September 8, 2022
On August 29, MCPL’s Spencer Branch hosted a special event at the LuCille Tack Center for the Arts in Spencer with Chris Tucker, a Long Island, New York native who was working as an air traffic controller on the morning of September 11, 2001. This event had originally been planned to happen in 2020 but was delayed due to COVID. After more than two years, it was a delight to finally see it come to fruition. For those that weren’t able to attend, we’ve included a brief summary below.
Tucker started his presentation by explaining what an air traffic controller’s job is, and what they watch for on their screen. He included visuals depicting exactly what an air traffic controller’s screen looks like on most days, and what it looked like on morning of 9/11. At the time, Tucker had been working at JFK International Airport.
Tucker said he remembered helping with several departures that morning before a coworker pointed out an aircraft that was in the wrong airspace. Tucker told his coworker that he needed to get the plane out of his airspace, and his co-worker replied, “He won’t take the point out, I think he has a hijack.” Tucker then played actual tapes of the plane’s hijackers yelling at the crew and passengers. Although the terrorists did not know how to fly a plane well or fully understand radar, they did know to take out the transponder to stop any communication with the control tower. There was confusion, fear and a wide display of other emotions in that control tower, and then the Twin Towers were hit.
Throughout the evening, Tucker told stories that were so intense, yet many of them also brought smiles to the people in attendance. The event wrapped up with an audience Q&A, of which there were many questions.
It’s estimated that between 350 and 400 people attended the event. Along with getting the word out to the general public, we made an extra effort to reach out to those who may have a particular interest in this event – local police and fire departments, VFW chapters, and members of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). We also asked the Spencer Fire Department if they would bring two fire trucks to park outside the venue with their lights on as a symbol of respect, and they agreed to participate.
We want to thank the Friends of the Marathon County Public Library for their support in helping us make this program possible, and to all of the community members who attended. A video of highlights from the event will be posted soon to our YouTube channel, so keep an eye out for that!
image credit: MCPL