Airborne on 9/11: Defending Cheyenne Mountain

Published 2021-09-10
This time last year we heard from Martin "Opus" Richard who was airborne in an F-15 Eagle over Manhattan during the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01.

This year, on the 20th anniversary of that fateful day, we hear from Tim "Conk" Conklin of the Colorado Air National Guard who was also airborne, only in an F-16 Viper and over Denver and Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, far from the actual attacks.

While we now understand who was behind those events and the extent of their plans, the fog of war during the early hours of the attack was almost fatal for "Bob," the unwitting general aviation pilot who took off prior to the attacks and returned only hours later to a much different world...

All Comments (21)
  • @manolog.9962
    I live here in Colorado Springs on the southeast side of the city (I can see Cheyenne Mountain from my house) and the memories of that day are still vivid in my mind. I remember watching the news and how they stated that every plane that was flying over the USA was immediately grounded, so I decided to go outside and look into the skies to see and hear any planes flying overhead. The only planes I heard flying were the sounds of the F-16 fighter jets patrolling over the city. After watching this video I can now put a face to one of the pilots who was flying over my state and city that day protecting us. Thank you Col. Conklin!
  • @therogueadmiral
    "Bob, the world has changed since you took off." What a line. A terrifying situation for everyone involved, I'm sure.
  • "How were the family's taking this?" OMG! I am a normal citizen but my Daddy was NOT. He was on Omaha Beach, had the Liberator medal for 1st jeep into Dachau, Special Services, 2 purple hearts, and the Silver Star. He died of cancer on 9/8/2001. His funeral was on 9/11. My husband and son were in the air hours before this all happened coming to Oklahoma for his funeral. I was waiting for the Limo's to come to pick us up when I saw the attack on the World Trade Center. My husband and son made it there about 3 hours before it all happened. My husband is Italian with a family that worked in the Towers. After the service, I was told by the airport that I could not take him home for burial as his remains are just "Cargo". Then, I was told that I had to " surrender" his medals and flag on his casket to the airport police (4 days later). They said, " the pin on the back of the medals could be used on the plain for an attack". I REFUSED to give them up and completely came unglued. I literally called the Head office of Veterans Affairs in Washington DC. Told them,( had a meltdown,) and some wonderful Commanding Officer called me back in about 10 minutes! He told me that " Your father was a War Hero. We have a plot reserved for him at Arlington and if you can tell me where you are, we will dispatch a jet to pick him up and take him." I Cannot, to this day say THANK YOU enough for all that you do for our freedom. As you can see, this family was DEVASTATED and very thankful for your protection! May God Bless you all for your service, and God Bless and Help the USA.
  • @donwillhoit6866
    We lived in Denver on 9/11. It was frightening. All my wife and I can say is thank you Conk for you and your squadron's service to us. You don't know who we are but are willing to make that sacrifice. Fantastic interview.
  • @PontiacBanker
    Great interview. My brother was stationed at Cheyenne Mountain on 9/11/01. He was at home when they got locked down & was told to wait there until they opened back up. The world indeed changed that day!
  • @Cat-ik1wo
    No matter how light they keep the conversation. Its whats between the lines that affects me. It always brings tears to my eyes. Its whats not being said, its the silence in between, that makes my heart skip a beat.
  • @NexusPain
    Crazy to think how a snarky answer to a radio call could have killed you that day...
  • @casparwhittey
    Amazing story. As a Denver high schooler at the time, I vividly remember this morning. It was a big motivator for joining the Navy a year later. I'm very proud of the professionalism described here. Also, as I grew up around Jefco / Rocky Mountain metro, I'm not at all surprised to hear about Bob.. Haha!
  • @randomdude4505
    I was an active duty enlisted marine stationed at Miramar on 9/11. One of the hardest things for me to get used to was looking up and seeing F/A-18s with live ordinance flying over San Diego. My civilian friends never why that bothered me.
