09/11 Remembered 20 Years Later

On Friday I was startled to learn that the #1 searched term on google was, “What is 09/11?” The searches were being made by children under the age of 20. Before we go down a diatribe about how “this generation doesn’t know anything,” I can recall many blind spots from history of my own as a kid. I had no idea what the Cuban Missele Crisis was and I was foggy about the Vietnam War.  You see, it was too recent to be taught in the history books and the older generation didn’t really explain it. However, please know that to those who were alive on September 11, 2001, it is something that we will never forget.  It is a moment that defined a generation.

Several years ago, I took my family to Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the final resting site of Americans who valiantly fought the terrorists on United Flight 93. It is a very special place to visit. I bought a book there about the passengers on the plane. I found it interesting that the four main individuals who formulated and carried out the plan of attack that day were all former athletes. I chose to write about these four complete strangers who quickly formed a team, gathered information and made the best decisions possible. Remember, this happened in a matter of minutes. It always makes me wonder how I would have responded those 20 years ago. So, here is my tribute to the 4 Americans who changed the course of events in American history.

Todd Beamer – Teamwork
Less than 2% of high school athletes receive collegiate athletic scholarships. Of those who play in college, only a select 1% make it to the professional level. Yet, millions of kids play youth sports. The main reason is that, as a culture, we believe sports teaches life lessons that translate off the field and down the road. Sports naturally builds traits like confidence, courage, good-judgment, leadership and teamwork. This story demonstrates the power of such lessons.
Todd Beamer was born on November 24, 1968, in Flint, Michigan. He was the middle child, sandwiched between two sisters. He loved sports and played them all. He eventually settled on baseball, basketball and soccer in high school. He later served as the captain of his baseball team at Wheaton College, just outside of Chicago. He was described as the “go-to” guy, a “gamer.” and a “thinking” athlete. Todd was much more than just a great athlete. He was a master motivator and a genuine leader.
When competitive sports ended for Todd, business was the next step. He completed his MBA at DePaul University in 1993, married his college sweetheart, Lisa, took a job at Oracle Corporation, and quickly began to advance up the corporate ladder. Todd and Lisa had two boys, David and Drew. God was a cornerstone of their life as Todd and Lisa taught Sunday School and became mentors at their Wednesday-night youth program. In 2001, Todd set a goal of taking his two sons to every major league baseball stadium, successfully taking them to see Shea Stadium, Yankee Stadium and Oriole Park. They were off to a good start.
Due to Todd’s busy career, he often flew cross-country and back within 24 hours for important meetings. September 11th, 2001 was no exception. So, on that Tuesday morning Todd woke up early, showered and kissed his wife goodbye on her forehead as she slept. Running a bit late, Todd quickly checked in at counter A-17 at Newark International Airport. He took his seat in row 10 and proceeded to make business calls. The 8 a.m. flight pushed the gate at 8:01, but was held up some 40 minutes on the tarmac. This proved to be no worries for Todd because this allowed him more time to prepare for his 1 p.m. meeting in San Francisco. Joining him on United Flight 93 were 36 passengers. Soon, many of them would become teammates — and a few would become opponents of the very worst kind.
Unbeknownst to Todd and the rest of America, a terrorist plot had been hatched many months before to take place on this very morning. Four of the passengers on Todd’s flight were part of a grand scheme to hijack four planes and crash them into iconic American buildings. This dastardly scheme was unfortunately working to perfection. At 8:48 AM, American Airlines Flight 11 blasted into the one of the two majestic “Twin Towers” of New York City’s World Trade Center. The immediate speculation was that this was an accident. However, at 9:03 AM, United Flight 175 smashed into the second tower. It immediately became very clear: America was under attack.
Within minutes, air traffic controllers warned every pilot currently in the air: “Beware of cockpit intrusion.” Todd’s Flight 93 radioed back, “Confirmed.” However, at 9:28 AM, screams could be heard on its open microphone, followed by one of the pilots yelling, “Get out of here!” The plane began to plunge, twist and bob. The next voices heard from the cockpit came from middle-eastern men speaking Arabic. The terrorists had killed the pilots and made a u-turn, presumably to Washington DC, with the intent to take out the White House or the Capitol Building. “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s the Captain,” said one of the terrorists with a heavy accent. “Please sit down. We have a bomb aboard.”
Todd and the rest of the passengers up front were herded to the back of the plane by two of the terrorists. It was in this location that Todd would meet several fellow passengers who now would become his teammates in the first battle of what President Bush later would call, “The War on Terror.”
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• Jeremy Glick, 31, a new father, was a former NCAA judo champion. He was also the captain of his rugby team at the University of Rochester. The only reason Glick was on this flight was because his flight the day before was cancelled.
• Mark Bingham, 31, won 2 national championships while playing on the University of California, Berkeley rugby team. He had also run with the bulls in Pamplona. Mark overslept that morning and ran to the gate, boarding seconds before the door was closed.
• Tom Burnett, 38, was a father of 3 girls. He quarterbacked his high school football team in the Minnesota state championship game and later served as the quarterback at Saint John’s University. He was on his way home to California to be with his family.
• There were other team members, including one recreational pilot who just might be able to land the plane, if given the chance.
Up until this precise moment, the protocol of any hijacking situation consisted of cooperating with the terrorists. Attendants and passengers were to follow the hijackers’ directions and allow the FBI to negotiate a safe outcome. However, on September 11, 2001, on Flight 93 the script flipped.
For some unknown reason — perhaps overconfidence — the terrorists allowed the passengers to make phone calls. Over two dozen outgoing phone calls were made from United Flight 93 in this short span of time. Many called loved ones to say “I love you” and “Goodbye.” In the course of these final conversations, their family members relayed what they were learning on television. Thus, the passengers learned about the Twin Towers being hit by commercial airplanes. They also learned of a 3rd plane, American Airlines Flight 77, that flew into the Pentagon Building. Shortly thereafter the passengers discussed the options and voted on the best course of action. At 9:45 Tom Burnett declared the outcome of this vote to his wife, “If they are going to run this plane into the ground, we’re going to do something.”
Instead of calling his wife who was five months pregnant, Todd elected to call the United Airlines Customer Care Center. He spoke with supervisor, Lisa Jefferson for over fifteen minutes. He relayed the situation, gathered information and discussed their plan: Flight attendants would fill coffee pots with hot water and several passengers would storm the cockpit with makeshift weapons and regain control of the plane. Towards the end of this conversation, Todd asked Lisa to recite the Lord’s prayer with him and promise to tell his family how much he loved them. He then took a deep breath and asked his teammates, “Are you ready?” A split second later, he said, “Okay. Let’s roll!”
The last report we have came from passenger Elizabeth Wainio, who was on the phone with her stepmother when the attack began. “They’re breaking into the cockpit. I love you. Good-bye.” Within seconds, at 10:03 a.m., United Flight 93, crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. They were less than fifteen minutes from Washington, DC, the most likely target.
The plane and all its passengers disintegrated on contact. Although they could not save their own lives, they undoubtedly saved many of their fellow Americans that day. “They were all heroes,” lamented Supervisor Lisa Richardson. “They all pitched in and did what needed to be done.” 2,992 people were murdered on September 11, 2001. The reason the loss of life was not greater is due to the men and women on United Flight 93.
In the most stressful situation imaginable, these complete strangers quickly formed a bond, collected vital information, developed a plan, and executed it to the best of their ability. Of the 33 passengers on the plane, these four former athletes stepped up to lead. They used good-judgment, courage and initiative. They acted as a team and worked together towards a heroic goal. These traits were learned thru playing sports and obviously remained throughout their lives. To commemorate their memory, Todd Beamer, Jeremy Glick, Tom Burnett and Mark Bingham were posthumously awarded the 2002 Arthur Ashe Courage Award.

