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Indianapolis air traffic controller reflects on 9/11 after 20 years

There are some days you never forget, and Sept. 11 is one of those days for Mark Crittenden.

INDIANAPOLIS — On Sept. 11 we not only remember the victims, or those who survived the 2001 attacks, but we also honor the heroes who emerged. Those who helped to get people out of collapsing buildings, the brave passengers on United Flight 93, and those responding on the ground like Mark Crittenden.

There are some days you never forget, and Sept. 11 is one of those days for Crittenden. He's a retired Indianapolis air traffic controller who was working on that fateful Tuesday 20 years ago. It was a beautiful day, like Saturday's 20th anniversary, until everything changed.  

"The sadness and the fond memories of the people I worked with all of that is as fresh today as it was 20 years ago," said Crittenden.

After the planes hit the twin towers, Crittenden and his crew were asked to help track American Airlines Flight 77. That plane would later hit the Pentagon.

"They were just trying to go on vacation or work somewhere," said Crittenden.

As a precaution against more hijackers, FAA headquarters immediately grounded all flights.

"It was like someone took a bucket of airplanes and dumped them out over the city," said Crittenden.

Together, he and his crew worked around the clock and navigated landings for more than 50 jets. 

He said every year on this day he reflects on his mixed feelings. "I'm saddened for the loss of life on that day. I'm saddened for all the people who have grieved for the last 20 years of the loss of their family and friends. At the same time, I'm proud of what we did as air traffic controllers. I'm glad that I was able to be there," said Crittenden.

As we honor the victims, he hopes we never forget the lives lost or how we came together as a country after that day. "On 9/11,9/12, and 9/13 we were united as one as a country. Twenty years later on the anniversary we so much need to get back to that," said Crittenden. 

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