April 30, 2006

Of a Fire in a Field

A COUPLE OF FRIENDS asked me to go with them to see "United 93," but I declined both offers saying I wasn't sure that I needed any reminders other than what I saw in New York on that day. In the end, though, I went to it as I went to the funerals, alone.

When people who were in New York on that day talk about it, it always seems to be focused on the day itself. Nobody talks much about the days and the weeks and the

months that came after that day in New York City.

In a way, that's understandable because what happened for days and weeks and months after was pretty much a slowly diminishing repeat of that day. Things got better, got back to the new "normal." The wax from the candled shrines was scraped away, and in time -- quite a long time actually -- even the walls and fences full of fading flyers asking if you had seen one or the other of those we came to call "the missing" were gone.

Most of these ghastly portrait galleries were simply washed away by the snows and rains that followed that autumn day. Some were covered in long sheets of clear plastic duct-taped and sealed. It was as if somehow preserving them for a long as possible would in some way preserve the hope that those in the towers who had been turned to ash and dust were, somewhere, somehow, still merely missing. Some were even laminated and replaced more than once on a chain-link fence that ringed Ground Zero forming a patchwork of Kinkos copied faces framed by wire and the hole in the sky.

Inside the wire under the hole in the sky was, in time, a growing hole in the ground as the rubble was cleared away and, after many months, the last fire was put out. Often at first, but with slowly diminishing frequency, all the work to clear out the rubble and the wreckage would come to a halt.

The machinery would be shut down and it would become quiet. Across the site, tools would be laid down and the workers would straighten up and stand still. Then, from somewhere in the pile or the pit, a group of men would emerge carrying a stretcher covered with an American flag and holding, if they were fortunate, a body. If they were not so fortunate the flag covering over the stretcher would be lumpy, holding only portions of a body from which, across the river on the Jersey shore, a forensic lab would try to make an identification and then pass on to the victim's survivors something that they could bury.

I'm not sure anymore about the final count, but I am pretty sure that most families, in the end, got nothing. Their loved ones had all gone into the smoke and the dust that covered the end of the island and blew, mostly, across the river into Brooklyn where I lived. What happened to most of the three thousand killed by the animals on that day? It is simple and ghastly. We breathed them until the rains came and washed clean what would never be clean again.

The best among us all had our rituals for getting through those days and, to tell the truth, for a long time in New York, the best of us were the most of us. In time, as you can see today, that faded out of a lot of New Yorkers' souls, and left them even emptier and more cynical than before as they turned back to petty politics and bad art. A lot of the output of these damaged souls can be seen in the media products that the city produces to fainter and fainter acclaim. But we were, for a bit, somewhat united by the evil that had been visited on us. That and the need to bear witness to our dead.

My own ritual for living in the aftermath was, for some time, to bear witness to the heroism of the firemen and the policemen by attending their funerals and honoring them. In the beginning I vowed I would go to every single one, but in the end I simply couldn't take it. I managed to go to about a dozen before I faltered. I just wasn't, it turned out, that strong.

Far away on that day, far from the pillar of flame and plume of ash at the foot of the island, there was another fire in a field in Pennsylvania. Those nearby felt the shudder in the earth and saw the smoke, but it would be some days before we understood what it was, and longer still until we began to know what it meant.

The film I saw by myself tonight expands that meaning and brings a human face to the acts by the passengers of United 93 that endure only in that rare atmosphere that heroes inhabit. What I know in my heart, but what always escapes my understanding until something like this film renews it, is that heroism is a virtue that most often appears among us not descending from some mythic pantheon, but rising up out of the ordinary earth and ordinary hearts when the moment calls for actions extraordinary.

I saw this ordinary courage in New York on that day as I learned of the police and the firemen who had gone up the stairs to save others' lives. That they, in their hundreds, had gone up when all others were fleeing down is an image that can never be erased from my memory. Time fades all impressions as surely as it faded the faces of the missing on the walls of my city, but let's, just for now, remember it it once again, for it we fail to remember and sustain the memories of our heroes, we are surely done as a nation and a people.

There are two gigantic buildings soaring into the sky above you. They are both consumed by flames and thick putrid smoke on the upper floors. The burning is so high up that those trapped above choose to leap to their deaths rather than suffer what it coming at them in the rooms behind them. Untold thousands are struggling to escape from these twin funeral pyres.

