September 11th

It happened on a serene Tuesday morning. Perfect weather. Clear sky. Locals saw a Boeing 757 jerking through the air at an awkward angle and speeding toward Earth.

Farmers watched in slack-jawed amazement. Commuters pulled over to see a commercial airliner bounce from the sky and slam into the ground. When the plane hit soil it sounded like the world had come apart at the bolts. A mile-high column of black smoke rose into the air. The clear sky was ruined.

Earlier that morning United Flight 93 had been due for takeoff from Newark International Airport at 8:01 a.m. But, because this is America (Land of the Free and Home of the Flight Delayed) the flight was running late.

It started out as a normal flight, the passengers and crew were chatty that morning. Forty-one ordinary people made conversations over Styrofoam coffee cups. It was the usual talk. They chatted about their kids’ soccer games. Work. The new fad diet that wasn’t making their thighs any smaller.

In the cockpit, pilot Jason Dahl was going through his preflight stuff. He was 43, cobby build, with a smile that looked like he could have been your favorite uncle Lou. Jason always carried a little box of rocks with him. They were a gift from his son. Directly after this flight, Jason was going to take his wife to London for their fifth anniversary.

In the passenger area you had folks like John Talignani (age 74), retired bartender, stocky, cotton-white hair, a World War II vet, a no nonsense kind of guy. He was one of the millions of longsuffering, anguished souls who call themselves New York Mets fans.

You had Deora Bodley (20), a college junior. The vision of loveliness. They say she was one of those natural beauties that caused young men on sidewalks to crash headfirst into lampposts. Deora wanted to be a children’s therapist.

And Jean Peterson (55). She was traveling with her husband, Don (66). They were going to Yosemite for vacation. Jean was a retired nurse, but she didn’t want to take up the rocking chair. So Jean became a crisis counselor. She helped pregnant teenagers figure out their lives.

One of the flight attendants was Lorraine Bay (58). She’d been an attendant for 37 years. Meaning, she was either a glutton for corporate punishment, or she loved her job. Lorraine was a maternal figure to other airline employees, and she was always sending letters. That morning she’d mailed a few postcards to friends. Just to say hi.

CeeCee (33), a Florida girl. She was new to the flight-attendant scene. Only nine months ago she’d been a police officer in her hometown of Fort Pierce. She was a law enforcement officer to the core, unafraid of confrontation. Her last words on a phone conversation, as the plane went down under terrorist attack, were: “We’re getting ready to do it now. It’s happening.”

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

After the plane took off, it was obvious that there were bad men on this flight. Somewhere around 9:30 a.m. three aggressive men in red bandannas rushed toward the cockpit with malicious intentions.

I’m neither going to tell you about those men, nor about what they planned to do, nor who they planned to kill. Enough has been written about these wicked men. What I will tell you about the men in bandannas is that they chose the wrong plane to mess with. Flight 93 was not filled with 41 passive church mice.

Onboard you had Jeremy Glick (31), a six-foot-one, national collegiate judo champion and blackbelt. Mark Bingham (31), a rugby player. CeeCee, the streetwise former cop.

And Tom Burnett (38), once a college quarterback, sturdy as a hickory stump. Tom Burnett made his last phone call to his wife and said, “If they’re gonna run this plane into the ground, we’re gonna do something.”

And they did. All 41 regular Americans made their countermove at 9:57 a.m. All that is known about their actions comes from the flight audio recorder. The recording plays a collection of sounds. Difficult sounds. Sounds that will shake you.

Your mind’s eye can see the action play out. There is the sound of passengers storming a flimsy cockpit door. Noises from a crashing beverage-service cart. Flinging dishes. Shattering glass. Ice cold screams. Shouts. Punches. Slaps. Groans. Gags. Pleas for help.

One passenger voice shouts, “Let’s get’em!”

Another passenger, maybe struggling for the flight controls, hollers, “Give it to me! Give it to me! Give it to me! Give it to me!”

More shouting. More fighting. Then. Click. The recording stops. The plane goes down. The earth in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, rumbled like an act of God.

Todd Beamer (32), raised in Chicago, tried to call his wife only minutes before his death. But he couldn’t reach her. So he dialed zero on the in-flight phone.

He got a customer service rep named Lisa. He was all over the map, emotionally, says Lisa. Todd kept saying, “Please call my family and let them know how much I love them.”

And in the quiet moments before Todd and the others would assault the violent men, Todd asked Lisa to say the Lord’s Prayer with him. She did. Then he asked her to say the 23rd Psalm along with him. She did that, too.

