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180th Fighter Wing pilots answered the call amid 9/11 attacks

Former pilot gives firsthand account of the fateful day
Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 6:32 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Some in our region answered to call to serve on 9/11. As the attacks were taking place, our region played a role in defending our nation.

Several pilots from the Ohio Air National Guard 180th Fighter Wing launched that morning, having no idea where they were headed, what their mission was or what they’d have to do.

After the first plane hit one of the World Trade Center towers, the volume went up on a television at the 180th in Swanton.

“I’m like, that’s not very professional. So I leave the briefing room and I go down the hall and I’m like ‘Hey, what’s up here’ and they’re like, ‘Look’,” said Ret. Col. Scott Reed.

Colonel Reed couldn’t figure out how a small plane or even a commercial pilot could have hit such a large building on a beautiful day. He was then summoned to the phone.

“There’s a phone call out at the ops desk. They want us to launch a couple of airplanes, which was kinda out of left field. There are some very specific controls and procedures and places and a legal framework for doing that sort of thing, which none were in place here in Toledo,” said Col. Reed.

Reed’s crew didn’t have planes ready or even loaded with weapons but he and another pilot geared up. Others fueled up the jets and loaded the guns with bullets. Only military aircraft were allowed to fly at this point.

“We asked permission to taxi the airplane. The answer was, Well, yeah do whatever you want. That’s kinda weird. We get out to the runway and ask permission to take off. He says, Well, yeah, sure go. Well that’s kinda weird because that’s not how it normally sounds,” said Col. Reed.

Col. Reed was so focused on his mission, he didn’t know a second plane hit the towers or that the towers eventually fell. He knew his team needed to take control of the skies. They flew east without knowing their exact mission.

“We had no idea, literally no idea what the mission would be,” said Col. Reed.

Colonel Reed has pieced the puzzle together over the years. He doesn’t think they were headed to the crash zones but instead headed toward a flight from Boston to Los Angeles on the wrong frequency.

“So it seemed like this could be another one. He’s not on the right frequency. He’s not talking to anybody. This could be another one. That was the airplane they had us take off [for] because we were on a track between Boston and LA. We were in the right position geographically to intercept,” said Col. Reed.

The plane landed safely before the F-16s found them. They then intercepted planes off radio or radar, telling them to land. Luckily he didn’t need to engage a commercial plane and make the gut-wrenching choice to take it down.

“It could have come to that. Which to be honest if it had come to that we would have done it without hesitation without really a second thought,” said Col. Reed.

Col. Reed says in the cockpit it’s all about the mission, there isn’t time to think about much else. Twenty years later, he’s still proud of his team and everyone that calmly executed a mission that evolved minute by minute.

“How did they react to a situation like this when you have only a small piece of the puzzle? What did you do right then? Did you panic? Did you do the right thing? Did you do your job? Did you do it really well?” Col. Reed added.

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