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Posts Tagged ‘united 93’

A strange and dismal trip

Posted by Richard on April 7, 2007

In his new Townhall column, Dean Barnett compared a random collection of civilians unexpectedly facing death aboard an airliner to a group of British sailors and marines conducting military operations on a warship. The limeys don't fare so well in the comparison:

On 9/11, the passengers aboard United Flight 93 had an option – they could rely on the good intentions of their captors or they could fight back. When presented with this Hobson's choice, they responded with the words "Let's roll." Their ensuing actions were the very definition of heroism.

A few weeks ago, 15 British seamen and marines, soldiers of the Royal Navy, found themselves in a similar quandary. Belligerent Iranians had surrounded them and threatened them with both words and actions. Just as the passengers on Flight 93 had a choice, so too did the British seamen who ultimately spent a couple of weeks as hostages of the Iranian regime. Why did these soldiers, the products of military training and representatives of Her Majesty's flag, make the decision to surrender themselves? Because, according to their Captain at a Friday press conference, "Fighting back was simply not an option."

What a strange and dismal trip it has been for the Western world, going from "Let's Roll" to "Fighting Back Was Not An Option" in scarcely more than five years. One can only hope that when the history of our era is written, the former will turn out to be the immortal quote, not the latter.

Barnett acknowledged that he, as a "keyboard warrior," has slight status for criticizing those who were in harm's way. But he found strong support for his reaction from Medal of Honor recipient Jack Jacobs. Read the whole thing. Allahpundit has the relevant video clips, along with the dispiriting news that the British Navy has ceased inspecting cargo ships bound for Iraq.

Like Barnett, I'm hesitant to criticize those in uniform from the comfort of my civilian chair. But this whole incident leaves a bad taste in my mouth — especially with the culmination that Iran is now free to smuggle its sophisticated explosives and weapons into Iraq. How is this not an abject surrender by Britain and an undeserved victory for Iran?

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Never forget

Posted by Richard on September 11, 2006

Lady Liberty watching over the twin towers before 9/11
 

On this anniversary, no words I write could match what Gerard Van der Leun wrote several months ago when United 93 came out. I described it thus:

Nothing else I’ve read comes close to Gerard Van der Leun’s Of a Fire in a Field. I first read it several days ago and was unable to even write about it. I’ve read it several times now, and the impact is still powerful. I don’t recall anything that has ever moved me more.

In the passage that moved me beyond words, and that I quote again today, Van der Leun recalled 9/11 and its aftermath, when he lived in New York:

Inside the wire under the hole in the sky was, in time, a growing hole in the ground as the rubble was cleared away and, after many months, the last fire was put out. Often at first, but with slowly diminishing frequency, all the work to clear out the rubble and the wreckage would come to a halt.

The machinery would be shut down and it would become quiet. Across the site, tools would be laid down and the workers would straighten up and stand still. Then, from somewhere in the pile or the pit, a group of men would emerge carrying a stretcher covered with an American flag and holding, if they were fortunate, a body. If they were not so fortunate the flag covering over the stretcher would be lumpy, holding only portions of a body from which, across the river on the Jersey shore, a forensic lab would try to make an identification and then pass on to the victim’s survivors something that they could bury.

I’m not sure anymore about the final count, but I am pretty sure that most families, in the end, got nothing. Their loved ones had all gone into the smoke and the dust that covered the end of the island and blew, mostly, across the river into Brooklyn where I lived. What happened to most of the three thousand killed by the animals on that day? It is simple and ghastly. We breathed them until the rains came and washed clean what would never be clean again.

. . .

As I did back in May, on this anniversary, I urge you to read the whole thing — and think about the question he asks you at the end.

The final count, apparently, is 2,626 at the WTC and 2,996 total. The latter number is also the name of a website and a fine idea for a tribute:

2,996 is a tribute to the victims of 9/11.

On September 11, 2006, 2,996 volunteer bloggers
will join together for a tribute to the victims of 9/11.
Each person will pay tribute to a single victim.

We will honor them by remembering their lives,
and not by remembering their murderers.

I really meant to sign up for this effort, but other events made me forget. Not to worry — there was no shortage of volunteers. In fact, the list is oversubscribed (more than 3400 bloggers participating), so some victims have more than one blogger paying tribute.

Here’s the entire list of links to the tributes. Take a few moments today to read just a few, won’t you?

And never forget.

First tower falls
Fleeing through the choking dust

 

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More moonbat science

Posted by Richard on July 10, 2006

Moonbat science marches on! Saturday, I posted about a couple of  "experiments" conducted by 9/11 conspiracy theorist Spooked to "prove" that airplanes didn’t bring down the WTC towers. The intrepid Instapinch, who brought those experiments to public attention, dove back into the depths of Spooked’s site and found yet another amazing experiment regarding the WTC towers. Plus an analysis of United Flight 93’s crash using pencil sketches to prove that:

None of it makes a lot of sense, but the clear thing is that THE OFFICIAL FLIGHT 93 CRASH STORY IS WRONG!