Your Turn: Did you know this story? And, after reading it, what are your thoughts about these 4 individuals?

Comments 58

  1. I knew of a plane that was reclaimed by the passengers, but never the team that did it. I think all four of those guys are about as brave and willing as it gets. Standing up to terrorists and taking an entire plane from them is no easy feat, and even though it ended up crashing, it’s better it crashed where it did rather than where it was heading. Those men all deserved awards for what they did and their ultimate sacrifice.

  2. I did not know this specific story. The 4 individuals were all very brave and did the right thing. They represented the country as fine as anyone.

  3. It’s crazy how brave and heroic these individuals are. This story tells us that anyone can be as brave as them and push and strive to be like them.

  4. They were brave and courageous, even prepared for when they would face their deaths as they committed to their plans. Their sacrifices for the good of others should be remembered and honored.

  5. I did not know this but I believe that anyone willing to help in the crisis that was 9/11 was a brave hero and an amazing person in the moment.

  6. I thought this story was really cool. Even after these athletes careers were over, they still had great teamwork and coporation which led them to making the decision to fight back. I thought these four individuals were great men who paid the altumate sacrifice to save others and that’s what made them so special. They should never be forgotten.

  7. This article is very inspiring. It shows just how important sports is. Because of sports these brave men had the leadership skills needed to be hero’s. I’m not saying you need leadership skills to be hero’s, but it certainly helps. Tom really stood out to me. A former athlete who played at a high level knew what he should do and how to get it done. It makes me think that if these guys can be leaders in the worst of circumstances then I can as well. Having a season ending injury sucks, it really does. But its not like I’m dead, or having to take over a plane knowing that I will die. You need to step up and do what needs to be done, it’s as simple as that. Tough people last not tough times. The people on the plane came together as a team. That’s what we need to do on the field.

