September 14, 2001
They will be forever known as the men who fought the terrorists on flight 93.
Mark Bingham, a gay man headed back to San Francisco, called his mother on the telephone and
said the plane had just been taken over by terrorists and that one of them had a bomb.
Jeremy Glick told his wife that three men, wearing red bandannas had taken over the plane.
CeeCee Lyles had called her husband and sons from the plane saying that three of her fellow
attendants had been stabbed.
While people in other planes had reported similar situations, including the murder of flight
attendants and passengers, flight 93 was different. It had more facts.
Even the scrambling air force from some base in New York State could not save the passengers
of the four planes -- or sooth the panic they suffered as four to five men murdered attendants. One
man calling from the toilet in the plane out of Newark claimed the passengers had been herded to
the rear of the plane, a shivering collection of frightened sheep misunderstanding the situation.
At first, the passengers must have thought they would remain alive, that the terrorists would take
their jet to some remote location, such as cuba, demand money, before setting the passengers
free. But once the reports came that two planes had hit the World Trade Center and another had
hit the Pentagon, all hope vanished.
This group of passengers traveling out of Newark Airport knew that other planes had struck the
World Trade Center. Bingham, Glick and another passenger, Thomas E. Burnett, Jr. said they
had to stop the plane somehow.
Burnett claimed that one passenger had been killed for not following the terrorists instructions.
"I know we're all going to die," Burnett told his wife on the cell phone. "There's three of us who
are going to do something about it."
"We could take them!" Glick told his wife.
And apparently they did, although the news reports that reached us in the hours following the fall
of the World Trade Center, claimed the plane had been shot down, and that four additional
planes were still in the air seeking targets. Over our heads in Secaucus, F-16s soared by seeking
to stop some craft we could not see.
That's been the problem. The unknown. Where and when the enemy would strike, leaving us all
victims, leaving us to look to the sky at each passing plane, thinking it an enemy.
The FAA ordered all the planes in the nation to land. But did then? Would the air force shoot
down the ones that didn't. Would one manage to elude their vigilance and find more Americans
to kill? Would the passengers in those planes realize in time and stop the terrorists?
Three days after the event, we still shake, even as we learn of the horrendous loss of life from
those strikes we could not halt -- the World Trade Center in ruins. The Pentagon still
smoldering. Bodies unrecoverable in both. And we, now shivering sheep on the ground
wondering what comes next.