Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Flight 93's Honor Roll

They took a vote!

We know what they voted on, and the result.  And it doesn't sound as though there were any dissenters.  Nobody asked for a recount, or pouted over their loss.

According to multiple reports relayed by loved ones of passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93, the vote was to charge the cockpit and thwart the attack.

September 11, 2001, began as a normal travel day for these passengers.  We'd likely have never heard about any of these folks had their flight made its way uneventfully from Newark to San Francisco.  And even today, we may not remember their names, since there were so many names on 9/11.  But we know what they did.

We know they knew their flight had become a weapon.  We know they knew it was a suicide mission.  We know they knew about planes being flown into New York's Twin Towers.  They knew.  They were talking from the back of their plane with relatives, co-workers, and even telephone operators.  One flight attendant began boiling water in case she found an opportunity to douse a hijacker with it.  Some reported seeing another flight attendant, dead on the plane.  Some were crying and screaming in brutal fright, anguished at the reality they all faced.

They weren't landing and simply walking off the plane when their flight was over.  In fact, they probably weren't even landing.  They were going to crash.

Flight data recorders documented the passenger's siege of the terrorist-occupied cockpit.  It took all of six surreal and selfless minutes, beginning at 9:57, and ending at 10:03, when Flight 93 pulverized itself into a field in rural Stonycreek Township, near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

At 563 miles per hour.

Early reports of this heroic effort included the rousing call, "Let's Roll," presumed to have been uttered by one of the leaders of the plan to rush the cockpit.  And maybe, in an attempt to bolster the spirits of passengers facing their eternal fate in terms of minutes, instead of years, somebody did issue those words as a charge to action.  Later, however, we'd learn officially from recordings made by air traffic controllers of the words "roll it," uttered at 10:00:02, in reference to a flight attendants' food cart being used as a battering ram to knock open the cockpit door.  Air traffic controllers could hear that food cart being bashed against the door, and exclamations of exasperation from the terrorists, who were seeing their plans unravel with every desperate, tinny clash of aluminum cart against aluminum door.

"Those bothersome, determined, gutsy Americans.  Can't they see none of us are going to make it out of this alive?"

A lot of us remember where we were when the Twin Towers were attacked, and when they fell.  We remember seeing the photos of black smoke billowing from the side of the Pentagon.  But because the fields around Shanksville are, relatively speaking, in the middle of nowhere, there was no TV station nearby, or a news crew, or tourists with cameras.  And it's precisely because Shanksville is out in the middle of nowhere that the passengers and crew of Flight 93 provided what just might have been the ideal coda to that morning's attacks against the United States.  If anything about 9/11 could be remotely considered ideal.

True, the deaths of Flight 93's passengers and crew were valiant, and they were confoundingly agonizing.  Yet in terms of the terrorists' plans for destruction in Washington, DC, Flight 93 fizzled embarrassingly.  Imagine, for a moment, the hideous compounds across the Arab world, in which cells of brazen, bloodthirsty jihadists were waiting for news of the glorious triumph of their evil brethren.

"What?  Those infidels tried to storm the cockpit?  They took a VOTE?  Honor to them meant SAVING lives, not killing people?"

You can almost see our Founding Fathers glowing with pride.

The phrase "roll it" may not have as much swagger and bravado as "let's roll," but it does denote action.  It denotes having a plan.  Having the resources to follow through on the plan.  And having the people to deploy the resources.

Fortunately, on Flight 93, the right people were able to roll with it.

Passengers and Crew of Flight 93

Captain Jason M. Dahl
First Officer LeRoy Homer
Lorraine G. Bay
Sandy Waugh Bradshaw
Wanda Anita Green
CeeCee Ross Lyles
Deborah Jacobs Welsh

Christian Adams
Todd M. Beamer
Alan Anthony Beaven
Mark Bingham
Deora Frances Bodley
Marion R. Britton
Thomas E. Burnett, Jr.
William Joseph Cashman
Georgine Rose Corrigan
Patricia Cushing
Joseph DeLuca
Patrick Joseph Driscoll
Edward Porter Felt
Jane C. Folger
Colleen L. Fraser
Andrew (Sonny) Garcia
Jeremy Logan Glick
Kristin Osterholm White Gould
Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas
Donald Freeman Greene
Linda Gronlund
Richard J. Guadagno
Toshiya Kuge
Hilda Marcin
Waleska Martinez
Nicole Carol Miller
Louis J. Nacke II
Donald Arthur Peterson
Jean Hoadley Peterson
Mark David Rothenberg
Christine Ann Snyder
John Talignani
Honor Elizabeth Wainio

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