It’s been 18 years already, but for those of us old enough to remember 9/11 it still seems like yesterday.
When we think of that day, we tend to remember the three buildings that were hit — the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, the enormous toll it took on human life, and how it became a hinge-point in our nation’s history.
That fourth plane, however, did NOT reach its intended target in DC. Their plane, like the others, was hijacked. A pilot was seen dead on the floor. Hijackers claimed there was a bomb, and that they should stay sitting.
Some passengers placed calls to their loved ones and learned about the attacks in New York. They came to understand the gravity of their situation, not just for THEIR lives, but for the lives of others.
Here’s a concise recap of the details from Wiki.
Beamer tried to place a credit card call through a phone located on the back of a plane seat, but was routed to a customer-service representative, who passed him on to GTE airphone supervisor Lisa Jefferson. With FBI agents listening in on their call, Beamer informed Jefferson that hijackers had taken over United 93, that one passenger had been killed, and mentioned the dead pilots. He also stated that two of the hijackers had knives, and that one appeared to have a bomb strapped around his waist. When the hijackers veered the plane sharply south, Beamer exclaimed, “We’re going down! We’re going down!”
Following this, the passengers and flight crew decided to act. According to accounts of cell phone conversations, Beamer, along with Mark Bingham, Tom Burnett and Jeremy Glick, formed a plan to take the plane back from the hijackers They were joined by other passengers, including Lou Nacke, Rich Guadagno, Alan Beaven, Honor Elizabeth Wainio, Linda Gronlund, and William Cashman, along with flight attendants Sandra Bradshaw and Cee Cee Ross-Lyles, in discussing their options and voting on a course of action, ultimately deciding to storm the cockpit and take over the plane. Beamer told Jefferson that the group was planning to “jump on” the hijackers and fly the plane into the ground before the hijackers’ plan could be followed through. Beamer recited the Lord’s Prayer and the 23rd Psalm with Jefferson, prompting others to join in. Beamer requested of Jefferson, “If I don’t make it, please call my family and let them know how much I love them.” After this, Jefferson heard muffled voices and Beamer clearly answering, “Are you ready? Okay. Let’s roll.” These were Beamer’s last words to Jefferson.
According to the 9/11 Commission Report, after the plane’s voice data recorder was recovered, it revealed pounding and crashing sounds against the cockpit door and shouts and screams in English. “Let’s get them!” a passenger cries. A hijacker shouts, “Allahu akbar”. Jarrah repeatedly pitched the plane to knock passengers off their feet, but the passengers continued their assault and at 10:02:17, a male passenger said, “Turn it up!” A second later, a hijacker said, “Pull it down! Pull it down!” At 10:02:33, Jarrah was heard to plead, “Hey! Hey! Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me.” The plane crashed into an empty field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania at 580 miles per hour, killing everyone on board. The plane was twenty minutes of flying time away from its suspected target, the White House or the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. According to Vice President Dick Cheney, President George W. Bush had given the order to shoot the plane down had it continued its path to Washington.
Those who remember that day will know just how iconic the phrase ‘Let’s roll’ became.
The rowdy patriots who took back the plane were hailed as national heroes. There was some serious courage on display. But where does such courage come from?
It wasn’t the bold, brash take-on-all-comers unthinking courage of a rowdy drunk or a madman. They didn’t take action at the beginning of the hijacking, nor immediately when they learned that hijackers were on board.
Something changed that.
At some point, all the passengers came to realize their lives were past preserving. It wasn’t a question of saving their own lives, they were already dead men. It became a question of saving the other people… the targets. Saving the people ‘out there somewhere’, people who were quietly living their lives unaware of the grave danger they faced.
And so, they acted.
They acted with the courage of men who knew they were doomed to die and had nothing of their own left to preserve. Nothing left that their enemies could take from them.
They acted like men with nothing to lose.
And only 20 minutes’ flying time away from whatever target had been picked in DC, they crashed the plane into the relative safety of a field.
Do you know who ELSE lived with courage like that?
Generation after generation of Christian martyrs who dared to do the right thing, to preach an unflinching message of Christ and Him crucified — even when they knew it would cost them their lives.
The long line of believers who died with some version of the phrase ‘kill me if you must, but I cannot deny Christ Jesus’ on their lips lived with such courage.
This writer has personally had the privilege of knowing one such man who showed exactly that courage in his final moments.
Where does it come from? Scripturally speaking, we catch glimpses of it in the gospels and an often misquoted verse from the book of Revelation.
First, in Jesus’ own words:
What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. — Matthew 10:27-29
And here’s the misquoted one:
And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. — Revelation 12:10-11
As wonderful and precious a gift as this life here on this planet is, it is the LESSER gift. There is something greater, more perfect and more permanent awaiting those who trust in Christ.
When we lift our eyes to heaven and see our ‘today’ in the context of our ‘eternity’, we can find the courage and strength to live as men with nothing left to lose.