DENVER (CBS4) – Matt Dahl was one of many, many American children whose world went dark on Sept. 11, 2011.
Dahl’s father Jason was the United Airlines captain whose hijacked plane slammed into a field in Shanksville, Penn.
Now, Matt is a fine young man who married his high school sweetheart and is living in Boulder. He is a scientist who credits fond memories of his father and the love of his mother, Gail, and others, for seeing him through.
And this weekend — 10 years later — he will visit the site of the plane crash that killed his dad for the very first time.
Matt says he still has apprehensions about flying, and he admits he shies away from the number “93.” Jason was piloting United Flight 93 before it was hijacked and crashed, killing everyone aboard.
Matt still ponders that final flight of his father’s.
“I have no proof otherwise so I like to think my dad was dead long before the airplane hit the ground,” he said.
Matt is convinced the hijackers were aiming for Washington before courageous passengers took a stand.
“I think that the passengers on that airplane did a wonderful service to this country,” he said.
Matt has never visited the crash site in Shanksville.
“I used to say if I wanted to see a big hole in the ground I’d go dig one in my back yard.”
This year, he changed his mind.
“I think I’m going now more to witness it as a hallowed place where these 40 some odd people came together and did something wonderful even if it did end in tragedy,” he said.
Jason Dahl and his family lived in Ken Caryl Ranch 10 years ago. Matt was 15 when he spoke bravely at the packed funeral for his father.
“I have definitely experienced anger as a result of 9/11,” Matt told CBS4, looking back on that dreadful day.
His first year after 9/11 was a blur. He attended countless dedications and memorials. But then he decided “I could sit in my house and feel sorry for myself for the rest of my life, or not.”
“And I chose not,” Matt said.
Matt worked hard at Chatfield High School. Then he earned a college degree in physics at the University of Denver.
He’s now a flight controller for a NASA Kepler satellite. It’s a nod to his father’s love of the sky.
“I just went a little higher up,” he said.