As you arrive in your heavy and hot survival gear you know that putting the fires out is a near impossibility. All your training tells you that. But putting them out is never really your goal. Your goal is to go into the building, climb up, and save as many as you can that are surely trapped unknown floors high above you.

The situation is unprecedented. Rubble litters the streets and, after awhile, you hear the wet thuds as the jumpers above shatter on the ground on all sides of the buildings. Your communication gear is all but useless and the tactical situation is confused. But you know, from long experience and training, that if thousands are getting out the various exit stairways, there may well be hundreds trapped somewhere high above that you can still save. The situation is extraordinary, but you are a fireman or a policeman, and your duty is known and, to you, quite ordinary. It is, as you always like to say, just your job.

And so, without a lot of hesitation, while hundreds around you are running down and out of the building, you walk into the building. And then, with perhaps a prayer, you walk up into the smoke and the flames determined to save as many as you can or die trying.

And on that day you do die. You die in the hundreds. Every one of you an ordinary hero on an extraordinary day. Every one moving, until the last moment, up the stairs.

To this day, those men who went up those stairs exist in my mind as starlight, beyond my capacity to comprehend -- only to honor. But I went to a few of their funerals and so I know, if only slightly, the human face and the life and the families of about a dozen.

Far above and away to the west on that day, there was as we knew, and now as we have seen, another group of American men and women who, when they found out what was happening and what was to be their likely fate, also took that fate in their own hands and came on, fighting to thwart or reverse that fate, until the last moment of their lives. Ordinary people in an extraordinary situation finding the ordinary courage to resist and to fight against the evil that appeared among them.

That's the theme and the pace and the action of "United 93:" How ordinary people, at first strangers to each other, found the courage to act together in the face of certain death.

Despite the whines and the cavils of the weak and the vile and the corrupt among us, "United 93" has no "message."

Despite the rising and continuing attempts to cheapen the film from the spiritually and politically bankrupt that batten off America, "United 93" has no politics.

You don't "review" this film if you have an ounce of soul left to you. You watch it.

"United 93," from the first frame to the last, simply and clearly lets you see what happened high in the air on that day. It is, as the phrase on the poster says, "The plane that did not reach its target." Instead, it reached something unintended and much higher. It became and will remain a legend; an integral part of the tapestry of the American myth from which we all draw what strength remains to us, and, in the future, will surely need to draw upon even more deeply. Like the best of our legends, it arises out of our ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

"United 93" lets you see, without footnotes or the faintest tinge of an agenda of any sort, how ordinary people in one of the most banal yet dangerous modern settings, refused at the last to be cowed or frightened and, knowing full well that all was probably up for them, still fought to save their lives or, in the end, thwart the designs that evil had brought on board.

For when I think, not about the film "United 93" -- that remains a pattern of light and dark in the caves where we come together to share our dreams and myths and more paltry entertainments -- but about the actual flight on that actual day high in the air to the west of the city, I can understand why the passengers, knowing what they knew, would become united in an effort to save themselves.

But I also think that, in the end, saving themselves was not so much on their minds. I think that, at that time and in that place, they understood that those chances were slim indeed. Instead, I like to think that the men and women of United 93 had their souls set upon, in those last moments, the refusal to die as passive victims with seatbelts fastened as the monsters in the cockpit pushed their evil mission to its appointed end.

In a film of brief but telling moments, there's one moment towards the end where you see one man reach down and remove his seatbelt. In that moment you can sense that he goes from being a passive victim to a man who has decided to stand up and engage the evil that has taken control of his life; to take the controls back from thugs and the cut-throats and the mumbling fanatics of a wretched and burnt-out god.

That man, like the firemen who went up the stairs, and his fellow passengers who attacked up the aisle in those last moments, became, in the end, one of the Americans who decided on that day and the days that followed, to stand up. Soon after, that man and all the others on United 93 went into the smoke of that fire in the field.

"United 93" is a simply told, near-documentary look at how that fire in the field came to be. As I said above, the film has no message, but if you -- as I finally did -- choose to go, it will pose you a question: What would you do, an ordinary person in an extraordinary moment when life and death, good and evil, were as clear as the skies over America on September 11? Will you, as so many of our fellow citizens yearn to do these days, stay seated? Or will you stand up?

On one of our days to come, there will be another test. You'd best have an answer prepared.

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Posted by Vanderleun at April 30, 2006 12:32 AM | TrackBack
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Bravo. As is the norm with your writing, well said.

