Mike Scagnelli was hunting caribou in a remote part of northern Quebec on September 11th, 2001. Mike, assistant chief of New York City's police department, was enjoying a well deserved vacation. He had already taken one caribou and was stalking a second when he heard gunfire from camp. All the hunters were gone, and he assumed something was wrong.
He hiked back, and met the camp manager, who met him half way. "The manager said the outfitter was looking for me," Mike said. "He had a satellite phone, and I feared the news wasn't good."
"To this day, I'll never forget the outfitter's words," Scagnelli said. "Michael, there's been a terrorist attack in the US," the man said. "Jetliners struck the Twin Towers in New York, another plane hit the Pentagon, and another went down in Pennsylvania."
Michael was stunned, completely shocked. "Oh my God," he said, "get me out of here. I've got to get back to New York."
The outfitter called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who contacted the NYC Police Department. Indeed, they wanted Mike in New York immediately. At that point, all air traffic in North America was under a no-fly rule. Every aircraft was grounded. The RCMP put the wheels in motion to get Michael to NYC. He was hustled into a float plane and was flown to a landing strip which was a drop-off point for hunters, where they would then normally fly in and out of Montreal. A plane was at the strip, packed with 40 hunters scheduled to fly out. But because it was grounded, they weren't going anywhere. The RCMP, working with the Canadian and US government, gave the pilot permission to fly to Montreal. Mike sat in the jump seat in the cockpit, since the plane was full.
In Montreal, the RCMP secured a Leer Jet and flew Mike to New York. During the flights, Mike was totally unnerved because he was receiving only bits and pieces of information. It was an eerie feeling to know there were no other planes flying anywhere in North America, and as far as he knew, tens of thousands of people were killed when the towers burned and collapsed.
Finally they approached New York City. It was around 8 o'clock pm, totally dark, and from the plane's window, Mike could see enormous fires where the Twin Towers once stood. LaGuardia airport was strangely dark, basically shut down. The runway lights flashed on just long enough for Mike's airplane to land. The Highway Patrol took him to his office where he changed from his hunting camo clothes to his uniform. At 9:20 that night, he was at the disaster site. He learned immediately that his best friend was killed in the attack. Mike Scagnelli lived through a nightmare as he toiled for weeks where the Twin Towers once stood.
Jon Fossell was at a remote drop camp in Alaska hunting moose with his son in September. They had no satellite phone, no communications at all, which is what they wanted. Jon had been the CEO of the Oppenheimer Fund, with 350 employees in the second Twin Tower. He had retired 5 years prior to the attack.
On September 11, the outfitter flew into Jon's tiny camp and told him the news. Though there was a no-fly rule, the outfitter made the flight to inform Jon that he couldn't fly him out as scheduled, but had to return to his base immediately. For several days, Jon sat in the camp and agonized about the fate of his former employees as well as the rest of the people in the towers and elsewhere.
Finally, he was flown out, and to his immense relief, learned that all 350 employees immediately left the second tower when the first one was struck. There were no casualties among his friends and former employees. He attributed their quick action to the bomb attack on one of the towers years before. Having survived that, they were taking no chances on September 11.
Bob Nosler, CEO of Nosler Ammo, was hunting in the Northwest Territories with a large group of hunters when the attack occurred. They waited for several days during the no-fly rule, and finally made it to their vehicle parked in Vancouver, Canada. At the border, they waited to be cleared by customs, and were understandably nervous when border agents completely stripped a car in front of them and searched it. The occupants of the car were two old women. Nosler's vehicle was loaded with guns and ammo. To their surprise, the agents waved them through with no problem.
Sammy Cantafio, an outfitter in Quebec, tells about one of the hunters in camp who learned that his sister-in-law was a flight attendant aboard the ill-fated jet that crashed into the Pennsylvania field. The man wanted to get home immediately, but remained stranded with his buddies until the no-fly rule was lifted. It was a horrible time for all concerned in that hunting camp.
Jerome Knap, owner of Canada North Outfitters, had a group of Louisiana hunters just leaving a caribou hunt on remote Baffin Island on September 11. When they received news of the attack, they were able to hire a driver and a van, tossed all their gear in, and were driven all the way to Louisiana.
Linda Powell, Press Relations Manager for a firearms company, was scheduled to fly west on a hunt just after the no-fly rule was lifted. Despite concerns from her fellow employees and supervisor, she went anyway. With a great deal of difficulty, because of the chaos in the airports and airline schedules, she made it most of the way. She described the Atlanta airport, the biggest in the world, as being a ghost town. Only a few people were in the concourses. There were four people on her flight. Before takeoff the captain walked back and shook hands with each of them, thanking them for flying and saying, "May God Bless America."
Unlike most travelers, Linda was not going to be intimidated by the terrorists. "By not flying, the terrorists would have won," Linda said. "They want to strike fear into Americans and disrupt our lifestyles. I wasn't willing to let that happen," Linda is currently Press Relations Chief for Mossberg firearms.
Well said, Linda. And, as the pilot said, and in these troubled days as well, May God Bless America.
WE WILL NEVER FORGET
NOTE. All of the above accounts were related to me personally by the people involved, and not from secondary sources. This is a condensed version of an article I wrote for North American Hunting Club magazine on the 10th anniversary of the attack.