Pilot ordered to prevent 9/11 hijacked plane from reaching Washington D.C., retires

Air Force Lt. Gen. Marc H. Sasseville

A pilot with the United States Air Force known for his role in preventing a hijacked plane on Sept. 11, 2001, from making its way to Washington D.C. is retiring after decades on the job.

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U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Marc Sasseville is best known for his Sept. 11 flight in an F-16 to intercept hijacked Flight 93. That flight, according to the United States Department of Defense, was heading to the nation’s capital.

“One of the memories that will stay with me forever is seeing the Pentagon on fire and being able to smell the fumes that were coming off of that,” Sasseville told ABC News. “The burning concrete, the fuel from the airplane that it hit.”

Sasseville was an F-16 fighter pilot and was ordered with F-16 pilot Heather Penney to find United Airlines Flight 93 and prevent it from making its way to Washington, People magazine reported.

“My challenge was, how do we take down this very unique threat, a civilian airliner ... full of people, full of civilian people?” Sasseville told ABC News.

Passengers on board Flight 93 were able to change the hijackers’ plans with the plane ultimately crashing into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the Department of Defense said. Everyone on board was killed, according to ABC News.

“If those heroes on 93 -- and by the way, those are the real heroes -- if they hadn’t taken action and they hadn’t done what needed to be done, it would have been a very different outcome for me and my family,” Sasseville said.

Sasseville is retiring after around four decades on the job, which according to the Department of Defense includes 3,300 flight hours on multiple different aircraft.

“I don’t want to paint myself as paranoid, but I know that the bad guys are not letting up,” Sasseville said, according to the Department of Defense. “It’s easy to forget that there are still people out there who are competing with us, don’t value our systems like we do, don’t value the international order that we think has served us so well.

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