It was one of those crystal-clear mornings that seemed to promise only good things. Americans rushed into it going to work, the airport, the places they went every day. But, out of nowhere, a stunning attack that threated to wipe out symbols of American security and stability.
Captain Leroy Wilton Homer, Jr. worked for United Airlines. He had been flying planes since the age of 16, graduated from the United States Air Force Academy, and as a commercial pilot his assignment that day was Flight 93 from Newark, New Jersey to San Francisco.
“Leroy became a part of everything that happened,” says Pauline Smith, executive director of the Leroy Wilton Homer, Jr. Foundation. “He took it upon himself once he realized there were terrorists, he jammed up the flight controls so they were not able to take over the plane. It was such an heroic act.”
The heroism of the seven-member crew and its 33 passengers is widely known. Their jet barreled toward the U.S. Capitol as passengers and crew battled the terrorists. They had heard about the earlier attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. When they realized the plan for their plane, they fought for their lives and the lives of those who had been marked for death in the al-Qaeda plot unfolding that September morning. Their bravery ended in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Leroy Homer’s widow, Melodie, wrote the book.From Where I Stand, on the 10-year anniversary of the attacks. Smith says, “In Melodie’s book she outlines everything on September 11th, and everything that has happened since that time. She has taken her grief and turned it into something positive.”
One of the ways Melodie Homer keeps her husband’s memory alive is through the foundation named for him. The Leroy Wilton Homer, Jr. Foundation awards scholarships to aspiring pilots. Applicants must be 16-23 years old and wish to pursue and obtain a private pilot’s license. Smith describes the application process as “pretty intense” with an emphasis on good grades and community service.
Members of the foundation will spend this anniversary much like they have spent others. They give speeches about the man they admired and the nation he served. “It’s hard every year, “ says Smith. But, she adds, “We all need to remember what people like Leroy, pilot Jason Dahl, and the other crew members did…they sacrificed themselves to protect the nation.”