Stupid License Plates: Part 4 of a Continuing Series

Who would have thought that this series would reach a fourth installment. Thank you to some continued submissions from readers, along with with a recent cross-country trip from Philadelphia to California to sit for the California Bar Exam, this installment is just CHOCK-F*CKIN-FULL of great examples of stupid license plates.

Despite having grown up in California, I must say that I was painfully naive to the amount of AWFUL vanity plates in this state. May this installment bear testament to this fact.

CATEGORY 1: THE D – BAGS

Surprisingly, the amount of douche-bag plates this installment is remarkably low. Regardless, lets get right into it:

Audi Tag

As is typical for this category, it commences with an overpriced german car, usually a BMW or Audi. Here, we have no exception. I have NEVER understood the appeal of the Audi TT, but this driver, snapped somewhere in the Arizona desert, just had to run. Whether he is referring to his TT, or his mid-life desperate grasp at fitness by running half marathons and posting 10,000 pictures on facebook each time he does, one will never know.

Lexus Solana

Always. ALWAYS. Someone has to identify their expensive car to you in their license plate despite the fact that it is literally on the badging directly next to the plate. Thanks for reminding me you’re driving a 6+ year old Lexus RX, because I was too lazy to look 12 inches to the right to see the same identification.

And on that note:

Acura License Plate

Again. Same thing. Only the fact that this is on an early-90’s Acura makes it slightly less D-baggy. I mean, its a Mainer and you can probably still get pretty much any vanity plate you want in Maine, since maybe like 1,000 people live there? (Despite being one of the most gorgeous states in the union) But I expect a LITTLE more creativity from Vacationland.

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Would have NEVER thought I’d see a Hyundai make this list, especially a re-badged Hyundai Tiburon. BUT – Deb got her Genesis Coupe. Lets all be happy for Deb.

Black Diva

Thanks to reader Silviana S. for the submission on this one. CANNOT STAND people who continue to draw lines in the sand on racial grounds. Go ahead, girl. Be a diva. Why does being a “black diva” make you even more so?

Bonus – you’ll notice this was shot on the I-76 Freeway, see Category 3 below re: Philadelphia and its freeway numbering.

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“P” Did it? Who the hell is P? Did he commit the crime you were accused of? (Or maybe that’s your story at least?) Perhaps you’re just a Puff Daddy fan and “PDIDDY” was already taken?

Either way, please keep your dirty Dodge Charger with misspelled dust graffiti on the trunk lid in North Philly. And speaking of North Philly:

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No. Just no. Ugh.

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Exactly. NO EXCUSES for some of these awful plates. (But there is always good reason to save the Ta-tas, I suppose, as this driver is doing from his/her PT Cruiser…)

CATEGORY 2: THE WTF? PLATES

Up Top

Up top? Of what? Not even going to go any further with this one…

Midway Cab

I became a lawyer due in no small part to the fact that I absolutely SUCK at math. But even I know, however, that 1,364 of 1 works out to like .07%? Nor does the number correspond in any way to the cab’s “945” ID number.

NO idea what the hell this cab going is going for with this plate.

My Style

Your style? What is…white VW CC’s? I really don’t get it.

Jeep Snapshot

Maybe he’s a photography guy. Maybe he’s saving a lot of $$ using Snapshot by Progressive. No idea, but seemed like an odd license plate none the less.

CATEGORY 3: WORTH A LAUGH 

First and foremost, as a good, ardent patriot I must give mad love to this license plate:

Spirit of 76 Plate

If there’s one thing Philadelphians love, its 1776. Our freeways, e.g., were renumbered just so that they could contain the number 76 in them. (I-76, I-476, I-276). Additionally, we have a GOD AWFUL basketball team, the 76ers, that bears the number.

I cannot, however, see this reference without thinking of those now esoteric Massachusetts Tourism commercials from the 80’s, remember?? The Spirit of Massachusetts is the Spirit of America?

Family Guy also did an awesome spoof of this commercial, but copyright laws being what they are, good luck finding a clip on the interwebs.

I DIGRESS.

5 gold rings

As soon as I saw this license plate, I immediately thought of A) how much I cannot stand Christmas music, and B) how much I hate the 12 days of Christmas above all other Christmas songs.

