ALBANY, GA (WALB) – Eleven years ago Tuesday, Sunel Merchant was looking out the window of the 49th floor of the World Trade Center's North Tower.
"This (plane) coming straight over Manhattan was something unusual," said Merchant.
The low flying aircraft was a hijacked American Airlines jet heading straight for the tower.
"There was an impact at that point. I was shocked," said Merchant. "It felt like I was on a walking escalator because the whole building started moving forward," he said.
Minutes later, another hijacked plane hit the south tower, a third crashed into the Pentagon, and a fourth went down in a field in Pennsylvania.
"It became a time when security went from airline based to federal government based," said Albany Airport Director Yvette Aehle.
She says the development of the Transportation Security Administration and the regulations it created following 9/11 will forever impact air travel as we know it.
"The day of 9/11, box cutters were allowed to be taken on planes. Now anything you take on planes including nail clippers, knitting needles, things like this - people look at it in a different way. People also look at you differently when you walk on an airplane," said Aehle
While the TSA has come under scrutiny for what some have deemed invasive search procedures, Aehle says she's never personally received a complaint about the operation which she describes as thorough.
"People want to be safe when they fly. I think they feel safer when they fly out of Albany than other airports because they know we'll go through each and every bag and look at every person to see what risk based assessment they have to make towards them," she said.
Other major changes to the airline security include adjustment to cockpits which are now guarded by steel re-enforced doors. Also, pilots can now arm themselves and there are more U.S. Air marshals on flights.
Even small airports like Southwest Georgia Regional underwent security changes because some of the 9/11 hijackers caught flights out of small airports prior to boarding the larger aircrafts.