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In Honor of the Heroes of Flight 93
September 15, 2004
by Carey Roberts

Precisely at 9:27 AM, the Middle Eastern men arose from their seats to launch their well-honed plan to commandeer United Airlines flight 93. Killing passenger Mark Rothenberg in seat B5, they forced their way into the cockpit.

Shortly after gruesome screams of "Get out of here!" were heard, the hijackers assumed the controls of the Boeing 757, cruising in the airspace near Cleveland, Ohio.

At 9:38 the aircraft executed a U-turn and headed towards its new destination: the White House, located less than 60 minutes to the southeast.

Over the next 25 minutes, there would be many tales of faith and courage. But as Jere Longman has documented in his book, Among the Heroes, none of these stories could surpass the valor of four men: Jeremy Glick, Tom Burnett, Richard Guadagno, and Todd Beamer.

Jeremy Glick was an all-around natural athlete. In 1993 he had won the national judo championship. Positioned in the back of the plane, Jeremy telephoned his wife Lyz at 9:37. He said that he and three other guys were thinking about attacking the hijackers. His last words to her were, "Okay, stay on the phone, I'll be right back."

Who were the three other guys?

One of them was Tom Burnett, a former star high school quarterback. At 9:27 he called his wife Deena on his cell phone. As she began to recount the unfolding events at the World Trade Center that September 11, the sinister intentions of the terrorists became clear. Tom told his wife they were hatching a plan, and added, "If they're going to crash this plane into the ground, we're going to have to do something.It's up to us. I think we can do it."

Richard Guadagno was certainly involved in the counter-attack. A federal law enforcement officer, he had received training how to respond to a hijacking. The night before, he had packed a small pickax into the bag that he would carry on board Flight 93.

Todd Beamer, who had once aspired to play Major league ball, was now a father of two boys. At home he had a pet saying. When it was time for his boys to go outside, Todd would exhort them with the call of "Let's roll."

At 9:45, Beamer reached for the Airfone, dialed "0," and was connected to the GTE operator. When he explained their plan to jump the hijackers, the operator asked him whether he was certain. Beamer answered, "At this point, I don't have much choice. I'm going to have to go out on faith."

Seven minutes later the insurrection began. Beamer stopped his conversation with the GTE operator and uttered the war cry, "You ready? Okay, let's roll!"

Hearing a ruckus in the first class area, one of the hijackers in the cockpit asked what was going on. "Fighting," came the response.

By 9:58, the men had reached the cockpit door and began shouting, "In the cockpit, in the cockpit." One man yelled "Hold." Another screamed in English, "Stop him."

At ten o'clock the pilot began to sharply rock the aircraft's wings, hoping to confuse and dislodge the counter-attackers.

A final rushing sound could be heard on the cockpit recorder. And then dead silence. It was three minutes after ten.

We will never know exactly how many passengers arose from their seats to overpower the hijackers. In addition to Glick, Burnett, Guadagno, and Beamer, other likely men were Mark Bingham, a former rugby player, and Louis Nacke, a guy with a weight-lifter's physique who reportedly would never back down from anyone.

The fiery demise of Flight 93 outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania gives reassurance that in these politically-correct times, the warrior heart still beats steady and strong. Male derring-do may have gone underground, but is still very much alive and well. But three years later, the bravery of these men remains unheralded.

I dedicate this essay to Jeremy Glick, Tom Burnett, Richard Guadagno, Todd Beamer, and to the other men who won that first fight in the modern war against terrorism. Thanks to you, our nation's White House, a worldwide symbol of freedom and democracy, still stands today.

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