I really never got that. At all. Who the hell buys someone maids-a-milking? The 13th Amendment to the US Constitution would probably have something to say about that nowadays anyway.

BUT. On the topic of the 12 days of Christmas, I leave dissection of this song to the master himself; Eddie Izzard:

Woo Pig

I love all things farm animals. When I saw a plate, on a really expensive Lexus in the middle of Arkansas that said “WOO PIG” on it – I almost spit out the Diet Coke from my Big Gulp – this guy must have made his fortune from pig farming and, thus, memorialized his success in license plate form.

Then reader Marita H. explained to me this is a college football reference. Oh well. Still funny (to me at least).

And speaking of being south of the Mason-Dixon Line:

Texun Plate

Love your Texas roots. Even if you’re not in Texas.

Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh? Nope. Vincent Vahn GON. Well played, sir.

Chia Pet

Ch-Ch-Ch-CHIA. Love it. Thanks for bringing back fond memories of late-80’s commercials.

Chia

The one thing they never told you in those commercials, though, was how nasty those seeds are when you first have to spread them, and that you have to look at that filth until it grows in. Overrated gift. Instead, you should have spent your money on the CLAPPER:

Clapper

Apparently in the late-80’s, there was only one font available for marketing on the side of boxes.

G'day

MORNING, GUV’NAH! (Submitted by reader Silviana R.)

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This one takes the cake for the category, because this vehicle owner actually pasted in a colon between MSSN and IMP (you might have to blow the photo up on your screen to see it). Well played, sir.

The only mission that’s impossible for this guy is finding an oil change for an SL600 under $150.

CATEGORY 4: VANITY PLATE WIN

PSA plate

I’m sure many of you are thinking “WTF” instead of “WIN.” Well, those of you who read this blog regularly know what an aviation nerd I am.

The owner of this mini-van, despite owning a mini-van, is otherwise very cool in that he flew for one of the iconic west coast airlines, Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA), which is now absorbed into US Air.

PSA Lockheed L-1011 departing, sporting its iconic "smile" livery.

PSA Lockheed L-1011 departing, sporting its iconic “smile” livery.

I mean, not only would it have been cool to be a passenger during this time, but to also have been a pilot in control of some of the most gorgeous commercial aircraft ever built that made up a lot of PSA’s fleet.

Not to mention, these amazing stews and corresponding uniforms:

PSA Stewardess Uniforms

PSA Stewardess Uniforms

Enough said. WIN WIN WIN.

Stupid License Plates: Part 3 of a series

And so it continues. I’ve had a rather busy dance card of late, so regrettably I haven’t been able to post as much as I would like to.

Back by rather popular demand (thank you, fans of the blog!), yet another installation of the “Stupid License Plates” series. My eyes have remained ever vigilant for qualifying vanity plates. Despite some squandered opportunities thanks to how slow my iPhone 4 Classic is due to the crappy iOS7 ugrade (if you haven’t done it, DON’T DO IT!), I think we have come through in fine style with some new additions.

And of course, where would this series be without the submissions from, well, viewers like you.

PBS Reference? Sure why not.

PBS Reference? Sure why not.

Obviously, we are sticking to our usual categories, as follows:

CATEGORY 1: THE D – BAGS

This category is never short of qualified submissions.

Attorney Plate

As an attorney, I’m allowed to rip on this guy even more. Most people hate what we do for a living (even though we’re the first person they call when they get in trouble, but I digress). So why advertise this fact, dude? Do you WANT your nice Cadillac to get keyed?

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This is smart. Tell the entire world that you are OD’ing on prescription drugs. Can anyone say: probably cause for suspicion of DUI traffic stop? (maybe worse?). [Submission by reader Bianca H.]

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And you were wondering where the token BMW of the category was. Well, here it is. Par is apparently “EZE” for this asshole.

Tic Toc

This plate, I suppose, belongs in the “WTF?” category, infra. But, since its on a BMW I’m putting it into the D-Bag category.

Illegal License Plate

(that’s a numeric “1” in the first character spot, btw) What exactly is illegal, sir? The activities which provided the funds to purchase said car? Your residency status in this country? The age of your date, perhaps?

