175: A Story From the Only Undocumented Passenger Onboard Flight 175

Braden Knapp, Guest Writer

My legs trembled beneath me as I dashed through the crowded airport, hurdled over chairs, weaved in and out between the wave of people. I ran so fast, but to my surprise, security had not chased me. Nobody seemed to mind the boy who raced mindlessly through the terminal. I finally made it to my departure and skillfully snuck aboard the plane. I swear the pilot saw me as I crept aboard, but he just winked and went on with his job. Finally! I thought. There is a new life ahead of me.

* * *

My younger years had been bombarded with misfortune. Born on January 2, 1986. I was born into a happy little family, but my birth seemed to bring hard times along with it. At the age of two, my dad died in a fishing rig accident, an event which crushed my mom. She had no college degree, but somehow found a job as a secretary for a small time lawyer in Downtown Boston. When their firm went bankrupt, my mom went once again in a deep bout of depression which ultimately took her life in 1998 when she overdosed on prescription medication. With nowhere to go, I packed all essentials and went out to live in the streets of Boston. There I met a boy named Marius Johnson, who became my best friend and guide. He taught me all the rules of homeless living. At this point, I was content; I had everything I wanted, or so I thought.


One sunny summer day in 2001, I got word from an aunt of mine that lived out in Las Angeles. She had tried to contact me for the past three years with no success, but with the help of Boston locals her mail reached me. She proposed that I move out to Las Angeles to live with her family and finish school so I could go on to find a career. I was overjoyed! I had no money, but I searched for flights in hopes that I could sneak aboard and fly directly to Las Angeles. All I had skillfully planned came down to September 11, 2001, where I left behind the horrors of my past life and started fresh once again.

* * *

I sat in the only full row on United Airlines Flight 175 and hoped that my unwanted boarding would go unnoticed. Upon getting settled in seat 19B, I pulled out this book that Marius and I had studied the past two years, the Bible. We were not avid readers, but something about the Bible was different, especially to Marius. He would read it in the morning before our breakfast and at night before we went to bed. He prayed and talked to God. I tried to follow along, but I had a harder time grasping the existence of a Divine Being. Half of me wanted to stay and learn more with Marius, but I knew I had been called to leave my past. Marius’s final words to me before I left were, “Friend, we have grown so close the past 3 years. I pray you will grow close to Him like we have bonded so well to each other.”

The final boarding call was made, and before I knew it, we were headed out onto the runway.  The engines spooled up, and in a moment we rocketed into the clouds. Still reading the Bible, my heart raced as I came across 2 Corinthians 5:17. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” I pondered. New creation, a new start, a second chance! I was starting to realize that not only was my earth life being renewed, but also my spiritual life.

My peace and quiet was abruptly halted by the commotion happening in the front of the plane. There were two middle-eastern men shouting and waving their arms, but I couldn’t tell what was happening. In a matter of a few seconds, two other men from the front briskly escorted the stewardesses to the back. Muffled screams erupted, and the tension slowly grew. There were now three men up front, who swiftly got through the cabin door and into the cockpit. There was silence for a brief moment, and in that silence I looked about the plane. Pale faces met my gaze. All in an instant, the plane veered sharply southward as engines began to whine louder. All the passengers screamed. The tilt of the plane threw me out of my seat and onto the floor. As I lay still on the ground, I winced up toward the cockpit and I saw a blood-stained, uniformed body which lay lifeless on the floor. The pilot! I thought. They killed the pilot, oh Jesus oh Jesus!” I banged on the window and looked down over the land, hopelessly praying, somebody help us!

For the first time thus far, someone tried to make contact with the ground. Peter Hanson, a nicely dressed businessman further down my row, contacted his father to wish his goodbyes. I looked at the tears streaming down his face onto the laps of his wife and daughter. It was only at this point that reality struck; I am going to die. I realized now that this event was no accident.

“Anything you need there, sir?” I quietly asked Peter. He did not speak, but motioned for my Bible and flipped through its contents. He found a text and slowly handed the Bible back.

“Pray!” He said.

My hands trembled as I received the Bible in my grasp. The pages were opened right to Matthew 6:9, the Lord’s Prayer. I had never recited it before, but something about it reassured me in my final destiny. Our altitude dropped steadily as we entered New York City, the plane facing directly at the World Trade Center, but my spirits had risen.

“God!” I shouted. “I am not afraid! I know I will see you someday very soon!”



Editors, History.com. “9/11 Attacks.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 17 Feb. 2010, www.history.com/topics/21st-century/9-11-attacks

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Locker, Ray. “10 Things You May Have Forgotten about 9/11.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 11 Sept. 2017, www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2016/09/10/10-things-you-may-have-forgotten-911/90007376/.

National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, pentagonmemorial.org/sites/all/themes/pmf/timelines/9-11-timeline/6.html.

“Timeline for United Airlines Flight 175.” NPR, NPR, 17 June 2004, www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1962517.

“911 Flight Transcripts.” Rutgers University Law Review, www.rutgerslawreview.com/2011/full-audio-transcript/.