Minutes before United Airlines Flight 175 slammed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, 38-year-old Brian Sweeney made a phone call to his wife from the back of the plane.
“I’m on an airplane that’s been hijacked,” Sweeney said in a voicemail left to his wife, Julie Sweeney Roth. “If things don’t go well, and it’s not looking good, I just want you to know I absolutely love you, I want you to do good, go have good times—same to my parents and everybody—and I just totally love you, and I’ll see you when you get there. Bye, babe. I hope I call you.”
After leaving the message, Sweeney called his mother and told her he loved her before abruptly hanging up the phone, according to CNN. The call, made at 9:00 a.m. that morning, was completed three minutes before the plane crashed into the top floors of the South Tower.
Sweeney’s words can be heard at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City, where people in attendance can pick up a telephone and hear the message for themselves, as Roth did, 17 years ago today.
Sweeney, from Barnstable, Massachusetts, served as a pilot in the Persian Gulf War and was an instructor for the Navy. At the time of the attacks, Sweeney was working for a Defense Department contractor, Brandes Associates. His calm, composed and loving message to his wife allows listeners to intimately reflect on those whose lives were taken that day. For Roth, her husband’s voice helped to give her comfort in the days following the attacks.
“He was a warrior, and you just didn’t believe that something like this could take him away,” Roth, who is now remarried, said in a video published by the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. “All I needed was that message, and I think he very selflessly left it. I don’t think he left it until he knew he wasn’t coming home.”