Again, on a BMW. OF COURSE.

is cool mustang

No you’re not. Your cheesy late-90’s Mustang with cheap, plastic after-market ground effects is the very antithesis of “cool,” buddy. [Thanks to reader Kat S. for the submission]

Synner

Many thanks to reader Rachel R. for snapping this man’s tag, “SYNNER,” in Connecticut.

I know nothing about the cleanliness of this vehicle owner’s soul, but I can say that a major, if not mortal, “SYN” was indeed committed in this travesty: CHOOSING LIME GREEN AS THE COLOUR OF YOUR CAMARO.

CATEGORY 2: THE WTF? PLATES

FRAYDL

Fradyl Fradyl Fradyl….made it out of…..Fray? I don’t get it.

Be Sure

Be sure before I do what exactly? When you sent this vanity plate selection in to the Commonwealth, did they call you and ask you if you were sure?

Fry

Well, if you can’t be sure…

Be Calm

…perhaps you should just be calm about your uncertainty. This person is, apparently. Irony would be if I caught the driver of this car engaged in some road rage.

Mule

So…wait. You’re a Mule? I don’t get it. Like a coke mule? Is THAT how you paid for your early-90’s SL?

CATEGORY 3: WORTH A LAUGH 

My favorite category – as indicated before, this category encompasses people with a good sense of humour or, even better, simply don’t care what you think about their license plate…

HIO SILVER!

So, the Lone Ranger (where the reference Hi Ho Silver comes from) rode a fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a mighty hi ho silver. The Kia Soul, on which this plate was found, has never been described a mighty horse and/or moving at the speed of light, but I do like this vehicle owner’s enthusiasm.

Rhodee

[Submitted by reader Rachel R.] He’s not a roadie, he’s a RHODEE. If there’s one thing that’s true about Rhode Island and Providence Plantation, its that people from Rhode Island are proud to be from Rhode Island. For those of you not from there, Rhode Island contains both roads AND islands (a ton of them actually), but is neither a road nor an island.

It’s actually a state.

Rhode Island

Pop Pop

This was a cute old couple out driving 20 miles below the speed limit in, obviously, the center lane. He’s a proud grandparent, clearly. No hating from me on this one.

Pirate plate

In case you cant read this, it says “PIE RIT.” I’m guessing its not an advertisement for dessert and clothing dyes. Its on a black car. ARRRRRRRRRRRRRR MATEY.

Nuts

I was genuinely disappointed that there are not enough characters available on PA plates to precede this one with “SAL-“

Interceptor Plate

Sir, a dirty, salted up Honda Civic sitting in the COSTCO parking lot is NOT a police interceptor, but thanks for playing. This, sir, is a police interceptor:

Police Interceptor

Who doesn’t love Crown Victorias, especially police interceptor versions? Just make sure that if you’re going to claim your love for a Crown Victoria, you’re actually DRIVING a Crown Victoria, and not, say, a Grand Marquis:

Crown Vic Boy

Idiot, that’s a Grand Marquis, not a Crown Vic. Exhibit 1 of the type of idiots clogging up the streets of Philadelphia. [Submitted by reader Marita H.]

Bananas

Love it. Perhaps the owner’s passengers are…….driving him BNANUHZ??

[drum roll]

Hoagie Plate

And, on the topic of food, if there’s one thing Philadelphians love, its their HOAGIES. And we’re the only place in the United States that refers to sandwiches by this moniker. Why not memorialize our love of this sandwich greatness in vanity plate form?

CATEGORY 4: VANITY PLATE WIN

As always with this series, there is one plate that just tops them all. Why not close out the article with our third food reference in a row?

GOT BACON?

Please. I would love some bacon.

And, just maybe, if you share some of yours instead of eating it all, you’ll get that 13.1 up to a 26.2.

McDonnell Douglas DC-10 Officially Retired From Scheduled Passenger Service

December 7, 2013 marks a sad day for those who reminisce about the glory days of commercial aviation. Because on this day, the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 is officially retired from scheduled commercial service.

The last decade or so has seen the unfortunate and permanent retirement of the most beautiful airliners ever built from scheduled passenger service. Overwhelmingly, the reason for retiring these sexy birds has been operating costs; namely a lack of fuel efficiency combined with crippling increases in jet fuel prices.

