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New Hampshire man trying to find seatmate from flight the morning of Sept. 11 attacks

Millions of people were in the air when terrorists hijacked the planes on Sept. 11. One man on his way from New Hampshire to Texas got stuck in Georgia and ended up driving with an unlikely passenger all the way back home.

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Millions of people were in the air when terrorists hijacked the planes on Sept. 11. One man on his way from Manchester, New Hampshire, to El Paso, Texas, got stuck in Atlanta and ended up driving with an unlikely passenger all the way back to Manchester.

The morning of Sept. 11, 2001, started out like any other business trip for Joe Grande.

"So, the original flight plans were to depart from Manchester. It was sometime between 7:30 and 8 in the morning. With a final destination of El Paso," Grande said.

During his flight, Grande sat next to a woman he remembers being in her late 20s, brunette, from Londonderry, New Hampshire.

"We chatted as you normally do on flights, and we just went about doing our work," he said.

During a layover in Atlanta, Grande said the pilot delivered an ominous message, "There’s been some terrorist activity in New York. They didn’t have a lot of information."

The Federal Aviation Administration scrambled to clear America’s airspace as quickly as possible. Grande’s plane sat on the tarmac for hours. Being one of a few with a cellphone, he called his wife.

"She started feeding me information, which I ended up passing along to all the passengers around me," Grande said.

Five hours after landing, the plane de-boarded.

"It was close to 3 o’clock by the time they deplaned us. Under armored guard. They marched us up to the ticketing agent. They had every intention, at least they told us, that they would be flying us out the next day," he said.

Instead, flights were grounded. He and his seatmate exchanged business cards before splitting up to different hotels. For the next three nights, Grande watched events unfold on television.

"It was difficult. At times like that you want to be with your family and friends," he said.

Grande eventually found a rental car. His seatmate initially turned down his offer to share a road trip home.

"Less than a minute later, my phone rang again, and it was my seatmate who said, 'I don’t know what I was thinking, yes, I want to leave. I want to leave now. I’ll meet you at the airport,'" he said.

They spent the next 20 hours driving. Traveling by New York City, they could still see smoke rising from ground zero.

Grande said it was, "just surreal to see those two iconic towers, or not see those two iconic towers that dominated the New York City skyline for so many years."

Exhausted, Grande and his seatmate parted ways at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. Since then they have never seen one another again. But, he’s hoping that could change one day.

"I’ve thought about her over the years, and it’s not something you could forget having gone through,” he said. “Like I said, I just hope she’s doing well."