  8. This was a horrible thing that happened to the world and 9/11 is something we can’t forget about, those were brave hero’s who stepped up and did the best thing they could’ve done, they knew there was probably a high chance they would die and knew what was best for everyone. They stopped a terrorist attack and saved many more lives. These 4 athletes who drew up the plan knew that more than the people on this planes lives were at risk and that their plane was part of a deadly terrorist attack. The 4 people with the plan risked their lives to save others. In the first biography talking about the first guy about how it was a normal day for him I felt really bad for his family, his 2 kids. His mother and father and 2 sisters didn’t know that any of this would happen. I feel horrible but in their best thoughts they can at least be able too say that their kid helped stopped a terrorist attack and saved countless lives which in the end is maybe the greatest thing that could’ve happened. Their dad or son or brother chose to help save others and knew it was going to be like a kamikaze type of take back cause I don’t think there is a single person there who knew how to fly a plane or control one steadily enough too land it and not crash. The first guys family should be so proud of him and though he may have died he sacrificed his lives for many others and that’s what heroes do. That is one of the best dads out there. I’m sure there is many other dads who would do the same thing but how well would they be able to execute everything. I’m very surprised that the number 1 search about 9/11 is what is it? I thought more people would at least know what it is cause at least my school learns about it and talks about it the day of or days before and either watch a movie about it or do something in that nature of 9/11. All of the passengers even the ones who didn’t make the plan but maybe helped execute the plan our all heroes too. they still had great teamwork and coporation which led them to making the decision to fight back. This was a very good article and I’m happy I was able to read it

  9. After reading this article it showed me it’s very important to remember 9/11 and the things that happened. Also it is very important to stay strong through the hard times in life and keep moving forward. It’s also very important to remember the hero’s from that day that saved many people and sacrificed their own life for others. Not many people have the guts to go into a falling building and risk their life for others like the firefighters and other first responders near the buildings that day. also the courage it took for the people on the flight to realize they were going to be killed in a crash so they took over the plane and sacrificed their lives so they could save more lives. When I read this article it really opened my eyes to how much of a tragedy the 9/11 attacks were and how evil the people who did the attacks were. i think that when the president did his speech later that night it helped the country get back on their feet as fast as possible. In the article when it says “There were other team members, including one recreational pilot who just might be able to land the plane, if given the chance.
    Up until this precise moment, the protocol of any hijacking situation consisted of cooperating with the terrorists. Attendants and passengers were to follow the hijackers’ directions and allow the FBI to negotiate a safe outcome. However, on September 11, 2001, on Flight 93 the script flipped.
    For some unknown reason — perhaps overconfidence — the terrorists allowed the passengers to make phone calls. Over two dozen outgoing phone calls were made from United Flight 93 in this short span of time. Many called loved ones to say “I love you” and “Goodbye.” In the course of these final conversations, their family members relayed what they were learning on television. Thus, the passengers learned about the Twin Towers being hit by commercial airplanes. They also learned of a 3rd plane, American Airlines Flight 77, that flew into the Pentagon Building. Shortly thereafter the passengers discussed the options and voted on the best course of action. At 9:45 Tom Burnett declared the outcome of this vote to his wife, “If they are going to run this plane into the ground, we’re going to do something.”
    Instead of calling his wife who was five months pregnant, Todd elected to call the United Airlines Customer Care Center. He spoke with supervisor, Lisa Jefferson for over fifteen minutes. He relayed the situation, gathered information and discussed their plan: Flight attendants would fill coffee pots with hot water and several passengers would storm the cockpit with makeshift weapons and regain control of the plane. Towards the end of this conversation, Todd asked Lisa to recite the Lord’s prayer with him and promise to tell his family how much he loved them. He then took a deep breath and asked his teammates, “Are you ready?” A split second later, he said, “Okay. Let’s roll!”
    The last report we have came from passenger Elizabeth Wainio, who was on the phone with her stepmother when the attack began. “They’re breaking into the cockpit. I love you. Good-bye.” Within seconds, at 10:03 a.m., United Flight 93, crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. They were less than fifteen minutes from Washington, DC, the most likely target”(Beamer) this part of the article was also very eye opening the courage it took for the passengers on this plane to come together as one to save others. Also the article gives examples of some hero’s during that day like police officer and fire fighters. At the beginning of the article todd beamer says “ Less than 2% of high school athletes receive collegiate athletic scholarships. Of those who play in college, only a select 1% make it to the professional level. Yet, millions of kids play youth sports. The main reason is that, as a culture, we believe sports teaches life lessons that translate off the field and down the road. Sports naturally builds traits like confidence, courage, good-judgment, leadership and teamwork. This story demonstrates the power of such lessons.” this paragraph really motivates me to work harder and chase my dreams of going to play at the college level. In the article it talks about good athletes who died in the crash for example “ Jeremy Glick, 31, a new father, was a former NCAA judo champion. He was also the captain of his rugby team at the University of Rochester. The only reason Glick was on this flight was because his flight the day before was cancelled.Mark Bingham, 31, won 2 national championships while playing on the University of California, Berkeley rugby team. He had also run with the bulls in Pamplona. Mark overslept that morning and ran to the gate, boarding seconds before the door was closed.
    Tom Burnett, 38, was a father of 3 girls. He quarterbacked his high school football team in the Minnesota state championship game and later served as the quarterback at Saint John’s University. He was on his way home to California to be with his family.” this is very sad to think about because such good people passed away due to these attacks. Such innocent people died in these attacks that didn’t deserve it at all. I just find it so crazy that people could kill innocent people for no reason. It makes me sick to think about that all these people were so innocent and yet they had to die for no reason.