My father, who travelled a lot for business in his younger years, was a million miler with American Airlines. Accordingly, some of my earliest commercial aviation memories involved these silver birds, usually on their 767’s direct from SAN (San Diego) to JFK (New York) and back, accompanying him on business trips.

But occasionally, [nerd alert!] I was in for a treat and got to fly on the DC-10.

MC-Donnell Douglas DC-10 lifting off out of Miami in 1984. Pictured in American Airlines livery.

MC-Donnell Douglas DC-10 lifting off out of Miami in 1984. Pictured in American Airlines livery.

I remember getting back from a flight from Hawaii once after a family vacation (American used to fly a DC-10 direct from OGG to SAN) and I was playing with the neighborhood kids, explaining with lots of enthusiasm that I had been on a DC-10 only hours earlier. Suffice it to say, to my surprise at the time, they didn’t get what the big deal was.

As an aside, I’m also surprised I didn’t get my ass kicked more as a kid, now that I look back on what a nerd I was…

The DC-10 was launched in the early 1970’s with launch customer American Airlines. The first scheduled flight occurred on August 5, 1971 on passenger service between LAX and ORD.

The 10th DC-10 ever built, before take-off roll for its test flight, at Douglas Aircraft's old facility in Long Beach, CA. *Bonus points* for the classic station wagon in the foreground.

The 10th DC-10 ever built, before take-off roll for its test flight, at Douglas Aircraft’s old facility in Long Beach, CA. *Bonus points* for the classic station wagon in the foreground.

The plane was immensely popular for both domestic and long hauls with a seating capacity of 380. Its closest competitor was yet another gorgeous three-holer, the Lockheed L-1011 Tristar.

The Lockheed L-1011 Tristar. The sexiest trijet ever built.

The Lockheed L-1011 Tristar. The sexiest trijet ever built.

446 total DC-10 aircraft were built. The last one, built in 1989, was delivered to Nigeria Airways. Passenger flights continued among United States carriers for over three decades, a long time for a commercial airliner. US Carrier passenger service ended in 2007 with Northwest Airlines’ retirement of its massive DC-10 fleet.

DC-10 in Northwest Airlines' most recent livery before it merged with Delta Airlines.

DC-10 in Northwest Airlines’ most recent livery before it merged with Delta Airlines.

Thankfully, many DC-10 aircraft still live on among cargo operators. As of 2012, 75 were still in service (not including KC-10 refueling aircraft with the military), the largest fleet of which is operated by FedEx with over 60 DC-10 aircraft. It has fared much better in the long run than its competitor, the L-1011, of which only four are still operating in the entire world.

Like so many gorgeous aircraft from the era, most are now awaiting their ultimate fate of being scrapped in desert climates. Here, a row of former American Airlines DC-10s sit in the Arizona desert at Goodyear Airport.

Like so many gorgeous aircraft from the era, most are now awaiting their ultimate fate of being scrapped in desert climates. Here, a row of former American Airlines DC-10s sit in the Arizona desert at Goodyear Airport.

The last remaining DC-10 operating in scheduled passenger service is with Biman Bangladesh Airlines. The last scheduled flight occurs tomorrow, December 7, 2013. I wish I could be there to say goodbye to this gorgeous jet in person. Looks like, instead, I’ll have to hope for a jumpseat ride on a cargo DC-10 some day.

DC-10 Sunset

50 years since President Kennedy was shot…

As many know, today marks 50 years since President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX. For the generation or two before me, this was their version of September 11, 2001; everyone alive and of age from that time period knows where they were and can recall in detail what they were doing when they received the news of it happening.

Since I was born 19+ years after this event, this article isn’t intended to reminisce about things that happened that day. Rather, I was particularly moved by a picture series Buzzfeed ran of photographs from the Kennedy Administration, republished courtesy of the Kennedy Library.

One picture in particular stood out; a photo of John F. Kennedy, Jr., as a child, sitting at the controls of the presidential helicopter Marine One.

John F. Kennedy, Jr. at the controls of Marine One, circa early 1960's.

John F. Kennedy, Jr. at the controls of Marine One, circa early 1960’s.