Your ultimate question cuts to the heart of the matter:

What would I have done?

What will I do when -- and I do believe we will all have a day when we must confront the coming storm -- it's time to act?

I believe that many Americans will draw strength from the courageous example of their contrymen aboard Flight 93.

Posted by: Mike Lief at April 30, 2006 3:58 AM

Great essay. It reminds me for some reason of the scene in "An Innocent Man", where Tom Selleck's character must confront, and ultimately kill, a black inmate that has decided to make Selleck "his bitch". Completely out of his element, and ignorant of the facts of jailhouse life, Selleck initially rejects using violent means solve his dilema. A white inmate sets Selleck straight informing Selleck that if he doesn't take down his tormenter, every predator in the prison will eventually come calling. He ends his advice saying, "You don't have to stand tall, but you gotta stand up."

I'm afraid a too-large percentage of our country refuses to "stand up". It boogles the mind that for many of them the reason they won't stand up for America is that George Bush is the President.

I only hope I live long enough to be vindicated by the judgement of history--and to see the Ted Kennedys, Dick Durbins, and Harry Reids of the world utterly marginalized and rightfully ridiculed.

Time will tell.

Posted by: Terry Ennis at April 30, 2006 5:37 AM

A beautiful elegiac eulogy.

It appalls me that when the media today mentions 'hero' or 'heroic' it is for some relatively minor act compared to the policemen and firemen on 9/11. And throughout history. Which of course cheapens the true heroes, who often are wearing a uniform, and who truely put their lives at risk.

Listen carefully to the 6 o'clock news and see when next time the word 'hero' is used, if it compares in any way with the firemen, the policemen, or our military fighting for our freedoms. They are heroes indeed.

Posted by: Richard in Port Orchard, WA at April 30, 2006 8:03 AM

Gerard, I must take issue with this otherwise superb essay. You write:

"But I also think that, in the end, saving themselves was not so much on their minds. I think that, at that time and in that place, they understood that those chances were slim indeed. Instead, I like to think that the men and women of United 93 had their souls set upon, in those last moments, the refusal to die as passive victims with seatbelts fastened as the monsters in the cockpit pushed their evil mission to its appointed end."

After re-watching 'Flight 93' on A&E last night, I will agree with you about everything you wrote above, everything except what the passengers on United 93 "had their souls set upon". Not only did the thought of dying like sheep cut them to the core; not only could they not allow the evil deeds of the evil men onboard to suceed; they also charged that cockpit from the strong desire live, though they knew they would almost certainly die. The men, if you can call them men, who hijacked their airplanehad just the opposite desire: to die and to take as many lives as possible with them.

It is against this backgrond that the story unfolds, because otherwise we might fall into the moral relavism of the age. For instance, Roger Ebert in his review had this to say: "That the terrorists found justification in religion also goes without saying. Most nations at most times go into battle evoking the protection of their gods." Of course the hijackers and the hijacked went into battle under the protection of their God, but while one prayed for life and the other for death. The constrast is as different as that between light and darkness, because the similarities are not allegorical. We cannot forget that there is a real difference between us and them, and that this difference is as wide and gaping as that between heaven and hell.

Gerard, you have certainly not forgotten this difference, and I certainly do not mean that you have. I just feel that it is important to always remember it.

Posted by: LRFD at April 30, 2006 8:55 AM

"And so, without a lot of hesitation, while hundreds around you are running down and out of the building, you walk into the building. And then, with perhaps a prayer, you walk up into the smoke and the flames determined to save as many as you can or die trying."

I tried reading this to my wife.

Started crying a paragraph after this.

I've studied up for the final. I am serene. I am ready.

Posted by: TmjUtah at April 30, 2006 9:03 AM

Beautiful. As the clueless New York Times reviewer reminds us, there are no messages, only messengers capable of comprehending them.

Posted by: Gagdad Bob at April 30, 2006 9:04 AM

What would I do in that situation? It's easy to bluster and say "Why, I'd give those ragheads a good thrashing!" Courage comes easy from the air-conditioned comfort of an office chair in front of a keyboard. When the worst threats you regularly face are pesky tailgaters or a churl with 13 items in the 12-items-or-less-line at the local Safeway, bravado is obligatory as long as it is NEVER needed.

