“After Russia’s deliberate and coordinated assault on US democratic elections, recall that Trump downplayed the incident and dismissed the intelligence community’s conclusions; he questioned whether the interference was perpetrated by Moscow; he speculated that others could have been behind it; he promoted conspiracy theories; he said he believed Putin’s word that Russia was not responsible; and he suggested it would be a mistake for the United States to ruin the possibility of a good relationship with Moscow over the matter. The collective national reaction was not the patriotism, unity, and resolve of 9/11. It was internal conflict, and in the meantime, the Russians got away with it.
The two attacks reveal a lot about our choices. In both cases our enemies wanted to spark chaos in our democracy. In both cases we had the option to let them, or not. I wish the passengers of Flight 93 could have seen the influence of their example upon the country in the first instance—how their courage on 9/11 became a metaphor for American determination. They would have been proud that we chose to come together rather than allow terrorism to rip us apart. I also suspect they would be dismayed to witness our equal capacity for divisiveness not even two decades after their noble sacrifice.
One might blame Trump for provoking widespread discontent instead of cohesion after Russia’s interference. Go ahead and reread the above paragraph. It’s still stunning to recall that this was the president’s reaction. Ultimately, though, it was our choice whether to follow his lead. We decided to indulge in irrational speculation. We decided to engage in social media warfare. We decided to alienate neighbors based on whether they agreed with Trump or not. Our response to the attack led to record levels of incivility.”
“Let’s roll.” Those were Todd Beamer’s final words before he set down the phone.
Todd was an account manager for a computer company, and his early-morning business trip came on the heels of a five-day vacation in Italy. He and his wife had just returned the night before. Rather than take off immediately to his next destination, he spent the evening at home with her and their two children. Now Todd was midair on the way from Newark to San Francisco, and his plane had just been hijacked. About forty-five minutes into the flight, four men stormed the cockpit, slitting the throats of the pilots and taking over the aircraft. One of them made an announcement over the intercom in broken English: “Ladies and gentlemen: here the captain. Please sit down, keep remaining seating. We have a bomb on board. So sit.”
They herded passengers into the rear of the jet and banked back toward the East Coast. Todd tried to use the seat phone and was connected with Lisa Jefferson, a call center representative for the in-flight phone company. He calmly described the scene for her to relay to authorities. The men had knives out. One appeared to have a bomb strapped to his body. The pilots were lying motionless on the floor. A fellow passenger had been killed. Todd’s seatmates received word via calls to loved ones that the World Trade Center and the Pentagon had been struck by hijacked airplanes. The passengers and crew huddled to discuss the situation. They didn’t want to be the next aircraft flown into a target, so they took a vote and agreed to retake the cockpit. Todd informed Lisa, who was still on the line, that they planned to wrest control of the plane back from the hijackers. He asked her to do him a favor. If he didn’t survive, he wanted her to call his wife with a message: “Tell her I love her and the boys.” She promised she would, but what Todd would never know was that his wife was pregnant with a baby girl, too. He recited the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23.”
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