Over the phone, Lisa could hear dozens of voices reciting the verses along with Todd minutes before their death. The timeworn Psalm filled the cabin like perfume, or the smell of rain, or fresh baked bread.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

“Thou preparest a table for me in the midst of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. And I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.”

Which is where they are right now.

All 41 of them.

81 comments

  1. Laura W - September 11, 2021 7:36 am

    Thank you for that beautiful tribute. May all 41 be resting in peace.

    Reply
  2. Keith Turk - September 11, 2021 7:49 am

    Perfect for today

    Reply
  3. Amanda - September 11, 2021 8:55 am

    Thank you

    Reply
  4. Lucretia Jones - September 11, 2021 9:13 am

    Amen.

    Reply
  5. Ann - September 11, 2021 9:50 am

    Ohhhh Sean, this is a stark reminder that “we never forget”…beautifully, emotionally written from the heart and to our hearts…God help us find peace as we remember ❤️🇺🇸😢🇺🇸

    Reply
  6. Alison - September 11, 2021 10:09 am

    My son was celebrating his birthday that day- he was 11.

    Interviewed with a slew of adults the following year for our local paper -each one saying they would never celebrate their birthdays again-told the reporter, “ At first having my birthday on September 11 made me really sad. But then I realized I was born on the day heros were made.”

    Reply
    • Susan Kennedy - September 11, 2021 10:44 am

      Love this!

      Reply
  7. Dean - September 11, 2021 10:17 am

    A day that should never be forgotten but so many act like it never happened. So many heroes that day and for days and months to come. 🙏🙏🙏 for the USA

    Reply
  8. Deborah L Filkins - September 11, 2021 10:39 am

    Beautiful, thank you.

    Reply
  9. Susan Kennedy - September 11, 2021 10:43 am

    Beautifully done. Thank you Sean.

    Reply
  10. Robin Ungano - September 11, 2021 10:44 am

    Amen…Perfect tribute. Never forget.

    Reply
  11. Barbara - September 11, 2021 10:52 am

    Thank you for remembering the courage of these heroes and their families. And thanks to commenter Alison about 9/11 birthdays. Lovely viewpoint! God bless America.

    Reply
  12. Sonya Tuttle - September 11, 2021 11:00 am

    TEARS

    Reply
  13. Cyn - September 11, 2021 11:23 am

    Thank you for this today. We need it as we will be bombarded with other memories of this day.

    Reply
  14. Pingback: September 11th – What She Said

  15. Jean - September 11, 2021 11:42 am

    It is still very emotional for me. I am in tears now reading your words. thank you…

    Reply
  16. Joan Moore - September 11, 2021 11:57 am

    Thank you for your service to our country. We will never forget, and you have helped, God Bless Our Country, and all those who will be remembered for the valor they showed.

    Reply
  17. Leia Lona - September 11, 2021 12:01 pm

    One of your best. Thank you Sean.

    Reply
  18. Sarah - September 11, 2021 12:07 pm

    Words of anguish became words of beauty all in one post. Bless you. And God bless
    America.

    Reply
  19. Mary - September 11, 2021 12:18 pm

    Thank you. ❤️

    Reply
  20. Susan Forte - September 11, 2021 12:25 pm

    Amen

    Reply
  21. Pamela Williams - September 11, 2021 12:26 pm

    ❤️

    Reply
  22. TERESA BROOKS - September 11, 2021 12:35 pm

    Amen

    Reply
  23. Terry - September 11, 2021 12:47 pm

    Amen and God Bless all. Let’s never forget.🇺🇸

    Reply
  24. Laurence Church - September 11, 2021 12:51 pm

    Thank you Sean. Bless you and your special wife Jamie !!

    Reply
  25. David Robinson - September 11, 2021 12:51 pm

    Thank you,Sean, for this beautiful, sobering tribute!

    Reply
  26. Donna Bell - September 11, 2021 1:01 pm

    ❤❤❤❤❤

    Reply
  27. Sarah - September 11, 2021 1:03 pm

    Thank you

    Reply
  28. Nancy Crews - September 11, 2021 1:05 pm

    ❤your writing. AMEN.

    Reply
  29. Linda Taylor - September 11, 2021 1:13 pm

    Outstanding!! You nailed it with respect deserved. Prayers.

    Reply
  30. Kathy - September 11, 2021 1:19 pm

    The day hits too close to home. I will not be watching any 20th anniversary commemorations, but will remember your gentle reminder that love of God is stronger than evil.

    Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

    Reply
  31. Leslie - September 11, 2021 1:20 pm

    You always capture my heart. Bless you for sharing your gift of words.

    Reply
  32. Shelton A. - September 11, 2021 1:21 pm

    well done and well said. It fits so well. Thank you very much for a fitting reminder we all need. God bless all the survivors and the families of those who did not.

