First Officer Royce Fleitz, Mesa

In 2001, Royce Fleitz, vice chairman of the Mesa Air Group MEC, was a traffic pilot in Atlanta. The morning of September 11 started as a pretty routine day, as he flew around a reporter who provided the traffic updates to Atlanta residents. When the first reports came in that an airplane had hit the World Trade Center, Fleitz heard about it from that reporter.

He told me, an airplane ran into the towers, and they keep talking about it, he recalled.

Both thought it was a small plane, because the idea that it could be anything else was so inconceivable that it didnt initially cross their minds. But as more news reports came out, the reporter continued to update Fleitz, finally saying, I dont think anyone cares about traffic in Atlanta anymore.

They landed, and Fleitz went to meet his first scheduled flight student of the day. As he and his student were heading back to the airplane, other pilots and their students were heading back inside because all air traffic had ceased.

It is a day Ill never forget, Fleitz said. For years, he had had a recurring dream that one day, all air traffic would suddenly stop. I always associated it with the end of the world. So, I literally thought it could be the end of the world.