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On September 11, 2001, local country singer Ronny Corbin was a pilot for United Airlines.

"The morning started with the 90-mile drive from my then--San Marcos home to LAX. My captain and I had been reassigned to leave around 7:00 a.m. for a nonstop to Boston. [Two of the hijacked planes were out of Boston, one bound for L.A.]. We had an onboard computer problem that was being resolved, causing a delay. For some reason, I felt the need to turn on my cell phone while we waited. Immediately, to my surprise, it rang -- a call from an old friend and former intern pilot. She was noticeably rattled and wanted to know my whereabouts. I told her and asked why. She told me that an airplane had struck the World Trade Center...."

Corbin says after he heard reports of "multiple hijackings in effect...we immediately deplaned our passengers and had the jet pushed out onto the ramp where it would be secure. As time progressed, we had little to go on but what we could get from local ops on radio.... Flights were on the ground, and within a short time the skies were empty. Very eerie. Most of [my family] knew I was headed to the East Coast early, and I knew they would be worried....

"By early evening I had made it back home.... My older daughter said, 'Dad, do your best and remember if the bad guys come after you, just go out fighting.' Her younger sister said, 'Daddy, you can play your guitar and sing people songs and do other jobs....'

"I haven't flown professionally since December 2002. I injured my back while lifting our 50-pound flight bags and was furloughed from UAL in January 2003. While battling the medical issue, I just went back to what I've always believed in, music. A little of me giving up [piloting] was because of 9/11. It was once a great life, but now most pilots work twice as many days for half the money."

Corbin released his debut CD, New Way to Fly, a few years ago. He plays solo shows and with his band Pirate Radio. What does he say about the state of the local country scene?

"KSON and US 95.7 have laid some claim to promoting local music. All I can say is that's totally bullshit! KSON had the road show, and for a while it worked. Now they claim Hill Country as their band! What? Steve Hill...plays only cover tunes."

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