Jerry Beaty had wanted to take to the skies since he can remember.
"As a child I knew I wanted to fly," he said.
That desire almost led to the end of his life on Sept. 11, 2001 when terrorists hijacked four planes, three of them crashing nose-first into buildings.
Beaty, a longtime United Airlines pilot, had been flying the weekday route from Boston to Los Angeles for three months prior to that fateful day. The flight was United 175, which would be the second of two planes to hit the World Trade Center.
"Two days before Sept. 11 they called me up and said 'Capt. Beaty, you've been displaced and are now on vacation, have a good time'," he said. "I was on vacation when I was supposed to be on the flight."
He remembers where and what he did on that day vividly.
"My wife and I had left our home in Atascocita and were going to our son's dental office to help him with some work," Beaty said. "My daughter called me and told me something was going on in New York so I dropped my wife off and went to my daughter's to watch TV. I immediately knew it was terrorism."
Beaty said he began mulling over the many casual conversations he had with fellow pilots about security and how many of them feared something like this would eventually happen, when he heard a familiar flight number.
"They started talking about 175 and then I saw that plane do a hard bank and slam into the building," he said. "My heart leapt into my throat."
Beaty said he knew the pilot that had taken over Flight 175, Victor Saracini, and that many of the flight attendants were the same ones that he flew with.
"Victor and I went through several training deals together and I think we even flew together on a DC-10 years ago," he said. "He left behind a beautiful wife and kids in New York. The flight attendants had flown the trip with me all summer long."
That night he had another moment that made his heart skip a beat.
"They were showing pictures of the hijackers on TV and I recognized (Mohammed) Atta (who flew American Flight 11 into the other World Trade Center tower)," Beaty said. 'I told my family that he was on my flight several times that summer. When I saw his picture I almost jumped out of my skin."
"Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night seeing that face," he said. 'It's just seared into your brain."
When Beaty and the rest of the nation finally took again to the skies, he remembers a conversation he had with one of his fellow pilots.
"He told me that on his plane there was an incident in New York that same day, where a plane taxiing back to the gate after flights had been grounded, when four guys started screaming and yelling 'we have to go today, we have to go now'," Beaty said. "The airport police questioned them and just let them go."
Beaty said he still remembers the people that were lost that day and for several years it haunted him.
"For the first four or five years it was one of those things where I had a lot of survivors guilt," he said. "I got actively involved in support and survivors organizations and that helped. I used to sit there at 9 a.m. and count down the minutes until the exact time that 175 hit – I don't do that anymore."
Beaty said that while his world changed that day, he doesn't let it define him as a person.
"Every 9/11 morning I wake up early – earlier than I would on any other day – and I don't know why, but I do," he said. "Now when I wake up my mind is focused on what I have to do that day and not just the history of it all. It's a different world now."