The last real physical crisis I faced was on the receiving end of a bully in Jr. High. Strangely, I was more afraid of being in trouble than I was of him. Without fear of potential penalties, I might have succommed to my adolescent rage and damn near killed him. Or not.

With a knife at my throat I might think "F**k the penalties!" and damn near kill them. Or not.

I hope to God I never have to find out...but I am afraid that I will. That we ALL will.

Posted by: Mumblix Grumph at April 30, 2006 9:52 AM

The heroes of Flight 93 capture the heart of the indomitabe American spirit's fight against apathy, appeasement and indifference when in the face of death. The moment they knew what they were facing they had no fear. Their courage I'll always keep close to my heart.

Posted by: syn at April 30, 2006 10:10 AM

We are all even now as the passengers on United flight 93. Our souls have been "set upon" by an implacable enemy. Would to God we had leaders that could bring out of us the same courage and determination that was on grand display by those brave souls spent that day above the skies of Pennsylvania. The last thing we need to hear is "go on living your lives as though nothing had happened." A clarion call needs to go out across the land. A call to action. A call to sacrifice. We need to be told loudly and frequently that everything is at risk. Now is the time. This is the place. Stand up and be counted. By God, "lock and load".

John Hinds
Member, Patriot Guard

Posted by: John Hinds at April 30, 2006 11:26 AM

Have everyone you know read this. If they do not begin to even choke up with sadness and pride - you have a problem friend, mate or child.

Someone in denial, a Chamberlainian who will not see what is good and true in American society, will not recognize the evil we are facing and will do everything possible to diminish those who are fighting this evil. Fighting with brains all of them. Some add muscle and blood, some can only fight with their voices or keyboards. Vanderleun again provides ordnance for our battle.

Adding to OneCosmo, who has nailed the innate perversian of the LEFT which is Envy and it's telling tactic "Spoiling".

We won't allow them to spoil the remembering for us. We are determined to remember.

Hard to type with tears running.

Posted by: LARWYN at April 30, 2006 11:54 AM

I had two great-great-grandfathers who faced a different kind of fire in another Pennsylvania field not far (about 100 miles) from Shanksville; it was just outside a farming village called Gettysburg. I also had a father who jumped out of a glider over Normandy one night in June 1944. He took me to see The Longest Day two years before his untimely death of a heart attack. I remember asking him afterward whether he had been afraid of being a paratrooper. He told me that courage doesn't mean not being afraid, it means doing your duty anyway. I'm blessed to have had heroes in my own family; I hope I will be true to their example when (not if) my own test comes.

Posted by: Connecticut Yankee at April 30, 2006 12:57 PM

This was great writing and it had me in tears pushing my emotions and remembering what we are up against.

Thanks as usual for your gift of words.

Posted by: Liquid at April 30, 2006 1:04 PM

the hole in the sky.
It's not a hole. It's a wound.

Posted by: Fausta at April 30, 2006 1:15 PM

We can't say what we'll do in such situations, we can only steel ourselves for any eventuality. But the first thing we must do is acknowledge that such situations are possible, and we may have to kill.

There are those who'd much rather we were sheeple, placidly accepting what they feed us, and on great occasion getting tangled up in the brush so they can come and save us from our own ovine stupidity.

But the world is too parlous, and we are too inquisitive for that to last long without constant vigilance on the part of our keepers.

What really bothers the moonbats and control freaks is the fact United 93 showed ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Being responsible for themselves, thinking beyond themselves. This is something our betters cannot allow, for were we to do this on a regular basis their role would become empty and unneeded.

So they must marginalize what we did, and what we are doing. Our lives are in danger, we must secure ourselves before we secure the world. We would be upset by the struggle, so don't let us be a substantial part. We are protected from the harsh realities and so become fretful and obsess over inconsequential things.

Hundreds of people showed that we are capable of making the sacrifices, doing the right thing. They'd showed we are capable of taking action when it is needed, even at the cost of our lives. I submit, ladies and gentlemen, that it is time we in our millions let those who think they are our betters know that we will be a part of this. And not in some meaningless symbolic way. It's time for a new revolution.

"It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
---Abraham Lincoln

Posted by: Alan Kellogg at April 30, 2006 1:26 PM

Saw the movie yesterday and am still haunted. Your thoughtful essay helped get things in perspective,thank-you! I, too, saw it alone by choice. I wonder what's up with that and how many of us there are?
One observation-when the passengers are storming to the cockpit door, falling, clawing forward, rising and keeping on, it reminded me of the Omaha Beach scene in Saving Private Ryan. There was no way they were stopping.

