On 9/11, this fighter pilot was sent on a kamikaze mission to possibly kill her father



By RYAN GORMAN

Each American experienced the 9/11 terror attacks differently, but one woman was ordered by the U.S. military to possibly kill her own father that morning.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Heather "Lucky" Penney, an F-16 pilot at the time, was ordered into the air to intercept United Airlines Flight 93. Her father was a flight captain for United at the time.

Even more amazingly, she told the Washington Post three years ago, her fighter jet was unarmed – it had no missiles. She was to be a kamikaze pilot if necessary.

"We wouldn't be shooting it down. We'd be ramming the aircraft," Penney recalls to the Post. "I would essentially be a kamikaze pilot."

It turns out that her father, retired Air Force Col. John Penney, was not piloting United 93, but she had no way of knowing at the time. It would not have shaken her resolve.

"This sounds cold-hearted; I mean that was my daddy," Heather Penney told the Post from Reno, where she and her father were flying for separate teams in the 2011 Reno Air Races.

"But, frankly, there was no way for me to know, and it would not have changed what I needed to do at all," she said.

John Penney was flying United planes out of the East Coast at the time, and it has occurred to him more than once how lucky he was to not be on that flight.

"We talked about the possibility that I could have been on the plane," Col. John Penney told the Post. "She knew I was flying that kind of rotation.

"But we never fell down and emotionally broke apart or anything like that. She's a fighter pilot; I'm a fighter pilot."

Heather Penney planned to aim for the Boeing 757's tail while Col. Marc Sasseville would go for the cockpit, she told the Post.

"God, don't let me f**k this up," "Lucky" said as she raced toward United 93, she recalled to the paper.

By the time both Heather Penny and Sasseville raced over a smoking Pentagon and out over Pennsylvania, the plane had already gone down.

Their lives were spared, but many were lost, including that of a family friend.

A friend of John Penney's, Captain John Dahl, was the pilot of United 93 that fateful morning, he told the Post.

Had the passengers of that plane not overcome the terrorists and taken it down in a field outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania, "Lucky" would have died killing his best friend, among others.

"It would have been utterly devastating for my wife and I," John Penney told the Post. "With Jason on the plane, it would have been an additional level of grief. But there were thousands of families that learned about the loss of their loved ones that day.

"Everybody had a job to do."

9/11 Museum Video: Shanksville
9/11 Museum Video: Shanksville


Related links:
'Pilgrimage: Looking at Ground Zero': Photographer shares how he documented the days after 9/11
Timeline of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on US homeland
World Trade Center complex on way to completion