    Reply
  33. klaspisa - September 11, 2021 1:26 pm

    Thank you… ♥

    Reply
  34. David McClellan Jones - September 11, 2021 1:30 pm

    Never forget

    Reply
  35. Debbie - September 11, 2021 1:32 pm

    Amen!🙏🏻❤️

    Reply
  36. Karen - September 11, 2021 1:39 pm

    A beautiful tribute. Thank you,

    Reply
  37. Cheryl in TN - September 11, 2021 2:06 pm

    Sean, Every day your beautiful words move me to tears. Today I sit here sobbing in grief for the horror that was laid upon innocent Americans ago and the recent horror repeated – all in the name of evil and madness. Thank you for your gift that brings so many honest emotions to the fore.

    Reply
  38. Jan - September 11, 2021 2:06 pm

    You always find just the right words to express my own thoughts and feelings. A truly beautiful and heart felt tribute. Thank you.

    Reply
  39. Bette - September 11, 2021 2:12 pm

    I wish every American could read your words. We must never forget these heroes. It makes me pray that I would be as brave as they were. Thank you Sean.

    Reply
  40. Suellen - September 11, 2021 2:17 pm

    I timed it right. I opened this just as they were reading the names in Shanksville.

    Reply
  41. Gat Talbott - September 11, 2021 2:51 pm

    I will never forget the courage, the best of America was on that plane.

    Reply
  42. Christina - September 11, 2021 2:56 pm

    Honoring these brave souls with you. Thanks Sean for this beautiful tribute.

    Reply
  43. Bob E - September 11, 2021 3:03 pm

    Extremely touching.
    God bless them all.

    Reply
  44. Stacey Wallace - September 11, 2021 3:05 pm

    God bless these American heroes and their grieving loved ones. Thank you, Sean for remembering them so beautifully.

    Reply
  45. Sheila G - September 11, 2021 3:06 pm

    Such honorable Americans. They gave their lives for us. Thank you, Sean.

    Reply
  46. Sharon Allemang - September 11, 2021 3:08 pm

    Wonderful message this hearwrenching day!! We are striving in the valley of death with God by our side!! Thank you Sean…..

    Reply
  47. Lynne - September 11, 2021 3:12 pm

    My husband was in the Pentagon that day, near enough to the crash area for his office to be cordoned off. He called me on the way out of the building and he hitch hiked the 25 miles home.Thank you for this beautiful tribute. We will never forget.

    Reply
    • Bobby - September 13, 2021 11:51 am

      I was with the FBI then, retired now, and part of a team that was deployed to Dover AFB to process the Pentagon victims. I recall one victim who was wearing a college ring from the University of Texas with the date of 1975 inscribed, the same year as my college ring. I never knew his name but felt very close to him at that moment. I will never forget that memory.

      Reply
      • Susie Shultz - September 14, 2021 12:45 am

        Bobby, small world, right? Sad, too.

        Reply
  48. DAVID A WILSON - September 11, 2021 3:13 pm

    Still makes tears come to my eyes; very brave people and Patriots for sure. Very well written; keep up the good work!

    Reply
  49. James L. Hudgins - September 11, 2021 3:14 pm

    😩😡❤️👍👍👍👍👍 God bless you Sean any God bless America

    Reply
  50. Brenda - September 11, 2021 3:35 pm

    PeaceLoveJoy

    Reply
  51. Dee Jordan - September 11, 2021 3:36 pm

    This is poignant and chilling and reminds us to never forget the extraordinary heroics of those ordinary people who saved either the White House or our Capitol building. Thank you, Sean. Also, I copied and pasted it with your name to share on my timeline with my 2500+ friends on Facebook. You said it as beautifully as anyone could.

    Reply
  52. Debbie g - September 11, 2021 3:51 pm

    God bless the passengers on flight 93 and God bless America. Thank you Sean for beautiful tribute

    Reply
  53. Linda Moon - September 11, 2021 5:14 pm

    Educators who had TVs on for learning saw something incomprehensible early in our school day. Word spread through each classroom, and we tried to protect our students from the horror of that day. Thank you for remembering heroes who refused to be frightened in the shadow of death. Let’s Never Forget, America.

    Reply
  54. Jeannie Schweck - September 11, 2021 5:54 pm

    Ordinary brave, caring, loving, Patriotic Americans were heroes that day and the days after. God Bless America and the land that I love!!!!! Thank you for a beautiful tribute.

    Reply
  55. Rebecca Souders - September 11, 2021 6:08 pm

    Nice, Sean… as always.