  10. I think that 9/11 is very important to know about. The way that people came together after this tragedy was very important to our country’s health. From taking your children to the crash site to just watching a documentary, it has all made an effect on the way we live. 9/11 took thousands of innocent lives, but the lasting effect on loved ones and people of that area will last forever. Another reason that 9/11 effected lives was that it created a sense of public fear. Before 9/11, every airport was fairly relaxed in taking security measures. Now, every airport has extensive measures to make sure that nothing will ever happen again. The public fear extends farther than this however. People became weary of middle eastern people during this time, some of it still to this day. I thought this story was very cool because it shows that no matter what good can beat evil. They sacrificed the ultimate sacrifice solely to save others. This is heroic. Once they had realized what was going on, they decided to team up and attack the terrorists. This saved thousands of lives, including potentially important government officials. yelling, “Get out of here!” The plane began to plunge, twist and bob. The next voices heard from the cockpit came from middle-eastern men speaking Arabic. The terrorists had killed the pilots and made a u-turn, presumably to Washington DC, with the intent to take out the White House or the Capitol Building. “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s the Captain,” said one of the terrorists with a heavy accent. “Please sit down. We have a bomb aboard.” This quote really showed me how movie like this was. This would be incredibly scary and I can’t imagine what these people were thinking during all of this. I don’t know what I would’ve done in that situation, but I know that I would’ve tried to do the right thing, and I think that is the most heroic thing you can do. Another powerful part of this article that I read was about the people on board. Jeremy Glick, 31, a new father, was a former NCAA judo champion. He was also the captain of his rugby team at the University of Rochester. The only reason Glick was on this flight was because his flight the day before was cancelled.
    • Mark Bingham, 31, won 2 national championships while playing on the University of California, Berkeley rugby team. He had also run with the bulls in Pamplona. Mark overslept that morning and ran to the gate, boarding seconds before the door was closed.
    • Tom Burnett, 38, was a father of 3 girls. He quarterbacked his high school football team in the Minnesota state championship game and later served as the quarterback at Saint John’s University. He was on his way home to California to be with his family. This personified the people to be more than just a number and it gave me some emotional connection. It made me think about how every day on earth should be taken as an opportunity, not just another day to do whatever. You never know when everything could be taken from you in a split second, which is very eye opening to me.
    I am very glad that they were given the Arthur Ashe award after they passed away, because they gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country. In conclusion, I am very inspired and humbled by what these heroes did to help the USA.

  11. It just goes to show the benefit of being an athlete not just with your physical side, but your mental side being able to make quick decisions and to work together. You never know where those skills could be used

  12. I do know this story because In school every 9/11 we start to watch some video on the sequences of what happened that morning and the actions that happened on the 3 planes that were crashed into 2 different places The Twin Towers, The pentagon but they tried to crash it into the white house.

    . Mark Birmingham, 31, won 2 championships while playing with the University of California in the sport cricket.

  13. I do know this story because In school every 9/11 we start to watch some video on the sequences of what happened that morning and the actions that happened on the 3 planes that were crashed into 2 different places The Twin Towers, The pentagon but they tried to crash it into the white house.

  14. I knew about this, these four individuals were so brave. They risked their own lives to save others. They made very quick decisions in a stressful situation.

  15. You four men will always be remembered by me and all the others that watch the planes hit and the buildings fall. All the others that died on 9/11 will also be remembered too. And to all people that where their on 9/11 visit the memorial and put your hand on your heart and say god bless america.

  16. they will all be remembered and it was sad how many died that day, i do wonder what would of happened if the planes hit something else?

  17. After reading this article the subject relates a lot to the adjective respect, even after 20 years of the tragic scenario of 9/11 the country still owes their respect to those who died in the accident along with those who helped others.

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