911 Anniversary: D.C. Air National Guard Pilots Recall Scrambling F-16s to Nation's Capital


Aguilar said he and his wingman did not know where Air Force One was flying, but they positioned their aircraft in an escort formation with Aguilar several miles ahead of the president's plane checking the radar for any possible threats.

He speculated that given their altitude and speed, the only thing that could catch them would be another fighter jet, but he made sure he didn't miss anything on his radar screen.

"It was just a little humbling to be trusted with that responsibility, flying next to Air Force One with live missiles and hot guns," Aguilar said.

Air Force One eventually landed at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana and Aguilar provided air cover over Barksdale until Air Force One took off for Offutt AFB in Nebraska before returning to Washington.

He says now that he was prepared to shoot down any aircraft that might have targeted Air Force One while it was in the air, but he thinks now he would have likely carried out a proportional response, striking an aircraft engine so the passengers aboard could have landed safe. "You feel conflicted, you have to do what needs to be done for your country," he said.

Of the events that day, Aguilar said, "it was an event that changed the world, it impacted my life tremendously."

Aguilar has served four deployments over Iraq. "It's just doing my duty, serving as a soldier, as an airman," he said, "going where I'm called to."

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