Above & Beyond: Pushback: Newark Airport, 8:45 a.m.

What 9/11 looked like from one airliner’s cockpit

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When we finished our cockpit checks, the main entry door slammed and locked behind us. The head flight attendant poked her head in the cockpit and announced, "Cabin's ready."

Pushing back, the tug driver had us facing east. We waited for him to disconnect and give us the all-clear signal. After starting our engines, I reached down to pull my sunglasses out of my flight bag and caught what seemed like a flash of lightning out of the corner of my eye.

"Did you just see that?" the captain asked.

I looked up and saw thick black smoke beginning to drift across lower Manhattan.

"What happened?" I replied. "Is that smoke coming from the World Trade Center?"

"It looked like an explosion," the captain said.

"Was that smoke there when we pushed?" I asked.

"I don't think so."

We spent the next few minutes wondering if we had seen secondary explosions due to an out-of-control fire. Whatever the case, the sight was horrifying.

"I hope they have a way to get those people out of there," I said.

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