By Audrey Esther, News9.com INsite Team
Pilot Bill Boulton will not soon forget September 11th, 2001. Boulton flew planes for more than 60 years, but the week of the United States' worst terrorist attack, he flew a life-saving mission to help the people in New York City.
Boulton, like many, watched on television while that day's fateful events happened.
"I sat there and watched that television over there," he said while pointing to his living room television. "I watched those two towers come down."
At the time, Boulton was a volunteer pilot for the non-profit organization Angel Flight. He flew people in dire need of medical care and medical supplies across the country for free.
"You're doing it not for yourself," the 86-year-old said. "You're doing it for somebody else."
On September 11th, 2001 people in New York needed blood. The next day Boulton loaded up his plane with a needed blood supply and took flight without hesitation.
"If they needed blood in New York City, we were going to get it there," he said.
Boulton loaded almost 700 pounds of blood onto his four-passenger plane, every drop donated by an Oklahoman.
Not surprisingly, he was one of the only pilots allowed clearance to fly that week.
"Some of the military couldn't even get clearances," he said.
Because New York was unable to test its own blood supply, New York officials relied on other states and blood centers like the Oklahoma Blood Institute for help.
"There was no other way to transport it from here up there unless someone was going to start driving, which would have taken too many days," said Dr. James Smith, medical director for the Oklahoma Blood Institute. "We had to rely on military and or other organizations like Angel Flight that could get clearance because very little was being shipped in that period of time."
Except for shipments like Boulton's.
"Nothing else. There wasn't anything else flying," Boulton said. "Quiet, very quiet, except the engine," he said of the radio traffic during the flight.
During the weeks following September 11th most of the country's air transportation system was shutdown. Boulton said receiving a necessary transponder code for flight clearance on Spetember 12th was difficult to say the least.
"When we couldn't get one through the McAlester flight service then we went to Dallas and we couldn't get one. Then Dallas told us to call the Defense Department and that's how we got our clearance," he said.
Oklahoman's perhaps understood the gravity of September 11th more than most because until that day Oklahoma was home to the worst terrorist attack on United States soil.
"It's a sad fact but we've had enough disasters that have struck here at home in Oklahoma that we've had time to practice how to respond to these disasters," Smith said.
Boulton said he loves to fly for the same reason he loves his country.
"Freedom, freedom," he said. "You are so free."