You can check out the WTC experiment at Instapinch. This experiment predates the more sophisticated — I’m not kidding — rabbit fence and concrete block model. Did I mention that this one involves coat hangers?

But don’t settle for Instapinch’s teaser about the Flight 93 theory, go read the whole thing — not for Spooked’s analysis, but for the many wonderful comments. Priceless! I laughed until tears ran down my cheeks. Here are a few samples:

Anonymous said…

and despite his "genius" at fooling the world on 9/11, Bush still couldn’t figure out a way to fake WMD stockpiles in Iraq. Go figure.

Anonymous said…

This is satire, right. Please, let it be satire. Otherwise, you need some serious help and it scares me that you’re walking around unsupervised.

Anonymous said…

I saw Condi Rice in the pilot’s cabin on that flight. She deliberately flew the plane into the ground. At the last second she leaped out of the window with a parachute. The word "Haliburton" was stenciled on the ‘chute.

Anonymous said…

The "Condi Rice in a Haliburton parachute" theory has been completely discredited.

We now know that after shooting Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby was cryogenically frozen, cloned, and stored in Rumsefeld’s basement until being thawed out and used to fly the planes into the WTC, etc. If you want I can draw you a picture.

Johnny Drama said…

I’ve only one question.

Is this sort of stupidity the result of public school or lead-based paint chips?

Anonymous said…

Liberal…
its not what it used to be

John from WuzzaDem said…

Hopefully, My Last Analysis of the Flight 93 Crash

I think I speak for everyone when I say:

"Please please please please post just one more!"

(Note: The Instapinch post has some pretty good comments, too.)

The humor value of this stuff is undeniable. But, as Instapinch noted, there’s another reason to link to such material:

Without beating a dead horse here …, this sort of idiocy needs to see the light of day. It needs to see that light to show people how unhinged – how simply out of touch with the real world some of the lefty-whack jobs are. Reason and common sense are not given a back seat in these people’s worlds, they are strapped into an ejection seat and are *gone*.

It’s not just Spooked and all the total whack jobs that he shares links and ideas with. A significant portion of the left, while not True Believers, are sympathetic to the conspiracy theorists and/or "agnostic" about who brought down the WTC towers. At the DailyKos comment that Instapinch linked, Socratic joined the laughter and took a bit of a swipe at DU. But Carolita immediately came to DU’s defense:

Don’t you think the 101 comments refuting this "experiment" constitute an adequate response? Unlike the right-wing blogs, DU doesn’t rewrite history and selectively remove a post from 2005 "just in case" some wingnut might see it. And it is hardly any surpise that instapinch.com would selectively point to a posted comment as if it were an official position of the web site and conveniently forget that a multitude of commentors wrote in to refute it.

Well, each of those three sentences is bogus. First, DU removes posts all the time (it’s not secretive; they’re marked "Message removed by moderator"), including several in the Spooked experiment thread. Second, the 101 comments at the time Carolita wrote (it’s now over 280) were absolutely not all refuting the experiment. I don’t think even half of them were negative (note: there were far fewer than a hundred commenters because there was much "dialog"). There certainly wasn’t a "multitude" refuting it. Some commenters were supportive of a 9/11 conspiracy; some were "open-minded"; some were skeptical of Spooked’s experiment, but in a friendly way. I remember at least one commenter praised Spooked for trying so hard and encouraged him to refine his experiment further — I pegged that one as a schoolteacher.

Only a couple or three commenters (before the recent flood of non-DU sightseers) completely rejected the notion of a 9/11 conspiracy and ridiculed Spooked’s experiment. And they had to fend off repeated attacks and challenges from an equal number of hard-core supporters.

Across a wide swath of the American Left extending deep into the Democratic base, the question of who’s responsible for the 9/11 attacks — al-Qaeda, the U.S. government, or Israel — is open to debate.

All this "moonbat science" is pretty damned funny. But it’s also sad. And a bit disturbing, when you think about it.

UPDATE: Moonbats rule in academia.
 

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United 93 is outstanding

Posted by Richard on May 22, 2006

I finally saw United 93 this evening. It’s every bit as good as the most laudatory reviews said it was. Maybe better. I won’t even attempt a detailed review — there are plenty of those available. I just want to make one important point and then mention a couple of things that really struck me.

My important point is this: Some viewers and reviewers have said that this is a difficult — even painful — film to watch, and I suspect many people are reluctant to go see it as a result. Frankly, it did leave me somewhat drained. But it also left me feeling very, very good. As Peter Travers said in his Rolling Stone review, "This is the best of us."

