Pilot says fate saved him on Sept. 11

September 1, 2012 

The telephone call never came.

Because it didn't, Steve Scheibner, an American Airlines pilot, did not die in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

He was expecting to fly Flight 11 from Boston to Los Angeles on Sept. 11 and had his bags packed. He had gone online Sept. 10 and booked himself onto the flight but never received a confirmation call from the airlines.

He found out later he had been bumped by Tom McGuinness, a pilot with seniority.

Flight 11 never made it to Los Angeles. It crashed into the World Trade Center.

"I began with the airline in 1991 and can count three times I've been bumped from a trip the night before," Scheibner said.

Scheibner has lived since as though on borrowed time and feels an obligation to get the most out of his life, but not just for himself.

"You have to ask yourself if you are going to leave the world a better place," Scheibner said.

Scheibner, 51, will deliver that message of doing for others and more when he appears at St. Luke United Methodist Church this week.

Scheibner, a retired senior pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Topsham, Maine, is currently president of CharacterHealth Corporation, a ministry aimed at equipping parents to train their children to live what he calls character healthy lives. A commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve, he still flies for American.

On Wednesday at St. Luke, he will lead a Parenting Matters workshop in which the message will be the goal of parenting is not merely surviving, but thriving.

The dinner and workshop will begin at 5:30 p.m.

On Thursday, the Men's Ministry of St. Luke will host a breakfast at 6:45 a.m. in which Scheibner will tell his story from Sept. 11 and give testimony. His presentation, "In My Seat -- Living on Borrowed Time," will focus on the role of men and the importance of living life to the fullest.

The cost for each event is $7 and those interested can call 706-256-1017 for a reservation.

Remembering Sept. 11

Scheibner said when he heard about the attacks it didn't occur to him that the plane hitting the World Trade Center was the one he was supposed to be on.

He began to receive phone calls from friends who had to be assured he was not on the doomed flight.

Later that night, looking at the computer screen at home, he checked to see about the flight. Three words were on the screen, "Sequence, Failed, Continuity" which he said is code that the plane never made it to its destination.

"There are no words to describe that moment. I was overwhelmed," he said.

He admits to feeling a "twinge of guilt" about being a survivor.

Scheibner and his wife, Megan, are the parents of eight children. They have developed a training conference they do at churches called the "Nine Practices of a Proactive Parent."

It uses personal stories, Bible study and Bible application to strengthen parenting.

The program, Scheibner said, results in solid families and children who consistently demonstrate courageous, Christ-like, character-healthy behavior.

The nine practices are modeling, elevating virtues above feelings, developing moral muscle, training, correction, repentance, forgiveness, restoration and practice.

Talking about the practice of modeling, he said, "That 'do as I say, not as I do' doesn't get it done. You have to show children the way life should be by living it the right way."

He said children must elevate virtues above feelings. "Honesty is very important," Scheibner said.

When he talks to men about living a better life, he discusses how to avoid "appetite driven" pitfalls such as pornography.

"Pornography is so easy to access these days," he said. "It has ruined many a life."

He said the goal he has set for himself is one all people should adopt. He wants one day to stand in God's presence and hear him say, "well done."

Ledger-Enquirer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service