As you may know, John F. Kennedy, Jr. was a pilot himself in his adult years. Him and his family perished, quite tragically, in a storm as Kennedy, Jr. was piloting their private airplane.

Upon seeing this picture, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was the exact moment that Kennedy, Jr. decided he wanted to fly someday.

As a pilot, many ask me when I first decided that I wanted to fly. I never have a good answer for them because, in truth, I’ve dreamed about flying planes for as long as I can remember.

The above picture of John F. Kennedy, Jr. brought back a very vivid memory from my early childhood that I almost forgot about. At the time, my father was an executive for a company that was based in San Diego and regularly commuted to NYC on the company’s Dessault Falcon 50. One such trip, we were coming back to San Diego and the pilots invited me into the cockpit to sit in the jump seat for the landing. I was a really shy kid and, after much prodding from my father, I reluctantly went into the cockpit.

Amazing. I can vividly remember the runway of San Diego’s Lindbergh Field rushing up at the airplane, then a seemingly last-minute pulling back of the controls (what I now know to be a standard “flare” before touchdown) and subsequent powering back of the three turbine engines  into full reverse. When the reverse thrusters kicked in, the plane began to shake and vibrate until it eventually slowed to a crawl and we taxied off the runway.

I was hooked after that. Almost 15 years later, I was a pilot myself, albeit flying much less complicated, single-engine Cessna aircraft. One day, God willing, I’ll fly jets. Regardless of the equipment though, I hope I can someday help spur the desire to fly in a youngster the way those two pilots did.

A link to the original Buzzfeed article referenced above:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/bennyjohnson/36-stunning-color-photos-of-kennedys-life-at-the-white-house

The Dessault Falcon 50

The Dessault Falcon 50. One of the sexiest business jets ever designed.

Stupid License Plates: Part 2 of a Series

Last month, I published an expose on horrible vanity plates. Since that publication, I have continued to collect pictures of horrible (and sometimes funny) vanity plates. Since publishing the first article, I swear I see them EVERYWHERE now. Additionally, I am grateful for the help of a few readers who have sent me some good ones.

Today’s article explores some new examples spotted during my vehicular travels through the northeastern United States, broken down into our four familiar categories; the D-Bags, The WTF?, The Funny and The Awesome.

[By “The Awesome,” I don’t mean the atrociously awesome license plate from the 1980’s thriller Cobra, starring Sylvester Stallone and his character’s 1950 Mercury Coupe, which got thrashed after one of the most ridiculous car chase scenes in movie history…]

"You're a disease. And I'm the cure..."

“You’re a disease. And I’m the cure…”

CATEGORY 1: THE D – BAGS

Corvette Tag

Simple rule readers: if you’re going to buy a bright yellow Corvette, you have to have a d-bag license plate to go with it. This particular driver, however, needs further “XLR8”-tion than his sports car can offer.

Out to win

This Michigander is out to win, apparently. I can tell you when he wasn’t winning, though: when he backed his shiny pick-up truck into the pole that dented his rear bumper. Perhaps the truck was just too much for him to handle?

Guess he can’t win enough to pay for the body work to get it fixed, either…

BMW Tag

There’s ALWAYS a BMW in this category. Always. The d-baggery that is this license plate speaks for itself. (Spotted by Portly Chronicles reader Sama S.)

Red Roe

This photo was going to be placed in the “WTF” Category, because my first reaction was “what the hell is a red roe?”

Then I looked it up on the all-knowing interwebs.

Red Roe, allegedly, is a really fancy type of fish paste that is often paired with caviar, seen here:

Red Roe. Fancy.

Red Roe. Fancy.

Now that my eyes have been opened, my GOD, the pretentiousness was just oozing through Jenkintown, where this Audi was spotted, the day this car drove through it.

WUD EVER

This person cut me off a minute before the picture. D-bag. Wud Evr, dude.

560SL

Judging from the position of the middle brake light on the trunk lid, this is either a 1988 or 1989 Benz 560SL, one of the finest vehicles ever built. BUT. Can somebody please tell this guy that Steve McQueen drove a 1968 Mustang Fastback?

American balls to the wall power vs. German Roadster Finesse are two equally important but very different things, sir…

Steve McQueen in his character's '68 Mustang Fastback. Classic cool.