    Reply
  56. Susie Shultz - September 11, 2021 6:24 pm

    I watched a lot of the tributes to the 9/11 victims/heroes, including the 40 hero souls onboard of Flight 93. George W Bush and Kamela Harris both gave very moving speeches there in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Bush talked about remembering when people, who didn’t even know each other, would instinctively just grab their neighbor’s hand when strength was needed, and then given. He said, that was the America he knew. Harris said it won’t be easy, but WE CAN and WE NEED to get back to that for the future and success of this country.

    Reply
  57. Jay Payleitner - September 11, 2021 6:26 pm

    Perhaps the phrase was overused a bit in the months to follow, but I pray that all of us–when confronted with evil–have the courage to say, “Let’s roll.”

    Reply
  58. Susie Shultz - September 11, 2021 6:46 pm

    Jay, I don’t think it’s possible to overuse that “let’s roll” phrase. Not when we remember it was said by one of the Flight 93 heros, passenger Todd Beamer, as he and others began to storm the pilots’ cabin, to thwart the evil ones’ agenda. To me, it will always mean we are serious about fighting wrong and evil….TOGETHER.

    Reply
  59. jill stitt - September 11, 2021 7:05 pm

    Thank you for reminding me of the main thing. Dwelling in the house, forever. God Bless all of these folks and the people they love. 💕

    Reply
  60. Sandra - September 11, 2021 7:18 pm

    Thank you 😢♥️🙏🏻

    Reply
  61. Tess Enterline - September 11, 2021 7:36 pm

    Thank you, Sean, for this extraordinary tribute to the 41 Brave Souls of Flight 93.

    Reply
  62. jasmelliot1 - September 11, 2021 8:41 pm

    Thanks for the memorial to those ordinary but brave people. May their memory live on.

    Reply
  63. Gordon - September 11, 2021 8:59 pm

    Beautiful; appropriate. Thank you for this remembrance. Let Us Never Forget.

    Reply
  64. Southern Girl - September 11, 2021 9:17 pm

    America, the home of the brave. Proud to be an American.🙏🛐✝❣🇺🇲🇺🇲🇺🇲🇺🇲🇺🇲❣

    Reply
  65. Gail Johnston Guinn - September 11, 2021 9:32 pm

    Best one, Sean! Thank you for your patriotism, your loving spirit, and your rememberance of names, ages, etc. These were true heroes. Always remember. ❤️🎶🙏

    Reply
  66. Bob - September 11, 2021 9:43 pm

    God Bless those souls who died standing against evil and those who lost those they loved that morning. We must stand against evil again today. Against those who stole an election and who are ruining this nation!

    Reply
  67. Susie, as well - September 11, 2021 9:58 pm

    Thank you so much for your comment, Bob! I’m in total agreement.

    Reply
  68. Marilyn M Polen - September 11, 2021 10:01 pm

    For all who lost their lives that day, we pray for you. Amen

    Reply
  69. Karen Snyder - September 11, 2021 10:29 pm

    ❤️ Thank you.

    Reply
  70. Helen - September 11, 2021 11:07 pm

    ❤️🙏🏻🇺🇸

    Reply
  71. Suzi - September 12, 2021 1:49 am

    Amen

    Reply
  72. Laura Lea Booty - September 12, 2021 1:53 am

    Thank you. I don’t ever want to forget.

    Reply
  73. MAM - September 12, 2021 2:07 am

    Through tears, I ask you, Sean, how DO you continue to improve your writing to make each day’s the best ever? I’ve listened to or been part of singing “God Bless America,” twice today and it always brings me to tears, because God HAS blessed America and continues to do so every day, if we just look for it!

    Reply
  74. Diana - September 12, 2021 4:33 am

    Such stunning heartbreak that day as 41 brave souls were welcomed into Heaven. ❤ May they be resting easy in the arms of Jesus.

    Reply
  75. Roxanne - September 12, 2021 4:38 pm

    I knew that I couldn’t read this yesterday- I had no idea what you had written, but I know it would be too powerful for me to endure. Thank you for sharing your amazing gift with us. Thank you for focusing on the human side of everything and thank you for focusing solely on the good that happened in Flt. 93 and the heroes he knew they were giving their lives trying to save others.

    Reply
  76. Dianne DeVore - September 12, 2021 6:32 pm

    Thank you, Sean. The people on this flight were true heroes. I can’t begin to imagine what their final thoughts were, but we know they are all in heaven. God rest their souls

    Reply
  77. Edna Isdell - September 12, 2021 7:23 pm

    So very sad
    Brave passengers

    Reply
  78. johnallenberry - September 13, 2021 9:23 pm

    Thank you.

    Reply

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