Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11: Redefining Freedom

As I lay in bed tonight, I find it difficult to believe that it has been ten years since the Twin Towers collapsed, ten years since the Pentagon had a gaping hole ripped into it, and ten years since the passengers of United flight 93 found the courage to stand up to those who had suddenly taken control of their plane and seemed on a collision course for Washington DC.

There is no denying the heroism that first responders to the World Trade Center and Pentagon tragedies showed. The policemen, firemen, paramedics, and later search and rescue volunteers and canines are owed a huge thanks for the risk they took to save others. Indeed, some made the ultimate sacrifice.

Yet it is not about those who were in uniform that day I wish to write. Over and over again today my mind has gone to the passengers of Flight 93. I do not think I need to rehash a timeline of events. The passengers of this plane knew from actions already taken by the hijackers that they were in great peril. Then they learned the attackers had taken the cockpit.

So many people at this point would have given up, and resigned themselves, allowing their fear to rule the fight or flight response. As far as we know none of the passengers on that flight knew how to fly an aircraft. Yet they made the choice to take action against what they knew to be a threat, and perhaps try to land the plane safely. As we know the hijackers resisted and all passengers onboard unfortunately perished when the plane crashed in a field outside Shanksville, PA.

They knew the risk, before making the decision to try to fight. They called their families, if they could. And they stood up and fought. That to me, is freedom. The ability to choose. And honor and bravery come in standing up for what you know to be right, even when the stakes are high. All of those passengers died with dignity. They are American heroes, just as much as the first responders and volunteers.

Yet why is it we rarely mention "the fourth plane"? Yes the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were devastating. But speculation among experts and the general public has formed the likely conjecture that Flight 93 was headed for the White House. Yes, the tragedies that occured that day were earth shattering, life changing, and heart breaking. But if not for the bravery of a few strong people, it could have been so much worse.

May we all learn from the actions of those who took the chance that faithful morning. They acted to protect the others on board, thought for themselves came later. They reacted, but had a clear plan before engaging their attackers. That plan changed, I am certain, once the encounter began, but they had an idea and they tried it. This is the same thing Sensei and the other instructors at Equa Do are teaching me. Even if it doesn't work the way we hope, we are better off doing something than nothing. If we do nothing, then all hope is certainly lost.

This post is dedicated to all those who perished or were injured in the attacks on the US on September 11, 2001. Your bravery was unparalleled, your courage indomitable. What happened will never be forgotten. You all are American heroes, who gave much for our freedom.


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