The sight of intense flames and smoke billowing from a New York city sky rise took Admiral Timothy Keating back five years in an instant.
"Oh no, let's get busy as quickly as we know how to make sure it's not another 9-11," said Keating at a news conference Wednesday.
‘'Getting busy” put dozens of fighter jets in the air within ten minutes of the fixed wing plane crashing into the building, blanketing major cities in the U.S. and Canada in a grid of air defense for about five hours.
The largest launch of it's kind since 9-11.
"In a real world event, the system responded quickly and appropriately," said Keating.
It quickly appeared what happened in New York was a tragic accident, and not an act of terror.
"This was not a contact of interest," said Keating, referring to the crashed aircraft.
The small plane registered to and carrying New York Yankee pitcher Corey Lidle was following a route that could be watched by crews at the airport where the plane took off, but not by eyes in Colorado Springs.
Minutes into the flight, it inexplicably crashed.
"They either became disoriented or had an aircraft malfunction and flew into the building. It's tragic, but it happens," said Keating.
Nevertheless, the accident qualifies as a "real world event," and commands a real world response that's clear to those who live here, and those who'd do them harm.
"I think the message to the terrorists is, we're ready," Keating said.