The planes at Andrews Air Force Base, where Penny was ordered to take off from, weren't equipped missiles or ammunition. In fact, there was no active system in place for a spontaneous armed scrambles. Heather Penny got in her F-16 alongside her commanding officer, Col. Marc Sassevile and they took off towards what they knew to be certain doom.
What neither she nor Sasseville knew at that point in time was that Flight 93 had already gone down, thanks to the heroic actions of its passengers, who essentially sacrificed their lives to keep the plane from reaching the terrorists’ intended target.
“The real heroes are the passengers on Flight 93 who were willing to sacrifice themselves,” Penney said regarding the passengers who also inadvertently saved her own life. “I was just an accidental witness to history.”
She and her commanding officer wound up spending the remainder of their day clearing the airspace and escorting former President George W. Bush.
Fourteen years later, Penney still serves in the Air Force, but as a major. She is also the single mother of two girls.
She thinks often of what happened fourteen years ago.
Whether you call it an act of fate or bravery, nobody will ever forget the heroics of the passengers from Flight 93, and the people who were willing to give their lives in the struggle.