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These stories originally aired on WCBU on Sept. 10, 2021, during a half-hour special broadcast marking the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

A Princeton Couple Thanks God For The Last-Minute Change That Kept Them Off American Airlines Flight 11

Luigi Novi
Wikimedia Commons - Public Domain
The names of passengers and crew of American Airlines Flight 11 are seen on Panel N-74 of the North Pool of the National September 11 Memorial in Manhattan, as seen on April 28, 2012.

Joan Parker remembers watching the Twin Towers climb up to a place of prominence in the Lower Manhattan skyline as the World Trade Center was under construction half a century ago.

Twenty years ago, the Princeton, Illinois, native was living in Rye, New York, a suburb about 20 miles outside New York City.

Her husband, Kit McKittrick, often found himself in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for business. The visits became so frequent the family bought a second home in Portsmouth. They quickly became familiar with Logan International Airport in Boston, about 40 miles away.

"Time went on. In Kit's business, he was invited to go to Los Angeles, to a company out there, and I was going to go along with him, to accompany him," Parker recalled. "And our scheduled date to fly was September 11, 2001.

It was American Airlines Flight 11, a direct trip from Logan International Airport in Boston to LAX.

But then the couple received a call that would change their lives forever.

"A couple days before, Kit got a phone call (from the airline), saying, 'Hey, we need to reschedule, and instead of flying on the 11th, do you think he could change it to the 10th?' And Kit said, 'Well, let me try.' And we did," Parker said.

The couple were comfortably sipping coffee in their Los Angeles hotel room on the morning of September 11 when they flicked the TV on. That's when they found out American Airlines Flight 11 was hijacked, and the plane had struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

Courtesy Joan Parker
A photo of the lower Manhattan skyline taken by Joan Parker's son, Timmy, on September 12, 2001.

"We saw the plane come in to the tower. We just sat on the bed, and were just like, what. And at the time, all we can think of, or we talked out loud, was, 'Oh my God, those people on that plane.' Because that would have been us," she said. "And then when the other tower got hit, I remember Kit saying 'those towers are gonna go down.' And they did. And nothing was the same after that," she said.

Parker said she believes a higher power kept her and her husband from ending up on that flight.

"I felt just so, so awful about those that were lost. And then to hit the buildings. So yeah, I take a deep breath. And I'm going to be honest with you, but it was supposed to be that we did not get on that flight," Parker said. "And I'm still parenting four adult children and grandparent of eight kiddos. So I'm just glad that God provided me that opportunity to continue to live. But I say a lot of prayers, starting about now, going toward 9/11. That's for sure. That's for sure."

Parker's son, Timmy, worked as the head costume designer at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. She received a frantic call from him in 2003, during a blackout impacting much of the northeastern U.S.

"It was like in the afternoon. And he said, 'What the hell's going on?' He's in a subway and New York City had a blackout. But when you're in a subway and having experienced 9/11, you think it's another one," Parker said. "And I was able to say to him, 'No, all of you are in a blackout, and you're going to be OK.' But I remember the panic in his voice. Because he was a Lincoln Center guy that, like many, many others, walked home that day to Brooklyn, because everything was shut down. But his memory is paper, ashes and paper all over."

Courtesy Joan Parker
A photo of the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero taken by Joan Parker's son, Timmy.

Parker has visited Ground Zero twice since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"It is a memorial to all those that were lost. But I do remember when that was just a pit. And my son and I were going down there. This must have been, 10 years ago, 12 years ago, that we were going to the Battery and having to go through where the towers were," Parker said. "But it was a pit, like a construction pit. And there were tourists there, shall we say, with cameras, walking around. And it was dead silence. It was like everyone was being respectful of this area."

Parker has also returned more recently to view the completed memorial.

"I encourage anyone who can, to go to the Towers Memorial and take a big long look. And you will cry. But you will be respectful, and it's something as a United States citizen, we all should do it if possible. But if not, say a prayer for all those that are up in heaven," she said.

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