HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – It’s 19 years later and Mike Chiarelli is still haunted. Chiarelli wishes he would have picked up on something when came face to face with Mohammed Atta in Pompano Beach.
It was 2 months before the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Atta is believed to have been the pilot of the first plane that crashed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
“I live with guilt inside of me. It comes to me a few days before 9/11. I start to think about it. What could I have done different?”, Chiarelli of Weston said.
In July 2001, Chiarelli and his partner had a plane for sale. It was an Antinov, which is a Russian cargo plane.
Chiarelli said it was a big plane.
“It wasn’t a jet, but it was a big plane.”
Atta came in interested in the plane.
His story at the time was that he was going to open a parachute jumping school in Port St. Lucie. That’s what Chiarelli said Atta told him.
Chiarelli drove Attta and two other men to Pompano Airpark to see the plane. He said he spent an hour or more with Atta there.
Chiarelli said the other two guys stayed silent.
“They just kept walking around the plane and inspecting. He was in the cockpit. He wanted to see log books. Fuel information. How far they could fly. Because he was saying how long they could be up there before they had to come down. I think they were doing research,” Chiarelli said.
Chiarelli said he spent an hour in the cockpit with Atta going through flight records.
“He knew exactly what he was looking for. He knew what he was talking about. We started the plane, but we didn’t take it for a ride,” Chiarelli said.
Then, when Atta’s picture was plastered all over television after the terrorist attacks Chiarelli was shocked.
"I said.. Holy (s***), I know that guy. I called up my partner. And I said, ‘Did you see that guy they are showing?’ And he says, ‘Yea that guy was in our office.’ "
On a day like today, Chiarelli said he can’t watch the memorials or the images from 19 years ago.
“I second guess myself all the time. This is crazy how i was in a plane with this guy.”
Atta never bought the plane. Chiarelli said Atta was witty and joking around and far from the monster he became known for his deadly actions.