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September 10, 2002

Pride and Pain

Tomorrow we will observe the one year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States of America that claimed the lives of some 3000 of our fellow citizens. Odd that it seems longer than a mere 365 days, except when confronted with the maudlin spectacle of television's predictable treatment of the events of September 11, 2001. I personally will be skipping the 24 Hours of Oprah that I know the networks have planned for me, I suggest you do the same. I do, however, feel compelled to make some mention of what it is we should be remembering and why it is important to mark events such as these.
No doubt we will reflect on the loss of so many ordinary men, women, and children whose crime it was to be American, and whose punishment was death. Many of us will be saddened, and no small number maddened, that the lunacy of so few could leave so many with immeasurable loss. But it is important to remember that the events of that day did not confine themselves to the tragic, but instead demonstrated the great character and hope of a people who refuse to lie down and accept the cloak of victimization that so much of tomorrow's programming will thrust at us.
It is perhaps too soon for the families of those on United Airlines Flight 93 to feel the well-deserved pride we feel for their loved ones, but in time I hope they are able to understand why it is we cherish the heroism of their kin. It is not through crass self-preservation or the sterile utilitarian calculus that forty people dying in a Pennsylvania field is preferable to thousands dying at the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. We do not celebrate out of vengeance that on this particular flight the sickening maggots who intended to murder thousands were foiled. We recognize and honor the sacrifice of those on Flight 93 because we fervently pray that if faced with the choices they had we would rise up and follow the exact same path they blazed.
In a world where remote-control bombing and unmanned drones serve on the frontlines of warfare, there are those that argue the American people are too skittish and weak to be able to demonstrate physical courage anymore. The answer to that was not proffered by a mid-level Pentagon bureaucrat addressing an assemblage of journalists, but was instead forcefully demonstrated by that most American of patriots...the Minuteman. While the chattering classes of this country sat agape and uncomprehending as comfortable worldviews went up in the smoke of the New York skyline, the Minutemen were already rushing into the breach so that the enemy would know that it faced free men and women, fearful of death but unwilling to cower in servile terror at the hands of impotent thugs who express their power by abusing women and destroying that which they could never create.
America rarely produces the superman as hero, nor does it usually glorify such men with any seriousness. Certainly we have our comic books and our movies, but the heroes we truly venerate do not have a large S on their chest. Children learn of the midnight ride of Paul Revere, a simple man who nevertheless took it upon himself to risk home and hearth to roust American militia against the British Army. We speak of Sargeant York, a plainly simple and quietly religious man from the backwoods of America who proved that courage rarely bursts forth from the proud and boastful but instead resides in the hearts of those who do not think moral clarity is an object of derision. World War II was won by "The Greatest Generation", an appellation to an entire country who when confronted with the challenge of evil running amok in the world did not choose the cowardice of appeasement and isolationism as so many others did in that era.
So it falls once again to the average citizen to demonstrate to a world once again engaged in appeasement and moral relativism that courage comes from the recognition of evil and the moral strength to refuse that which evil wishes to obtain. We see that courage on Flight 93, from a small group of men and women who knew they were doomed but refused to dishonor themselves by acquiescing to evil's demands. In the very likely chance that a tear comes to my eye tomorrow, it will not be the tragic sorrow of the deaths of those who had no chance or choices but will instead be caused by the bittersweet pride and love one feels when in the presence of those who draw their lines in the world and proclaim to themselves with such force that the world must take notice, "this far and no further." Men and women from all walks of life, a random assemblage of citizens, who rise up and die on their feet taking to heart the earnest command 'do not go gentle into that good night. rage, RAGE against the dying of the light!'
We do not honor their deaths, we honor the manner in which they died. Death comes in its many guises, and if one is lucky it comes at very advanced age and takes us quietly in the night as we sleep. But if it chooses not to come for me in that manner, I surely hope it affords me the oppportunity to stand one last time and make my mark for evil to see, while setting my jaw in defiance and telling every sonofabitch who needs to know... "this far, no further."

List of Crew and Passengers of Flight 93

Posted by fallous at September 10, 2002 10:53 AM


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