Steve McQueen in his character’s ’68 Mustang Fastback. Classic cool.

CATEGORY 2: THE WTF? CATEGORY 

Ninja Tag

Do Ninjas drive Cadillacs? Personally, I like to picture four of them packed into an early 80’s Honda Civic…

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Dear driver of the the mid-90’s Expedition: There are no ocean views in the Commonwealth. Anywhere.

Witness

Witness……to what? To a crime? Are you in the witness protection program (maybe the program paid for the Jeep?)

Alternatively, he may just be a fan of off-beat 80’s Harrison Ford movies where Amish kids witness murders in Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station men’s room…

Sorry gentlemen, Kelly McGillis came out as a lesbian in 2009. She made amish about as sexy as it possibly could be.

Sorry gentlemen, Kelly McGillis came out as a lesbian in 2009. She made being amish about as sexy as it possibly could be.

Moving on.

Snow Plate

This person really likes snow, apparently. Double points for the irony of this photo that it was taken in the rain. (Spotted by Portly Chronicles reader Sama S.)

CATEGORY 3: WORTH A GOOD LAUGH 

My favorite category – people with a good sense of humor or, even better, simply don’t care what you think about their license plate…

Pittsburgh license plate

Admittedly, anywhere else in the country, trying to figure out what “IHRTPGH” means may have given me a moment of pause. But, spotting this plate in Allegheny County, in a copper-color vehicle with a Pittsburgh Steelers license plate border didn’t throw up too many roadblocks to my skills of deduction.

As a loyal fan of one of the worst teams in the AFC, the San Diego Chargers, I was going to put this person, by default, into the D-Bag category. I didn’t, however, because you have to admire this person’s (skinny redneck blonde girl in her early 20’s btw) memorialized love for the steel city and pairing it with her copper-color car.

Expedition

Happy anniversary, baby! I bought you a mid-90’s Ford Expedition with rust in the quarter panels, BUT we’re going to splurge on the specialty Virginia tags that have the red Cardinal on them!

Jeep Patriot

This Jeep Patriot, certainly the most underwhelming model in the Jeep lineup, was the cleanest vehicle on the freeway that particular day and blinged out to the max – 20% tint and chromed out rims and all. Driven by a retiree.

Hey, God bless him. He loves his Jeep. I love mine, too.

CATEGORY 4: VANITY PLATE WIN.

As always with this series, there is one plate that just tops them all. This particular episode’s winner was taken by Portly Chronicles contributor Bianca H., who described the driver as an overweight, older version of Cuban-American singer Pitbull:

40 and sexy!

 

Memories of September 11, 2001 – Part 2 of a 2-part series

It was my second month of my sophomore year of college, fall semester 2001, but a new college to me as I had recently transferred from a university in Connecticut to a school in Los Angeles County that was closer to home.

Tuesday morning meant Microeconomics at 8AM. A dreadful class with an even more dreadful professor. At the time, I was living in a triple (as were many students in the “bubble” class of 2004) with a student from Montana and another from Hong Kong. The latter’s alarm clock, a weird looking cat that yelled in japanese, went off, as per routine, at 6:15AM. It yelled its typical “O-HI-OOOOOOOO” greeting. (I later learned this means “hello” in Japanese.) He hit the snooze button and went back to sleep.

I decided to get up a little earlier than usual and walked down the hallway into the communal showers in the middle of the building. Typical for that hour on a Tuesday, the dorm was dead silent and it seemed like I was the only one awake.

After a long shower, I walked back down the hallway and found four other students glued to the TV in the room next to ours – weird at that hour. No cable in the dorms meant rabbit ears, and they were being frantically adjusted.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. The TV depicted the beginning of the work day in NYC and both towers of the World Trade Center in New York were on fire. Smoke billowing out of them. The reporter on the TV was discussing the possibility of a terrorist attack.

When it was time to leave for class, we watched one of the towers collapse. In real time.

Just 7 months before, in February, 2001, I visited the top of the World Trade Center with my older brother. Now it was gone. Life in the United States would never be the same again.

The point of the foregoing is that the routine, otherwise mundane events of a Tuesday morning in college are now permanently memorialized in my brain, as they are for so many others who lived through that time, given the gravity of the moment. I know so many from my personal and professional life, especially after moving to the east coast, that have much more poignant, vivid memories of September 11. I won’t share what isn’t mine to tell.

