American Airlines Flight 11 to Los Angeles took off on schedule out of the tangle of delays at Logan International Airport in Boston, right on time at 7:59 a.m. on September 11th, 2001.
Captain John Ogonowski was at the controls, a 50-year-old veteran pilot who lived on a farm north of Boston, and was looking forward to a family picnic at the weekend. His co-pilot was Thomas McGuinness, and there were 9 flight attendants and 81 passengers, a seemingly everyday mixture: a television producer, some businessmen, a retired ballet dancer, an actress and photographer, a young man who had made a success in the new technology economy. And several hijackers.
After takeoff, the plane held on course, almost due west, for only 16 minutes. Just past Worcester, Massachusetts, instead of taking a southerly turn, the Boeing 767 swung to the north. It had been taken over.
Flight 11 headed northwest, where the Berkshires, the Taconic Range and the beginning of the Green Mountains mark the spot where the borders of Massachusetts, New York and Vermont intersect. Crossing into New York, the plane flew into the area known as the Albany-Schenectady-Troy triangle, then veered left over Amsterdam and headed due south to New York City. The flight path was straight now, along the Hudson Valley and then right above the broad river itself.
As the hijacked aircraft approached Manhattan, it rapidly descended. From the cockpit, the silvery twin towers of the World Trade Center were straight ahead, rising above the city and twinkling in the sunlight.
In the Windows on the World restaurant on the 107th floor of the North Tower, dozens of people were enjoying a leisurely breakfast and the spectacular view when Flight 11 slammed into the building 20 floors below. It was 8:46 a.m., and the morning of terror was only just beginning.