As a point of comparison, think of Schindler’s List — a serious, emotionally wrenching experience to be sure, but aren’t you glad you saw it? Wasn’t it really life-affirming, ennobling, uplifting?

United 93 is all those things and then some. I’m in awe of writer/director Paul Greengrass and the cast, and I’m profoundly grateful to them and to the people at Universal Studios who made this wonderful film possible.

One line in the film that really struck me: Shortly after take-off, Capt. Dahl announced that (quoting from memory), "As we make this turn, those of you on the left side of the cabin will get a beautiful view of lower Manhattan and the New York skyline." Since there are no surviving witnesses, I assume that this statement was invented by Greengrass, but depending on direction of takeoff and flight plan, it’s plausible.

It’s also a brilliant and poignant bit of foreshadowing. Only a few minutes later, American Flight 11 hit the World Trade Center, changing lower Manhattan and the New York skyline forever; the passengers on United 93 may have been among the last people to see the twin towers in all their glory. Somehow, that seems appropriate, and I hope it’s true.

Something else that struck me: I knew from reviews that some air traffic controllers played themselves; I didn’t realize until the credits how many. We all knew the basic story of what happened on the plane, but most of us had no idea what happened on the ground. The scenes at the various civilian and military ATC centers were powerful and riveting. One especially powerful scene showed the controllers in the Newark tower, just a few miles southwest of the World Trade Center, staring at it in shock and disbelief after the first plane hit.

I can’t urge you strongly enough to go see this film. You owe it to yourself. And to Paul Greengrass and the cast. And most of all, to the heroes on United 93.

But go see it soon. I was shocked by how few screens it’s on (half the Denver area cineplexes aren’t showing it), and there were only two or three dozen people at the showing I saw. See it on a big screen before it’s gone. You’ll be very glad you did.
 

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The lesson of United 93

Posted by Richard on May 18, 2006

Ilya Somin at The Volokh Conspiracy noticed a Michael Kinsley column suggesting that the government, at least, hasn’t learned the lesson of United Flight 93. Kinsley argued that the feds are still officially telling us to remain calm in an emergency and do what we’re told — to not do what the heroes of United 93 did:

For a while after 9/11 there was talk of changing the official policy regarding hijackings and to start encouraging the passengers to whack the hijackers with their pillows, and so on. … But today, airline passengers are still told at the start of every flight that in an emergency they should remain calm and follow instructions from anyone in a uniform…

Poking around the Web, I stumbled across the official "Hijacking Survival Guidelines" for employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They say, "Stay calm and encourage others around you to do the same. Do not challenge the hijackers physically or verbally. Comply with their instructions. Do not struggle…."

Somin said the official advice no longer mattered, but was bothered by it nonetheless:

Should another hijacking occur, I think many passengers are likely to resist the terrorists regardless of what government bureaucrats might say. Flight 93 has entered the popular consciousness in a much more powerful way than any government-issued instructions could. Still, it is deeply troubling that the homeland security bureaucracy can’t get this relatively simple issue right. If they can’t even learn the most obvious lessons of the last major terrorist attack, I highly doubt that they can effectively prepare for the next one. 

I think Kinsley set up a straw man. The standard flight attendants’ emergency spiel isn’t about hijackings, it’s about depressurization, water landings, and exiting the cabin. And Kinsley failed to note the following disclaimer in that document from the USDA site that he quoted (emphasis added):

The guidance below focuses on avoiding violence and achieving a peaceful resolution to a hijacking. This guidance was developed prior to September 11, 2001 when two hijacked airliners were flown into the World Trade Center and one into the Pentagon. Since then, there has been considerable public discussion of a more active and aggressive reaction to the initial announcement that a plane is being hijacked. As of this writing, the U.S. Government has not developed new guidelines for how to react to a hijacking. The appropriate reaction may depend upon the presumed purpose of the hijacking — the hijackers’ goal a suicide mission to use the airplane itself as a bomb, take hostages to gain publicity for a political movement, or a simple desire to escape to another country.

I couldn’t find a revision date. BTW, it’s not a USDA document. It’s part of an antiterrorism training module created by the Dept. of Defense for military and civilian employees and contractors who travel frequently on government business. I assume these sorts of training modules are probably widely shared among agencies.

Nonetheless, I recommend Kinsley’s column, which discussed some important issues — courage and cowardice, obedience and defiance — and acknowledged that some questions are much easier to answer in retrospect:

It is the nature of authorities to assert authority, and its hard to imagine officials of anything urging people to pay no attention to official instructions. But there is also some logic here. The policies followed by police and fire officials at the World Trade Center (at the cost of their own lives as well as others’) seem very wrong in hindsight. But these rules themselves were the product of hindsight. During the first World Trade Center bombing, back in 1993, rescue attempts and fire control were frustrated by the anarchy of thousands fleeing unnecessarily down narrow emergency stairs. Emergency planners are like generals—always fighting the last war. But what other choice do they have? Let he who anticipated that the next four hijacked planes would be pointed at major office buildings cast the first stone.

