National Airport, sometimes," he says.

"At 20 miles, I knew it was the Pentagon, and I & # 39; m thinking: a truck bomb, "he said. "It & # 39; what we thought most of the day in the air, I thought, & # 39; We & # 39; re at war, and # 39; But even fly only 700 feet, I could not – no one could .. – see that the airliner was burning inside the Pentagon.

This is the starting point of view, and his bird & # 39; s eye view of the burning Pentagon, as many American historical sites in the background, is the focus of Herter & # 39; s picture.

Two subsequent orders confirmed Ekman & # 39; s fear of attack. First, to confirm that the Pentagon was burning. The second was to determine the two unknown aircraft flying in the direction of the Pentagon. Those two planes appeared "good guys», Eckmann said one helicopter Medi-Vac and one helicopter from the local police, the title to try to help the victims of the Pentagon.

Eckmann immediately went to the "buzz Mall", he says, or flies Washington government complex. His eyes scanned the ground, looking for the yellow truck, or anything that may be another truck bomb heading other landmark.

He and his colleagues maintained SKYWATCH over Washington for nearly six hours, refueling twice in flight, until returned to Langley in just one hour before again.

Shock final

At Langley, he heard mechanics that expresses shock and horror, "what happened to the World Trade Center towers.

"I still do not know at the moment," he said. "I said, and # 39; What happened to the tower that & # 39 ;? And they told me that the towers collapsed, that someone has blown up commercial airliners into them, I could not believe it. ".

At home, his wife spent the day issuing possessed more than 50 phone calls from friends and relatives, I wonder whether Eckmann fly that day, and if so, in which an airplane and for which employers, the US Air National Guard or commercial airline industry.

Both Herter and Ekman say they & # 39; D awe news that they & # 39; seen and done it will inevitably become so much a part of the fabric of American history as the George Washington of the scene, which crosses the Delaware River, or the first film footage of attack on Pearl Harbor.

"This is something that has not been seen and could not see," said Herter. "Only a handful of people have ever seen, immediately after the Pentagon attack, and this is the first appearance of this." Capital, provided the airspace. No one came in, because of them. "