Posted by: TM at April 30, 2006 3:26 PM

Shrinkwrapped's "United 93"

Shrinkwrapped sees those that oppose the film as afraid of their own fear.

My Italian uncles would have said those with "no conjones!"

SW wrote:

{they} "are making a statement that they do not want to be forced to confront their own feelings of helplessness, terror, and rage at those who attacked us on 9/11."

Vanderleun wrote:

"the poster says, "The plane that did not reach its target."

Now let us do a mental exercise, fill United 93 with the elite Lefty media, save seats for John Kerry, Carter and Brez, Dean and Boxer and those fools that travel to Iraq to slam President Bush. Give Murtha a front row seat.

Ashes scattered all over D.C. from modern Chamberlains who kept their seat belt buckled and would not see evil in front of their faces.

A different movie and certainly a very different caption on the poster.

Posted by: LARWYN at April 30, 2006 4:36 PM

Beautiful essay. I was so profoundly moved and shaken that I will probably see it again next weekend, with or without family. When I tell co-workers tomorrow that I saw it, I expect to hear the usual "it's too soon" or "it's too traumatic" clueless mumbo jumbo. I will tell them that it is almost too late! That 1/3 to 1/2 of this country is trying hard to forget what happened that day and unlearn the lessons it taught us about the evil we witnessed. I have zero patience anymore for such cowardice.

I agree with Mumblix Grumph. We may all very well find out what we'll do, faced with the same evil. The more determined Americans are to forget, the more likely we are to suffer more and worse attacks. I, for one, will not go gently into that good night.

Posted by: Peg C. at April 30, 2006 4:44 PM

Great essay. I will see the film tomorrow.

Posted by: Mike K at April 30, 2006 5:19 PM

Thank you.

Posted by: Flea at April 30, 2006 5:25 PM

"the mumbling fanatics of a wretched and burnt-out god."

This, to me, was one of the more vivid aspects of the movie: the contrast between the life-affirming heroism of ordinary people in an impossible situation, and the deathwishing madness of a group of programmed religious robots in the midst of mass murder. The sound of those mumbled prayers was one of the more disturbing things I've ever heard. Thankfully, it was dispelled by another sound: "Let's roll."

Great piece, Gerard, and thanks.

Posted by: Mick Brady at April 30, 2006 5:42 PM

I want the producers of "United 93" to make oodles of money. I want it to be a huge box office success.
Because, I believe that in our free enterprise, capitalistic, individualistic society, that is the way to encourage others to create media that promotes American Values and exposes the Islamo fascist death cult values.
The profit motive.
I sincerely want people to pursue the profit motive to promote what is Good and True about our world.
Because it works.
And, I want what will realistically work to give us victory in this war against Evil.
I'm a pragmatist when it comes to this.
I do not believe we can simply "wipe them out."
But I do believe we can defeat them by being greedier than they are. By valuing Life more than they do.
(And, off the subject, by simply Baffling them with Bullshit - Which is exactly how we took Afganistan from them in a blitzkrieg which took them totally off guard. They did not believe we could do what we did in Afghanistan, because it had never been done before. We rented and paid for a Northern Alliance Army and a Pakistani government, thereby eliminating that particular foe in record time.)
I want to pay the Hollwood Elitists to defeat our enemies.
That's all...

Posted by: George Murray at April 30, 2006 5:54 PM

From the moment at 1030 that night (Bangkok time) the telepone caller shouted across the wire to "Turn on the TV! There's something you HAFTA see!" to the present day, I've been earning my right to make a pilgrimage to America, to drink as deeply as possible the sweet savor of American courage, writ large...

Posted by: Karridine at April 30, 2006 6:00 PM

I saw the A&E version last night. I was moved and shaken. I resolve to see United 93 this week and to honour those rarest of people, heroes. I am amazed at how citizens, unknown to one another, united to thwart evil. I can only aspire to being such a person because I honestly don't know how I would react for I have never been tested before like they did that dark day.

Posted by: CanadianAlly at April 30, 2006 6:15 PM

Someone suggested: "Now let us do a mental exercise, fill United 93 with the elite Lefty media, save seats for John Kerry, Carter and Brez, Dean and Boxer and those fools that travel to Iraq to slam President Bush. Give Murtha a front row seat."