With convenient symmetry, it also seems to be the nature of most people, most of the time, to obey authority. The famous Stanley Milgram experiments at Yale in 1961 demonstrated that it is frighteningly easy to induce ordinary people—good people—to inflict pain on others, when ordered to do so by some authority figure. Sept. 11 demonstrated that most people will sit tight and obey orders even unto their own deaths. The defiance of authority is a big reason the United 93 story is so thrilling. This was heroism, American-style. Dissing the Man on your way out the door. These folks were cowboys. John Wayne and Clint Eastwood don’t have time for the rules, and neither did they.

Yep, "heroism, American-style" and "cowboys" — that’s the story of United 93. Kinsley got that part right.
 

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Smoke and dust and heroism

Posted by Richard on May 4, 2006

I haven’t seen United 93 yet. Soon, maybe. I’ve read quite a few of the reviews and comments, and everything I’ve read suggests it’s as fine a film as I’d hoped it would be.

Nothing else I’ve read comes close to Gerard Van der Leun’s Of a Fire in a Field. I first read it several days ago and was unable to even write about it. I’ve read it several times now, and the impact is still powerful. I don’t recall anything that has ever moved me more.

It’s about United 93, but Van der Leun began by recalling 9/11 and its aftermath, when he lived in New York. He’s a fine writer whose words often paint evocative images; but I can’t find adjectives adequate to describe this passage:

Inside the wire under the hole in the sky was, in time, a growing hole in the ground as the rubble was cleared away and, after many months, the last fire was put out. Often at first, but with slowly diminishing frequency, all the work to clear out the rubble and the wreckage would come to a halt.

The machinery would be shut down and it would become quiet. Across the site, tools would be laid down and the workers would straighten up and stand still. Then, from somewhere in the pile or the pit, a group of men would emerge carrying a stretcher covered with an American flag and holding, if they were fortunate, a body. If they were not so fortunate the flag covering over the stretcher would be lumpy, holding only portions of a body from which, across the river on the Jersey shore, a forensic lab would try to make an identification and then pass on to the victim’s survivors something that they could bury.

I’m not sure anymore about the final count, but I am pretty sure that most families, in the end, got nothing. Their loved ones had all gone into the smoke and the dust that covered the end of the island and blew, mostly, across the river into Brooklyn where I lived. What happened to most of the three thousand killed by the animals on that day? It is simple and ghastly. We breathed them until the rains came and washed clean what would never be clean again.

. . .

Every time I read that, my eyes well up and my breathing becomes labored. It’s as if there’s a weight on my chest.

Van der Leun went on to describe the "ordinary courage" of the New York police and firemen who went up into the twin towers to rescue those trapped on 9/11, and then he connected it to the courage exhibited in the sky above Pennsylvania that day:

To this day, those men who went up those stairs exist in my mind as starlight, beyond my capacity to comprehend — only to honor. But I went to a few of their funerals and so I know, if only slightly, the human face and the life and the families of about a dozen.

Far above and away to the west on that day, there was as we knew, and now as we have seen, another group of American men and women who, when they found out what was happening and what was to be their likely fate, also took that fate in their own hands and came on, fighting to thwart or reverse that fate, until the last moment of their lives. Ordinary people in an extraordinary situation finding the ordinary courage to resist and to fight against the evil that appeared among them.

That’s the theme and the pace and the action of "United 93:" How ordinary people, at first strangers to each other, found the courage to act together in the face of certain death.

Despite the whines and the cavils of the weak and the vile and the corrupt among us, "United 93" has no "message."

Despite the rising and continuing attempts to cheapen the film from the spiritually and politically bankrupt that batten off America, "United 93" has no politics.

You don’t "review" this film if you have an ounce of soul left to you. You watch it.

"United 93," from the first frame to the last, simply and clearly lets you see what happened high in the air on that day. It is, as the phrase on the poster says, "The plane that did not reach its target." Instead, it reached something unintended and much higher. It became and will remain a legend; an integral part of the tapestry of the American myth from which we all draw what strength remains to us, and, in the future, will surely need to draw upon even more deeply. Like the best of our legends, it arises out of our ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Go read the whole thing. Van der Leun has outdone himself with this essay. And at the end, he has a question for you.

Of a Fire in a Field has been nominated — along with another Van der Leun post — for best non-council post by members of the Watcher’s Council. On Friday, the Watcher will post the results of the voting. I haven’t read most of the other nominated posts, but I can’t imagine this one not winning. It’s simply in a class by itself.
 

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