TOWN OF WALLKILL – Orange County native Matthew Gross was a Continental Express jet captain piloting a flight over Ohio on the morning of September 11, 2001 when air traffic control came on the radio instructing him to land his full plane immediately because of a national emergency.
He didn’t know what happened until he landed in Cleveland and saw the TV reports in the passenger terminal.
“It was a horrible day,” Gross said.
All planes were grounded for days after the attacks, but when they were being released to fly again, Gross piloted the first flight released in the country, flying from Cleveland to LaGuardia in New York City.
As he neared his destination, a voice came over his radio.
“It was the only time I heard an air traffic controller emotional,” Gross said. “We landed and he said, ‘God bless; thank you for landing safety at LaGuardia. Go to your hotel and sleep tight.”
Gross had another experience years later. As he took off from Newark International Airport, air traffic control asked him if he saw any activity in the Hudson River below.
He looked down seconds after Captain C.B. “Sully” Sullenberger landed his jetliner in the river off New York City.