Even better, create a short movie or political ad that shows look-alikes of the above, riding together on a plane discussing their usual wimpy response to terrorism, as if nothing were happening. Only at the very end does an Arabic-sounding voice come over the plane's PA system and, as these wimps turn to listen, we discover that the plane they're riding has been hijacked and is headed directly toward the Capitol dome. The film ends with the dome erupting in flames.

A reverse United 93. Powerful, very powerful!

Mike Perry, Untangling Tolkien

Posted by: Mike Perry at April 30, 2006 7:10 PM

I just saw "United 93" a few hours ago. A great movie- in fact, probably most moving movie I have ever seen. It kept you emotionally tied to the events portrayed throughout.

The passengers as portrayed were a metaphor of sorts for the whole country, I believe. We hate violence, we value life. There does come a time, however, where you slowly realize you've been backed into a corner and you can go as a sheep to the slaughter, or, paradoxically, perform great violence in defense of your lives and ideals.

Posted by: GregM at April 30, 2006 7:23 PM

United 93 taught us that Chester Nimitz's comments about heroism did not apply just to the Marines on Iwo Jima.

"Uncommon valor as a common virtue" not only applies to soldiers on the battlefield but to ordinary men and women who are just going about their daily lives when they are also called upon to give the last measure of devotion fighting our country's enemies.

Heroism is not something rare in Americans, but rather something ordinary. Most of us are unconcious heroes leading well camoflaged lives until someone attacks us. When they do they will discover what kind of warrior they are really tangling with much to their dismay and eventual destruction.


Posted by: Otpu at April 30, 2006 7:34 PM

Got your Instalanche.

Posted by: Doug_S at April 30, 2006 7:48 PM

Chesterton wrote in _Orthodoxy_:

"Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. 'He that will lose his life, the same shall save it,' is not a piece of mysticism for saints and heroes. It is a piece of everyday advice for sailors or mountaineers. It might be printed in an Alpine guide or a drill book. This paradox is the whole principle of courage; even of quite earthly or quite brutal courage. A man cut off by the sea may save his life if he will risk it on the precipice. He can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it. A soldier surrounded by his enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. He must not merely cling to life, for then he will be a coward, and will not escape. He must not merely wait for death, for then he will be a suicide, and will not escape. He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine. No philosopher, I fancy, has ever expressed this romantic riddle with adequate lucidity, and I certainly have not done so. But Christianity has done more: it has marked the limits of it in the awful graves of the suicide and the hero, showing the distance between him who dies for the sake of living and him who dies for the sake of dying. And it has held up ever since above the European lances the banner of the mystery of chivalry: the Christian courage, which is a disdain of death; not the Chinese courage which is a disdain of life."

American lances are carried well by many who have myriad origins, the ethos of chivalry that guides them is of the West.

Thank you for continuing to remind us of that which the envious would erase, and thank you for introducing me to Mr. Godwin's blog.

Posted by: stevsh at April 30, 2006 10:37 PM

We all hope we'll be able to do the right thing when faced with the unthinkable, but the reality is, until you've been in that situation, it's a difficult question to answer.
I'd go through hell for my kids, but would I leave then and fight, or sit and comfort?

Posted by: Lynne at May 1, 2006 4:22 AM

The mental gymnastics of academics and pointy-headed oh-so-smarts aside, the story of Flight 93 and of the many heroic actions taken by ordinary people on September 11th is not so much a story as a lesson. There is an enemy that has as his goal the death of anyone who isn't a believer in his version of who god is and what god wants. His is a belief that is immune to logic and reason, and his desire to overtake us his enemy is unlike the European-bred rivalries that brewed WWI and WWII and the lingering cold war that followed.

No. Nothing like that at all. The people murdered on September 11th, and the people who found themselves trapped facing a certain and terrifying death on a doomed aircraft were witnesses to the opening battle of a war for world domination. Not an armed struggle to expand borders, not a skirmish between tribal factions, not a conflict to claim trade routes and natural resources. This is a battle for life and liberty. The enemy wants nothing more than you to be dead and your death will be all the sweeter if it is a public and agonizing end.

"On one of our days to come, there will be another test. You'd best have an answer prepared."
And that answer will determine your fate. If you intend to live the enemy must die.

We are at war. Pick a side.

