Pilot of Air Force One on 9/11 reflects on 16th anniversary

Col. Mark Tillman shared his story with us.

BOISE - Monday marks the 16th anniversary of a day that changed thousands of lives forever, September 11th.

Many can remember exactly what they were doing, and where they were when they heard the news of two hijacked planes flying into the Twin Towers in New York City.

For Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot in command of Air Force One on that day, September 11, 2001, started like any other day. Colonel Tillman and other crew members were prepping the plane to go on a standard trip to Florida with former President George W. Bush.

"At that same time the hijackers were moving through New York and D.C. and getting ready to hijack the aircraft," Tillman said.

After the first plane hit the first tower of the World Trade Center, Tillman says there wasn't an immediate concern of a threat. Just minutes later, that all changed.

"When the second aircraft hit the second tower is when we knew the country was under attack," Tillman said. "As pilots we knew that there was no way that anybody could've made that mistake."

That's when Tillman's mission changed.

"The goal was to relocate President Bush, put him in a safe location for the continuity of government," said Tillman.

From the ground to the sky local and federal law enforcement agencies came together.

"First responders, police, firemen, everybody is moving into position to protect the president," Tillman said. "When President Bush made the decision to go back to D.C. we needed fighter escorts, we needed radar planes overhead, we needed guys on the ground to put up tremendous firepower in the event there was more to the attack than what we knew about. That was incredible in New York City they made things happen where other people couldn't."

Now, 16 years later, we remember.

"It's a rememberance of what happened to the United States of America, but it's also a rememberance of what America did after it."

Colonel Tillman is in the Treasure Valley to speak at a fundraiser for Crime Stoppers Monday morning from 7:30 a.m. until 9 a.m. at the Riverside Hotel.

Tillman says on 9/11, local and federal law enforcement had to fall in sync and work together, so it's important to support organizations like Crime Stoppers. If you'd like to make a donation click here.

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