I will keep this article short because so many readers have their own stories and memories from that day and days that followed. My experiences are, thankfully, a lot less devastating than many others. For me, it was a direct blow to my country. For others, it was, in addition, a direct blow to their families and livelihood.

In memory of the 2,977 victims of September 11, 2001, represented by the United States and 90 other countries. 

Flight 93 Memorial – Part I of a 2-part Series Remembering September 11, 2001

When I started this blog last spring, it was originally intended to be a light-hearted break from the day-to-day monotony of my insurance defense law practice. I apologize in advance for breaking from that in order to discuss some history from September 11, 2001, a historical event much more serious than the topics of my usual rantings and very close to my heart, along with the hearts of countless Americans (and many others around the world who lost people that day).

I was going through some pictures today in my iPhotos app and stumbled upon photos I shot around this time last year. I was in the middle of one of my many road trips to visit family in Southeastern Michigan. En route, just west of Pittsburgh on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, is a sign near the Somerset, PA exit advertising the existence of the Flight 93 U.S. Memorial. Every time I had seen this sign in the past, I kept telling myself I’d stop during the “next trip” when I had more time. In September, 2012, I actually stopped.

After finding these pictures today, I realized that in only a handful of days we are coming up on 12 years (I cannot believe it has been that long) since that horrible day. In honor of those who perished on September 11, 2001, the following is Part I of a 2-part series on selected topics from this tragic (understatement) historical event.

Entry to the Flight 93 Memorial in rural Pennsylvania

Entry to the Flight 93 Memorial in rural Pennsylvania

Once you exit the turnpike, you have to drive another 30-40 minutes north into rural, western Pennsylvania to reach the crash site of United Airlines Flight 93.

I:     BACKGROUND RE: UAL FLIGHT 93

As most of the readers of this blog will already know, UAL 93 was one of four planes hijacked on September 11, 2001. I note, however, that this blog has developed an international readership as well (something I never expected in a million years). As a courtesy to our readers over seas, I will provide some background information regarding UAL Flight 93:

Departing Newark Liberty Int’l Airport (EWR) and destined for San Francisco Int’l (SFO), it is believed that the Boeing 757-200 was hijacked by terrorists somewhere over Ohio, turned around and destined for a target in Washington, D.C. Although the exact intended target is not known, the majority of the evidence gathered to date indicates that the terrorists were heading toward the U.S. Capitol Building.

Photo credit: Joe G. Walker

Photo credit: Joe G. Walker

The above photograph depicts the actual aircraft that crashed on September 11, 2001, operating at the time as UAL Flight 93. Tail Number N591UA. This particular photo was taken by aviation photographer Joe Walker at Boeing Field, the date of its delivery to United Airlines on June 28, 1996.

The terrorists on Flight 93 were doomed by a combination of logistics, delays and an incredibly brave group of flight crew and passengers. The flight was delayed 42 minutes on the tarmac at EWR due to morning rush hour congestion out of the airport. American Airlines Flight 11, the first plane to hit the World Trade Center, would crash into the North Tower of the World Trade Center only four minutes after UAL 93 got airborne.

By the time the hijacking of UAL 93 occurred, both towers of the World Trade Center had been hit and a cockpit intrusion warning had been passed along from ATC to the pilots of UAL 93. The hijacking then occurred only 7-9 minutes before American Airlines Flight 77 was crashed into the Pentagon.

The timing was important because, through the use of Airphones and cellular phones, passengers were able to reach out to loved ones and emergency operators about the hijacking.

At that time, most passenger rows in commercial airliners were equipped with an Airphone behind the middle seat. These have mostly been phased out today.

At that time, most passenger rows in commercial airliners were equipped with an Airphone behind the middle seat. These have mostly been phased out today.

Details on the other terrorist attacks to the World Trade Center and Pentagon were relayed to the passengers on board UAL 93. The passengers quickly deduced that their plane was likely headed for another target similar to the other hijacked planes. After a vote, they decided to revolt and attempt re-taking the airplane.

The actual flight path of UAL 93, indicating its final resting place near Shanksville, PA.

