' Strangers on a train - Paul Greenberg

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June 26th, 2017

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Strangers on a train

Paul Greenberg

By Paul Greenberg

Published August 26, 2015

  Strangers on a train

It was enough to bring back all those still painful yet proud memories of United Flight 93, whose passengers and crew were the first to strike back September 11th -- even before that fateful day had ended.

United 93 was the only one of four hijacked airliners that never made it to the hijackers' intended target -- whether the White House or the U.S. Capitol still isn't known. The moral of this story needs to be remembered: Americans do not just sit there and wait to become victims when we're attacked, any more than our sailors and airmen at Pearl Harbor did as the first Zeroes cleared the horizon on another fateful day -- December 7, 1941. Let our enemies know: Americans fight back. And how.

The battle cry of United 93 still resounds after all these years: Let's Roll! As it should. Just as Americans still make the pilgrimage to Shanksville, Pa., where that airliner went down in a giant fireball.

Memory is a weapon in this still continuing war on terror. Let's not blunt it. So please don't refer to this fight as an Overseas Contingency Operation or by some other euphemism. A war is a war is a war, even if we never sought it but must win it -- and will, God help us. Our enemies can't stand straight talk, for nothing seems to irritate them like the plain meaning of words.

Today this country has a new set of heroes to celebrate: Airman Spencer Stone, 23, of Carmichael, Calif.; Anthony Sadler, 23, a senior at California State University, Sacramento, and Alek Skarlatos, 22, a National Guardsman from Roseburg, Ore., buddies who were traveling together in Europe just to see the sights and, boy, did they ever.

All three of these young men sprang into action when the attacker came careening through the train, loaded for murder and bent on mayhem. So did a British businessman and trained medic, Chris Norman, who was just sitting there quietly working on his computer when he heard the sounds of shots and flying glass as the terrorist approached. ("He had a Kalashnikov, he had a magazine full. ... My thought was OK, I'm probably going to die anyway. So let's go." Which must be British for Let's Roll.

In an assuring sign that the Anglo-American alliance still holds -- remember when it used to be called the Special Relationship? -- Chris Norman performed heroically, rushing to join the fight and tend the wounded. Good show.

Imagine the bloodbath throughout the Amsterdam-Paris express that the terrorist could have presided over if these heroes hadn't been prepared to respond -- and did. Quickly. They all need to be recognized, honored and celebrated. As indeed they are being hailed -- in France, here in America and throughout the free world.

There was a time -- it seems so long ago now -- that passengers in transit could just sit back, relax and leave the flying/driving to others. Not anymore. Now the whole world is a battlefield, not excluding this country and target, for our enemies have made it so. Which is why all of us need to remain on alert, whether at home or abroad. And be prepared to respond at a moment's notice, like these three young Americans and their British friend. For we're engaged in a war whether we're aware of it or not, and whether we sought it or not. En garde!

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Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

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