The attacks of September 11 are full of many amazing and heartbreaking stories of loss, heartbreak and heroism. We’ve heard from those who escaped the World Trade Center buildings and the Pentagon, as well as those who rushed to a Pennsylvania field to find a smoldering crater. Each of those tales is unique and tells the narrative of a story that seems to have no end, but there is one unique story with which you may not be familiar. It’s about the one American not on the planet that fateful September day.
Frank Culbertson was the Commander of Expedition 3, a three-man crew (one American astronaut; 2 Russian cosmonauts) on board the International Space Station as it orbited the planet every 90 minutes. The veteran NASA Astronaut had more than his share of unique experiences as a three-time flier aboard the Space Shuttle and a veteran fighter pilot with the U.S. Navy. His solitary American experience that clear September day offered him the most unique view of the worst day in modern American history.
Frank recorded his thoughts and experiences at the time in an open letter that was circulated shortly after the attacks. Given the multitude of media coverage at the time, his letter and his unique perspective did not get the public attention it certainly deserved. With the ten-year anniversary observances underway, deserved attention is finally being given to Frank, his unique letter and his one in 250 million American experiences.
As part of its efforts to commemorate the events of 10 years ago, NASA Television produced a short form video of Frank’s experiences. His story and experience are like none you have ever heard before.