Dan Patterson
Arrogant Infidel

Posted by: Dan Patterson at May 1, 2006 6:43 AM

I have long maintained the those who died in all the other planes (NY/DC) were victims -- NOT heroes. The firefighters and police -- indeed are worthy of the "hero" designation, but the occupants of the Pentagon and Twin Towers and the 3 planes that struck them were victims. I don't fault them for that -- they were the first to crash and had no clue what was going on!

Those aboard Flight #93 are the real heroes. They acted with the wisdom of knowing what had happened to the other planes. They acted knowing it would likely be their last act on earth. They put aside fear and saved countless lives.

THAT, to me, is the definition of "hero".

Posted by: C S Lurty at May 1, 2006 7:03 AM

For those who say it is too early to make this movie, the questions are: was it too early for the passengers on Flight 93 to die? Did they get any warning, therefore having the opportunity to cancel their plans and not get on that plane?
Who has paid for the luxury of watching a movie, wrenching as it may be, and then walk out of the theater. When did everyone become so afraid - of a fanatacism that could be defeated if we are allowed to do what has to be done. Will pandering become the totality of our policy toward fanatics?
Jane Lee

Posted by: Jane Lee at May 1, 2006 8:35 AM

They are the color of a child's sun. Not fully Crayoned in, just a nice wide swarth running down their posterior.

MSNBC just did a segment on "United 93" talking about the boxoffice - but not mentioning that it came in number 2 and then went into the "too early" and "too upsetting" Bull Crap.

One of intrepid "journalists" (don't know the names of these two Katie wannabes) asked the other if she planned on seeing "United 93". The answer was "No! Too soon! Can't do it!"

Aren't "journalists" supposed to be those brave courageous folk who speak "truth to power", who tell us the "hard stories" about what we, the unbrave, uncourageous, don't want to face?

Should not each "journalist" who admits he/she is too weak, too scared and too unwilling to face a reality, be immediately fired, at best?

Or at least have to turn in their "press card"?

LSMers showing their color without turning around!

Posted by: LARWYN at May 1, 2006 11:04 AM

As you say, it is almost certainly true that "the men and women of United 93 had their souls set upon, in those last moments, the refusal to die as passive victims." But the passengers of United 93 also acted out of a deep and pervasive love for their country. They were true patriots who sacrificed themselves for the greater good.

Posted by: Jonathan Schlein at May 1, 2006 12:47 PM


I've not thought about the police and firemen of 9/11 for a long time, I'm ashamed to admit.

My God, how could they have done it? The smoke, the screaming, the jet fuel. I see them disappearing in long lines up those stair wells, and I can hear the heavy tromping of their boots, but for the life of me I cannot imagine the kind of men they were then.

I think there is part of our humanity that rarely surfaces, but that is not rare. I can't describe it, but I know I've seen it. Perhaps, it's Mr. Lincoln's better angels. Regardless, we've got to honor it when we see it.

It makes me crazy when I see deluded young punks on college campuses deride the military, and it makes me sad that these kids are so small and stingy that they can't recognize the truly great. Disagree with the cause, the President, whatever, but honor the courage.

Thanks for reminding me.

Posted by: Old Dad at May 1, 2006 1:09 PM

To Old Dad said: "for the life of me I cannot imagine the kind of men they were then."

Who were these men? They were Irish, Italian, Puerto Rican, fireman, police and port authority; and overwhelmingly Roman Catholic (90%+).

What were they doing? What they do day-in and day-out, lay their lives on the line for others.

Why? Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. -- John 15:13 They live it everyday.


Posted by: Lurking' at May 1, 2006 2:50 PM

Yesterday Hollywood was out in force for the USA, meaning George Bush, to go into Darfur.

Tom Maguire's posted on the suggested use of mercenaries in Darfur. (IstanPundit linked first)

I will preface this with, I have tried a new brand of allergy medication today:

We can kill three birds:

S.H.E.D. = Send Hollywood's Experts to Darfur

We may need to contribute to their battalion as $20,000,000.00 for Clooney's 6/7 month participation may be a bit steep.

Y.E.L.L.O.W. = (needs some work) Yelling Everday Loudmouthed Lefties Onto War

Promising that I will only use these allergy meds again when I am having 12 for supper.

Posted by: LARWYN at May 1, 2006 3:42 PM


Thanks, I'm RC, too. Those guys still amaze me.

Posted by: Old Dad at May 1, 2006 8:06 PM

Go join the army. Do it today.

