Saturday, April 23, 2016

Flight 93: The Story, the Aftermath, and the Legacy of American Courage on 9/11


Rating: 5 Stars


It will be 15 years this September since the United States was attacked from within, and I am still not sure I am capable of writing a passable review about any book on the subject. I recall with near-perfect clarity that entire, terrible day. I was getting ready for class in the early weeks of my freshman year of college that Tuesday morning and heard something about a plane hitting one of the Twin Towers. By the time I trekked to the opposite end of campus for my first class of the day, both towers were in flames, hundreds of people were dead, and may more would die before it was finally over. Being in a journalism class, you'd think our professor would have understood why our eyes were glued to the television instead of listening to him. We watched in awe as the first tower fell, and then he did the unthinkable. He turned off the t.v.

Yes, I am totally serious. A few students walked out of class. Some were still too stunned by what they had seen to do anything. The rest of the day was very surreal. I didn't go to my next class, but in hindsight I assume it was probably cancelled anyway. I sat in my dorm room the rest of the day and night, watching the live coverage continue, seeing the devastation at Ground Zero, the gaping wound in the Pentagon, and that final, lonely field in Pennsylvania.

Nearly 15 years on however, I realize Flight 93, and these brave passengers, were the ones I knew least about. I don't know if I can give a review here that will do justice to these heroic men and women who fought back against these monsters bent on killing as many people as possible, but I will certainly try. It has been frustrating to me that Flight 93 has become a kind of afterthought when looking at the destruction of NYC and DC. I am not sure why this is. Perhaps because there was literally nothing left of the plane, nothing to identify it in anyway as related to the terrorist attacks, save for a large pit? Whatever the reason, books like this one are important, so that we may remember everyone lost that day, and those who did everything they could to try and stop it. While the target of Flight 93 has never been determined, the most likely destination was the Capitol, considering Bush wasn't at the White House at the time. On the other hand, what better way to demoralize a country further, than to destroy the very home where the country's (contested - I definitely wouldn't have voted for him) leader lived? Either way, who knows how many were saved due to the actions of those on-board Flight 93.

This text is incredibly well-researched, down to the smallest detail. My initial concern with giving this one a try was that I did not want to read a bunch of conjecture about what might have happen in those final minutes. I was surprised to find that, thanks to the numerous phone calls that passengers made to their loved ones, we actually know quite a bit about their final minutes. The author presents the information from numerous perspectives. We get a great details of information about the various passengers, the little town of Shanksville and her coroner, who went above and beyond the call of duty for the families, and even of the hijackers. For the most part I wanted to know very little about these murderers. I prefer to forget them and remember those who are deserving, those who sacrificed themselves so others might live, not those who murdered innocent people and called it war. Still, I do not believe this was done in a tasteless way, and the whole story together flowed. It also gave an eye-opening experience as to just how easy the hijackers had it in coming here, getting their licenses, and eventually going on to their deaths.

As I read this in Kindle format, the actual text of the book only comprised 58% of the entire file. Following that was a list of crew and passengers, along with their job, hometown, and reason for being on the flight that morning. Something I would have appreciated in this section were photos to accompany the names, to see who these people were. One aspect of the book that bothered me was that after this list, came four photos of the hijackers. I later found that any passenger photos that were included were mixed in among photos of the crash site and items recovered. I was surprised to see what items could survive such an impact and that there were physical things returned to loved ones after all was said and done. This bothered me because I did not want to see those faces. I did not want those murderers given any more attention than they have already had and I could not care less what they looked like. How many times do you recall seeing their photos all lines up in rows, newscast after newscast? And yet, I do not remember seeing the victims' faces nearly as often. I can understand if some families did not want to include pictures of their loved ones, but if they were available publicly, it would have been a service to the book to include them. Certainly, the photos should not have been scattered among the debris AFTER the terrorists. The photos should have been included with the passengers' names on the list immediately following the text.

The final 26% of the book then was devoted to the author's notes and sources for the book. These were incredibly exhaustive, and broken up by chapter. I have not seen quite so extensive a bibliography in such a while. Following that even was a more general bibliography, also containing numerous titles that would be of interest to anyone seeking more knowledge of that terrible day in September. Highly, highly recommended.

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