Naperville pilot Alec Blume left the gate at Dulles International Airport to fly to the New York area at roughly the same time the second plane hit the south tower at the World Trade Center in New York.
Pilot Alec Blume left the gate at 9:02 a.m. Sept. 11, 2001, and was cleared for takeoff to Newark, N.J., on runway 19R at Washington, D.C.'s Dulles International Airport when the flight crew was advised to stand by.
New York airspace no longer was accepting flights.
The reason, he was told, was because of "some sort of bombing at the World Trade Center."
His frustrations over not being on time that day immensely changed that September morning as he walked through the Dulles terminal past rows of mortified crowds gazing at televisions.
Two jets had hit the twin towers of the World Trade Center, 10 miles from where he was to land. Another plane that took off from Dulles just 40 minutes before Blume's scheduled flight was burning on the ground at the Pentagon.
Blume said his memories of that day often flood him with the sense of chaos and loss of control: panicked passengers dashing through the airport and flight crews being warned to leave because they could be targets.
At least his wife and children in Naperville were safe, and so was his sister in Manhattan, who could see much of the tragedy unfold from her office.
As a man in his 30s with young children then, Blume said for years he expressed hatred and contempt for the attackers.
"I think at the time I was pretty angry; even a year later I was still upset," said Blume, who has since moved to Lisle in the area served by Naperville School District 203.
Blume said the events of Sept. 11 also burst the bubble on a bloated airline industry, causing a chain reaction.
Not only did the carrier he worked for start to unravel and go out of business, but so did his dream of becoming a pilot with a larger company.
"There is no question that my career was substantially changed," he said. "Everybody's life changed that day."
Blume said his perspective has tempered over the past 15 years, which he attributes to a greater global awareness and maturity.
"It's clear to me that the condemnation of an entire group of people or religion is wrong," he said.
The real people to blame, he said, are individuals who twist their religious beliefs to suit their radical thinking.
That paradigm shift in thinking allowed Blume to work for a company in Saudi Arabia.
He said he frequently travels there on business and has met many Saudi people with strong faith who are friendly and inviting.
"The irony is not lost on me daily," he said.
Although he's no longer in the cockpit, Blume now combines his flight knowledge with his software skills to make airlines safer.
Blume says no one ever should forget 9/11, and terrorist bombings worldwide are evidence of that.
"We can never let down our guard. I know it's still lurking there," Blume said. "I don't spend my days dwelling on it. I'm not going to live in fear.
"What will come next, we don't know."