Jewish World Review Sept. 11, 2013/ 7 Tishrei, 5774
By Paul Greenberg
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | It was one of those morning flights. Routine. The ETD went up on the computer screens along with all the others.
The airport didn't have a familiar name like LaGuardia or Kennedy, Logan or O'Hare, but was lesser-known
The passengers on United Flight 93, the regularly scheduled morning flight from
Some called home, others the office. Many were already entering that altered state of consciousness that airline passengers will slip into once they've checked their baggage, and have nothing to do but wait, read their book, get a cup of coffee, turn on their laptop. ... Yes, routine.
. . .
From here on in, they could leave the driving -- or rather flying -- to others. To the pilots, flight attendants, ground crew, air traffic controllers. ... They were in that strange country called In Transit, or call it life in pause.
All in all, it can be a nice break, air travel, once you're past the check-in hassle and have given yourself time to relax. If you're not the too-active type with something always to do.
Unlike the flight attendants. They have check-lists to go over and a host of other details to tend to. One of them,
When she got to the airport, she called again. There didn't seem to be too many passengers on the flight list for United 93, she told him. "I've got an easy day," she said.
The crew was well-trained, their instructions in case of an emergency spelled out long ago: If they found themselves in the middle of a hijacking, they were to Stay Calm and phone the cockpit, using an innocuous word like "trip" to alert the pilots, as in "I need to talk to you about the trip." The crew's order of priorities in such a case was clear: Take care of yourself and the passengers. Get the plane down without further incident. Do whatever the hijackers wanted. Don't try to be a hero.
The flight attendant's manual was quite specific on that point: "Be persuasive to stay alive. Be released or escape. Delay. Engage in comfortable behavior. Be yourself. Maintain a professional role...." This manual was a step-by-step guide to passivity. Everything had been anticipated. Almost.
When it happened, word got out phone call by phone call.
It's something else to remember if and when the trials begin for some of our cosseted guests at Guantanamo, with their regular exercise periods, certified diets, prayer breaks ... all of them treated like Prisoners of War even if they're not. Even if they're illegal combatants. The kind who don't wear the uniform of the enemy, if it has one, and who slit women's throats with box cutters. Oh, brave jihadi!
The cowardice, the bloodthirstiness, the death worship of these fanatics ... all of those provide another reason to vow never to imitate them, but to do justice without a trace of vengeance, by the book, without passion or malice. Cold, correct, legal. For we are Americans, and have a civilization to defend, not dishonor.
There were 40 Americans aboard United 93 -- two pilots, five flight attendants, 33 passengers. All ordinary people, we would be told, who found themselves in extraordinary circumstances, and rose to the challenge. But looking over their concise biographies, a newspaper columnist who needs and wants to write about them, who must write about them, especially today of all days, realizes anew that there is no such thing as an ordinary American.
Every time you hear some talking head or a certified pundit or distinguished politician talk about how Ordinary Americans think or feel about this issue or that, you can be sure only that you're hearing from somebody too lazy to think this thing through -- a clod-in-mind.
Nor was there anything ordinary about
There was nothing gentle about the fury these passengers unleashed when they realized what was going on, and what had already happened to other flights, those that had crashed into the
Did the passengers ever breach the cockpit? All the voice recorder caught was the sounds of struggle and confusion. Did they wrestle with the hijackers for the controls? It doesn't matter. They fought back.
Ordinary? These first Americans to fight back in the war against terror? These 40 Americans who were told to be quiet and do as the enemy told them? Never.
JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.
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