Every year, when the date approaches, the memories arise. Sometimes they float around during the year but become more intense as the date draws closer.
These are my memories from the event known as 9/11.
Below is my inspector badge (in Hebrew).
*Note: My ID number is in black.
Between 2001 to 2003, I worked as an inspector in one of Ben Gurion International airport departments. Initially, I wanted to work in the security department at the airport. The Israeli airport security is considered one of the best, if not the best, in the world. But when I applied for a job, one of the security managers had a quick look at me, being 160cm in height, and he said, “he is too short. He will not pass through the crowd in an emergency”. A few years later, I proved him and others wrong when I worked in security at a higher level for the Israeli government. But that’s not the point of this post.
So let’s dive into the events from my perspective.
It was late in the afternoon in Israel, and I was asleep. I worked in unit number 170 for crime prevention and quality control at the Ben Gurion International airport in Israel, the central entry point to Israel. Our task was to work overtly in the operational side of the airport, also known as the aerial side of the airport. This was where the aeroplanes park, to monitor the suitcases unloaders when they are inside the plane’s belly, loading and unloading suitcases. The unit was established in the ’80s due to many thefts, and most employees were uni students. The porters would carrying pocket knives back then, and when they were uploading suitcases, they were stealing belongings from the suitcases by slashing them.
Throughout the years, as the unit evolved, more tasks were added to the team. Because the inspectors were at the planes parking bays, they became responsible for safety and quality in the aerial area. Later on, inspectors became accountable for quality processes in the public areas of the terminal. And the latest addition was, working undercover at the airport, monitoring and locating criminals of all sorts, from petty theft of a handbag that was left unattended for 2 minutes to significant diamonds smugglers.
My work in the unit set one of the pillars for my role as an operational intelligence officer for the government a few years later.
So I was predominantly working night shifts at the time. We had a rotating roster of all sorts of shifts, but the night shifts were my favourite ones. When we started the shifts at 9 pm, the terminal was filled with passengers getting ready for the late-night flights to the USA. Then, when flight LY001 was departing at 1 am from Tel Aviv to JFK, the airport was almost at a standstill. A very quiet place for a few hours. At around 3 am, flights from Zurich and Frankfurt were landing, and the airport started the morning routine of getting ready for the early morning departures to Europe by Swiss, Lufthansa and ElAl planes.
Usually, when I finished my Shift at around 6 am, I would drive home to the city of Givatayim, east of Tel Aviv but close enough. I would take the dog for a walk and dive into bed until later in the afternoon.
In 2001 we had no smartphones or 4G/5G. I had a Motorola StarTac mobile phone back then.
The phone rang later that afternoon, waking me up. My dad was on the other side of the call. At the time, he was in Aruba, also known as the Netherlands Antilles. He was visiting his Aunt.
He said just two sentences: “The cashier in the department store told me the Israelis had taken down the Twin Towers. Open up CNN”.
And he hung up.
I didn’t know what the Twin Towers were…I had never visited the USA before, and the internet was in its early stages. But my dad sounded so dramatic that I turned on the TV, looked up for CNN, and there it was. The live stream on CNN of the towers after both flights crashed into the towers.
I remember sitting on the sofa, in front of the TV, just staring at the screen in enormous unbelief.
And then the South Tower collapsed.
I continued staring at the TV for a few hours.
Being a part of the aviation industry at the time, I felt utterly different watching the event unfold. Less than a year earlier, I was honourably discharged from the army as a major, an intelligence officer. So you could only imagine the thoughts running through my mind watching the biggest terror attack in modern times. It’s a deadly combination – coming from an intelligence background at one of the highest levels, working undercover in one of the world’s best airport security settings.
Ben Gurion International airport was closed for almost three days with zero flights, like many other airports worldwide. When the airport was finally open, because there was a massive backlog of flights, all airlines sent their most giant planes to carry as many passengers as possible. Airlines that usually sent 737’s to Tel Aviv on a daily flight suddenly sent 747’s. The airport was packed, and all departments worked like never before.
My dad came back from Aruba a few days later with KLM. Because I had my badge with access to the operational area, I met him at the staircase leaving the plane, and I escorted him to the taxi through the border control and baggage pickup. We both knew the aviation and security of aviation industries would need to change dramatically. And they have.
Sometimes, when flying domestic and international, I notice security breaches in airports. I always wonder what would happen if the wrong person with the wrong intentions saw them as well.
Funny enough, in 2007, I found myself working with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in the war against terror. In 2011 I visited New York for the first time, including the world trade centre location.
We at Shield are privileged. We have worked in security and intelligence at the highest levels throughout our careers, working for and with governments, airlines and others. We know and understand the importance of providing results.
Working undercover at an airport teaches you a lot, especially when you are at the beginning of your career. Working in embassy security provides a person with a lot of knowledge about asset and personal protection to the highest levels. That is where our experience at Shield has derived from.
We have 60 years of combined security and intelligence experience in the most challenging environments and conditions. We have foiled terror attacks; we have gained intelligence no one else could. We will be sharing our stories and knowledge in our future posts. You won’t find them anywhere else!
Sign up/subscribe to our social media and Youtube channel.