Posted by: dawgzy at May 1, 2006 10:35 PM

I'd stand up.

Posted by: Obi's Sister at May 2, 2006 5:28 AM

What comforts me is that September 11th was a one-trick pony. As we have seen since, anyone who messes around on an airplane is dealt with quickly and harshly, there is no passivity.

I found the movie to be painful to watch, which is exactly why I wanted to see it in the first place. I want to never forget.

Posted by: Brian at May 2, 2006 7:29 AM

I have not yet seen the film- I will see it soon.

My brother Dan was once confronted by four thugs with knives late one night expecting to mug him. He said to them "You might take me down but you can be damn well sure at least one of you is going down with me." They went on their way.

When the time comes, I will echo his response.

Posted by: jrf at May 2, 2006 8:37 AM

you made me cry with this post. i'll be going to this movie alone.

Posted by: laurie at May 2, 2006 11:12 AM

My oldest son is a firefighter and I could not be prouder. He's my hero.

I'm lucky that in living a hard life, I've already learned what I'll do when evil comes to call. If you too would fight for what is right, prepare yourself mentally and physically. Whoever and wherever you are, terrorism can turn you from citizen to soldier in one beat of your heart.

And give thanks to God every day that you and yours are free. Live or die, His arms are around us.

Posted by: AskMom at May 2, 2006 12:34 PM

George W. Bush = redneck war criminal.

That's why the majority of the country won't "stand up" with his idiotic schemes for bringing still more misery to Iraq, or nuking the Iranians.

Hope this helped!

Posted by: Jeff at May 6, 2006 3:41 PM

Jeff, go crawl back into the hole that you came from.

Posted by: Rob at May 7, 2006 8:48 AM

We were in the Army when it happened, stuck at Ft. Lewis, and preparing to separate from the Army the following January.

I was not surprised when it happened, because even though the mood in the country at the time was much like it is now, but at the time there were attacks against US targets that were gradually getting closer together, and Hollywood's "academics" and moveon.org, and the like were claiming the Congress was being paranoid everytime the issue of our national security came up.

The very same people were burning the flag and argueing about whether or not it was wrong to do, and carrying the flag upside down had become all the rage.

I am a born and bred American, but my husband was in the Army, and the one that was supposed to go and die for a country that did not give a penny about his life or the future of our children. I was so bitter and angry, and scared that I would lose the one person in this country that I could truelly count on to keep us safe.

Thankfully the Army did not force him to stay in and he got out right before this Bush sent troops that were just as demoralized and embittered as we were into Iraq.

It all came back when I read a quote from Hillary Clinton in defense of illegal immigrants stating, "who will do our gardening". Soldiers mean absolutely nothing to this country, they mean even less if they are serving under a European flag or an English flag, and they are paid an illegal immigrant's wage to do a lot more than "garden", but they are alien within their own country, whether returning alive or dead.

Those are Americans from the USA who are protesting outside of the homes of deceased soldiers families, protesting those funerals, and they could care less that the soldier in the box died with nothing more than the Stars and Stripes to cover his and her corpse. I think of that everytime I see the flag burned, everytime I see an American or anyone in the US turn it upside down, and I cry.

On 9/11 I knew what the reaction would be right after I saw those planes hit the towers, and it just angered me further because I was right. The people who died on that day mean nothing, because the more "important" thing to think about was "why did it happen". Not "god the kids" not "will their families be okay" none of that, what hit was, "we derserved it" which means those people deserved to die.

Flight 93 was lost on the country for so long. Instead we were gagged with that fat guy who took an American tragedy and made it a joke and laughed his lard butt into a penthouse in the sky. It all became a self-hate campaign, and as a result, made all those who died then and have died since then meaningless.

I can't watch the movie, not the one that was on AandE nor the one that Hollywood put out, because that all comes back again, and it hurts almost as much as the day those priceless Americans died.

Have any of you ever felt this way? Specifically those who have served in the military? I know the nam vets experienced this with the "babykiller" and "warmonger" b.s.. But today anyone understand?

Posted by: Karen at May 18, 2006 1:02 PM

trivial in comparison perhaps to some, but in being prepared to know what to do I am reminded of the day I came to know... KNOW ... I could kill to save the life of one of my children if someone attempted to harm them.
Before that day, my 'emergency plan' had always been run or hide.

[also a mom]
Dallas, Texas

Posted by: velma at June 21, 2006 4:31 PM
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