Where a Great People Moved – When Courage Takes Flight
Author’s note: One cannot help but to be moved knowing how passengers and crew on Flight 93 quickly moved from disbelief, to gathering and using unimaginable intelligence to taking historic action on the morning of September 11, 2001. I hope you find this perspective of their fast moving gallantry beneficial.
“These acts of murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed. Our country is strong. A great people has been moved to defend a great nation.” President George W. Bush, September 11, 2001
The despicable and heinous attack of September 11, 2001 changed us in ways for which we were unprepared, forcibly moving us from our September 10th existence to that September 11th reality. Unbeknownst to the passengers and crew members on United 93, when they stepped on that flight they took on a fight, and as the plane lifted off the runway and went “wheels up”, they flew into history.
Over the gentle knolls a mere twenty minutes flying time from Washington D.C., the passenger’s assault on the flight deck was so effective the terrorist pilot terminated his mission. His goal was to kill thousands and disrupt the seat of our federal government but he was thwarted by an astonishing act of valor. Standing tall, they went forward for us all. In the same amount of time as America’s average morning commute, our neighbors, these ordinary citizens, became extraordinary patriots and took on the business of defending our nation.
They had no time to prepare, yet moved a nation in those moments. Speaking with ground personnel, cell company operators and family members, an awful reality was pieced together: They were caught up in an orchestrated act of terrorism. In those phone calls they gained information that became actionable intelligence. Charging down the aisle these courageous men and women took the first steps in the war that was delivered to us, reminding us that courage overcomes cowardice every time.
We now know they saved countless lives by thwarting the terrorist’s plan to fly the Boeing 757 into the nation’s capitol. Think about how significant that is. Not to minimize the destruction at the World Trade Center or the Pentagon and all the souls that were lost, but contemplate what the effect would have been if this aircraft, a missile in the hands of the terrorists, was delivered to the capitol instead of the reclaimed strip mine. Their valor is the currency of our resolve.
The resting place of the passengers and crew of Flight 93 lies in the hills men traveled to Philadelphia to write the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. In this Commonwealth, the Revolutionary War took place, the Civil War stained the ground with the blood of America’s youth, and it was here your fellow citizens stood up and fought an enemy. To walk here, you realize the message “Don’t tread on me” of our era was delivered. Terrorists hear us: Flight 93 lives in us. You have caused a great people to move and we say “Not here, not ever!”
In the early evening of that longest day President George Bush reminded us that we are the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity and that was why we were attacked. He instructed the world that “no one will keep that light from shining”.
From the solemn Pennsylvania field we take the knowledge that the United States is indeed the brightest beacon of freedom. Here we understand freedom is not free and peace is possible only through selflessness. On United Flight 93, our countrymen came together as brothers in arms, their hands on cell phones, coffee pots and a beverage cart. United they turned back a foe, most of them probably understanding their actions would not save their lives, but would be a victorious stroke against what was being painted on the canvas of our lives that day, a struggle between good and evil. The result is a masterpiece of courage. We must always have a seat on Flight 93.
A visit to the crash site may include being buffeted by a wind that drives numerous wind turbines nearby as they capture its energy to power parts of our nation. Stand just so and perhaps you’ll hear these winds of change whisper: “Our light shines on.”
Reflect on how quickly the crew members and passengers transitioned from disbelief, to gaining knowledge of the enormity of the coordinated attacks to taking the fight to the terrorists in control of their aircraft. Who among these passengers had ever prepared themselves to react to a hijacking? Let the swift transition from ordinary folks to extraordinary first preventers cause us to remember how each of us may achieve more than we realize when an unexpected, astonishing, and even perhaps, horrifying, event is thrust upon us.
How prepared are you and your organization for overwhelming situations?
A narrated version may be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqIY152Pg00
Timothy C. Cummings (http://www.linkedin.com/in/timothyccummings) is a Certified Antiterrorism Specialist and Certified Plant Maintenance Manager.