  • @72floyd
    Wow. I can't believe there wasn't standard protocol for protection for NORAD in place. In my naivete I believed there was always fully prepped and loaded assets in place to protect Cheyenne Mountain. As a Navy aviation vet I would think there was an "Alert 5" asset available for emergency coverage. God bless these guys. Reminds me of those Air Corps pilots who managed to launch during Pearl Harbor.
  • @ladyscholar3421
    Thank you, Conk, for protecting the air while we were protecting the ground. I was a firefighter/EMT on duty that morning in Fountain, Colorado. CAFS and Ft Carson are in our response area. It was quite a chaotic day, but we all did what we were trained to do. We had several medical calls due to the anxiety and fear of the attacks that day and a few of our FFs hopped on a plane a few days later flying FTC personnel out to NYC to assist. It was interesting to see everyone working together as we did. Now, as an academician, I oversee, write, and teach upcoming first responders and homeland security personnel. My whole career path changed that day. Great interview!
  • @jamesmterrell
    Thanks to both of you. I lived and worked in Northern Virginia on 9/11. I had been out of the Navy 10 1/2 years and was frustrated I couldn't do anything except be the best civilian I could be.
  • @cankzilla
    Such an amazing story!! The part where you got the order "Red Eye 2, snap 330 ,max forward velocity, threat to Denver, 25 miles NW of Denver headed to the city" just was another level to what the Country had to do that day. I have never been in the military but always proud of those who serve and especially hearing about combat ready air stories! Thank you for all you guys did and continue to do!
  • @edmallon2851
    Was working in Denver that day just west of downtown and saw you guys flying. Thank you for keeping us civilians safe
  • @dalezjc
    I live in Colorado Springs, and I remember walking out to go to lunch on 9/11 and very vividly remember hearing jets in the sky above the city. We just assumed they were military, but we had no way of knowing. Awesome video.
  • @macedk
    Thanks for this video and thank you to Tim "Conk" Conklin. You provided safety that day and beyond. From Copenhagen Denmark.
  • On that day, my wife and I were both working for a major US airline headquartered in the largest state East of the Mississipi. She worked in the main offices. I worked om their mainenance area, mostly writing calibration procedures. One of the guys was from Brooklyn, and got a call from family about the "horrible accident" at the WTC. The TV in the break room was on for the rest of the day. When the second aircraft hit, every one of us who was a military veteran simultaneously said "Oh S**t, we are at war!" We were all told to go home about midafternoon. Walking outside was one of my wierdest experiences ever. Outside the hangar, and there was absolutely no aircraft in the air, and not a single sound of jet engines. At one of the largest and busiest airports in North America. Surreal. Aftermath: one of our guys was on vacation with his wife, in Aruba. Because of the shutdown they were forced to spend another week there - - we did try to feel sorry for them. I am prior service: Marines 1967-1973, first three years active duty, next three years active Reserve in the office of VMF-321. Followed by (a long time later) six years in the Air Force Reserve as an avionics maintainer with 315th MAW, on C-141s. It has been good for me to watch your view of that day. And i'm glad to hear that "Bob" got down safely.
  • @richjones859
    Glad you are doing these videos, especially enlight of recent cluster F…ks. Interesting too as I see Cheyenne mountain from my deck…. Long story short was in 1/75 Ranger battalion when 9/11 happened and immediately after we where armed and at the gates of Hunter Army Airfield until we where stood down.
  • @wwu21
    What a great interview. Thx for telling and thx for putting this footage up. Brings back the moments.
  • I was at that Bronco game. Eddie McCaffrey broke his leg during that game.That game saved some people's lives in NY,Ive seen-who were up late watching the Giants,& slept in late,instead of making it to work on time,or just called in sick hungover. We also thought later,if those terrorists had really been smart-crashing 2 planes into Mile High on MNF on national TV would've caused even more human carnage. If you crashed 1 basically at both end zones-you'd think you could trap & kill most of us 75,000 or so.