September 11 - The Heroes Who Said NO!

by Laurie D. T. Mann

With all the awful news coming out of America on September 11, it is a good thing to acknowledge the extraordinary heroism and acts of bravery that occurred in the midst of such tragedy.

Remembering the firefighters, police and EMTs who went into the middle of hell in the WTC towers and did not get out in time.

Remembering the pilots and passengers who managed to get messages out of the doomed planes in the middle of the hijackings.

But I will particularly remember the people who said "No!" - thousands of people in the WTC and some passengers on United Flight 93.

Americans, a free people, are reasonably law-abiding and often do not question authority. But there are times when "Question Authority" isn't just a slogan on a button from the '70s - it is something you must do to either survive a terrible situation or die free. And Tuesday was one of those times.

Many people in various parts of the WTC, particularly in Tower 2, reported that they were ordered to return to their desks after the first plane hit Tower 1. Almost no one was sure what was going on - they just knew something terrible had happened in Tower 1. Some people followed orders. They went back to their desks. In at least one trading company, they were told to get back to their desks so they wouldn't miss any bond trades.

But many kept going down those stairs.

One man described how he helped shepherd people off one of the floors near the 70th floor in Tower 2, despite getting the warning that they should return to their desks and wait. Just as he was heading into the staircase, he could see the part of the second crashing plane send a fireball through the floor. But the people kept going down the stairs, and just about everyone from that floor made it out. If they had stayed put as instructed, they would have all died.

So there are times when you have to say "No!" just to save your own life.

But there are other times when saying "No!" will not save your life, but it might save the lives of others.

Such was the case on United Flight 93, when at least four men decided to take on the hijackers. They knew something the other hijack victims did not know - they knew, for a fact, that the hijackers were only looking for flying bombs. They knew if they believed anything the hijackers told them that they would loose more than just their lives; they could also be used as part of another terrorist strike on a populated area.

So at least four of these men (Todd Beamer, Mark Bingham, Thomas Burnett, and Jeremy Glick) took on the hijackers. We may never know exactly what happened or exactly who was involved. But we do know that United Flight 93 was the only plane hijacked on September 11 that was not successfully used as a flying bomb. They partially foiled the hijackers and were genuinely heroic.

There are times when saying "No!" is the most heroic thing you can do.