The actual flight path of UAL 93, indicating its final resting place near Shanksville, PA, only 20 minutes flying time from Washington, D.C.

Depending on how you look at it, the attempt to re-take the plane was both successful and unsuccessful. Per the voice cockpit recordings, it appears that the terrorists were able to physically hold off the passengers until a point when the plane was ultimately crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Some of the evidence suggests that the terrorists made a conscious effort to crash the plane as a direct consequence of the passenger revolt.

Though the plane was never re-taken by the passengers, they succeeded in preventing God knows how many additional deaths had the terrorists succeeded in their mission. Today, the passengers are justly remembered as heros.

Further, the plane, despite its capacity of 182 passengers + crew, took off with only 37 passengers and 7 crew members. United’s statistics for the flight, which was a regularly scheduled flight, showed an average of 90 passengers per flight for that routing. Many more could have died.

A dedication at the memorial photo documenting all of the passengers and crew members who perished during the flight.

A dedication at the memorial photo documenting all of the passengers and crew members who perished during the flight.

II.     THE MEMORIAL

I didn’t know what to expect when I visited the memorial. By the time I saw it, I knew a fair amount about Flight 93, but knew nothing about the actual memorial. I also had no idea about much of the backstory regarding these individuals, the effect on the surrounding community and how long it took to erect an official memorial at the site. A makeshift memorial was in place for a decade following the crash.

The site was sold to the federal government in August, 2009 for $9.5 Million; though the actual crash site is limited to a small area, the land emcompassing the memorial is made up of acres upon acres of beautiful hills and greenery. Some very nice, uninhabited land literally in the middle of nowhere.

When I visited, I drove through a field of baby sappling trees no taller than 3-4 feet in height. There were thousands of them. I later learned that there is one planted for each victim on September 11, 2001 and will eventually grow to be quite large. Someday I intend to revisit the site with my kids and see how large they have grown.

The memorial was dedicated on September 10, 2011 almost a decade to the day after the attacks. The design involves a gate that you walk through, with a long, black marble pathway running along the edge of the debris field from the crash.

Flight 93 Memorial Pathway

This pathway leads (its a decently long walk) to marble panels. Each panel has a name of one of the passengers or crew members carved into it. It is very tastefully done. Looking down the length of the panels, the line of sight leads through a wooden gate that forms a direct line of sight to the bulk of the crash site. A gap in the tree line remains to this day from the trees which burned in the crash.

Looking down the length of the panels (one victim's name per panel), through the gate at the end which leads directly to the bulk of the crash site.

Looking down the length of the panels (one victim’s name per panel), through the gate at the end which leads directly to the bulk of the crash site.

After visiting the site, you’re directed through a separate set of doors near the entry gate that contain a vestibule. The vestibule has a thumb-tac board and note paper on which you have the option to leave your thoughts behind. In my opinion, this was by far the most moving part of the entire memorial.

Flight 93 Memorial Notes 1

Flight 93 Memorial Notes 2

In sum, if you are ever remotely close to the area, I recommend a visit. It is so far off the beaten path that there aren’t very many tourists around. It’s quiet, peaceful, and incredibly tasteful and execution.

III.     UNFATHOMABLE COURAGE

I never ceased to be amazed when I ponder the courage shown by the passengers and crew of Flight 93. I try to put myself in their shoes, as much as that’s even remotely possible, and wonder what I would have done in the same situation under the same set of facts. I can only hope that I would be able to demonstrate the same fortitude.

Keep in mind, when the passenger revolt began on Flight 93, evidence suggests that all pilots had been killed at this point. So, even if the passengers had been successful in re-taking the airplane, how in the world would were they to land it safely? They were dead, either way. I can only conclude, as do most, that they acted out of an interest in preventing further death beyond those already trapped on board, based on reports they were receiving from the ground from loved ones and phone operators. I can’t even begin to imagine what they felt given their lack of options, yet they were able to act none-the-less.

In my opinion, the passengers who participated in this piece of history stand out as an incredible example of courage.

For a complete list of victims and their bios, I highly recommend reading up on all of them in the attached link:

http://www.honorflight93.org/remember/?fa=passengers-crew

September 11 Panel at Flight 93 Memorial