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Monday, September 11, 2006

Brought to you courtesy of the heroes of Flight 93

Nobody knows where exactly Flight 93 was headed after it was hijacked on September 11, 2001.Terrorists generally do not file flight plans. But its final trajectory made it fairly clear that it was headed for Washington, D.C.
What was its target? Nobody knows that, either. Washington D.C. and its surroundings are a target-rich environment. Perhaps the plan was to crash a second plane into the Pentagon. Perhaps the target was the majestic obelisk of the Washington Monument, or the Presidential residence, the White House. The most popular theory is that the target was the one that would have had the greatest symbolic value: the U.S. Capitol.
Al Qa'eda's signature move is the simultaneous attack. If multiple targets are hit at the same time, it's a fairly clear sign it was one of their attacks. It's the terrorist equivalent of landing a man on the moon: See, we can do this, and there's nothing you can do to stop it. Flight 93 was supposed to hit its target at the same time that the other planes were hitting theirs. It didn't. Instead, it took a high-velocity nosedive into a field in southwestern Pennsylvania.
So what happened? Why did the other planes hit their targets, and Flight 93 didn't? The answer is grounded in one simple fact: it was late taking off.

Well, that wasn't the only reason. Maybe the passengers had a specific mix of skills and strengths that allowed them to fight the hijackers - at least one of them was qualified to fly a plane. Perhaps it was because there were only four hijackers instead of the five that were present on the other planes. And to a large extent it was because the passengers were able to communicate with people on the ground who let them know exactly what was happening in New York City and Washington D.C. Armed with that knowledge, the passengers of Flight 93 knew they had to act.

The hijackers had failed before they took off. Their plane was 42 minutes late. They had lost the element of simultaneity. The glory of the day had been diminished. They should have given up before they started. But they decided to forge ahead anyway. Allah would understand.

People around the world think the U.S. shot down Flight 93 with a missile. We didn't. Not that we wouldn't have if we had had the chance. But we didn't have time. Faced with the failure of their mission, the cowards who had hijacked Flight 93 chose the dishonor of suicide over the dishonor of being overpowered by the passengers of Flight 93. And so they took a high-velocity nosedive into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, leaving behind a very small and very deep hole.
So the next time you're in Washington, D.C., or even just looking at pictures of the place, keep in mind that if the terrorist plan for Flight 93 had been successful, the area might look very different. Look at the buildings, look at the monuments, and remember that they are there because of the heroes of Flight 93.

And because their flight was 42 minutes late. Remember that, too, next time your flight is delayed.

Images courtesy of The Architect of the Capitol and the heroes of Flight 93.


dee said...

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

so hard to believe it has been five years, no? and we were together on that day as well harold.
we have seen our fair share of tradgedies in that time, but none, to equal that. :(