Note: I wrote this a few years ago. For a while, I really didn’t know what to say about such a monumental tragedy…at least on the blog. As I did some digging into the the timeline of the day, I was moved by Betty Ong’s bravery. I had never heard about her before my research and I felt like I had to talk about her courage.
Betty Ong’s brave actions in the midst of impossibly dangerous circumstances are indicative of many Americans on 9/11. When challenged by murderous evil, ordinary Americans rose up and challenged al-Qaeda’s scabrous Stone Age monsters in ways both large and small. Contrary to our current President’s apathy about the nation he leads, America truly is an exceptional–and an exceptionally great–country.
Most importantly, please remember the victims and their families in your prayers. For those directly connected to the people lost on that day, the pain of September 11th will probably never completely go away. Hopefully the passage of time will bring solace to those who lost loved ones.
September 11th, 2001–Grief and War Intertwined
On September 11th 2001, ordinary Americans were caught in the horror of al-Qaeda’s monstrous sadism. The victims of the 9/11 attacks were a more or less random sampling of people from a broad spectrum of life in the States. While none of them could’ve known that they would be murdered by pure human evil that day, many men and women rose up and became America’s first heroes in the war against radical Islam.
One of them was Betty Ong.
The 45-year-old flight attendant was on American Airline Flight 11, the first of two that crashed into the World Trade Center. During the hijacking, Ong hid in the back galley, picked up a crew phone and bravely called the airline reservation desk.
“The cockpit is not answering their phone,” Ong said during the hijacking. “There’s somebody stabbed in business class and we can’t breathe…somebody’s got mace or something.”
The call lasted 23 minutes. Ong spoke calmly, giving important details of the chaotic last moments.
The 9/11 Commission declared Ong a hero.
Here is the phone call she placed–in the midst of the hijacking, with murder surrounding her and in danger of being killed by terrorists–telling authorities what was happening on her flight.
And then this valiant woman was gone.
What did the 9/11 attacks cost us? We can talk about the trillion dollars that simply evaporated from the American economy in a single morning. The destruction of the Twin Towers and the Pentagon was meant to be a symbolic demolition of the United States’ economic and military dominance. But as important as these things are, they pale in comparison to the human price America paid on that day.
Think about the hopes and dreams of the three thousand people who died on that day. What did Betty Ong want for her life? Was she saving for a house or new car? Did she want to get married? Were children in her plans? Did she have career aspirations? These are questions that seem so banal, at least for the living. Tragically, they cannot be answered when it comes to Ms. Ong–or anyone else who died because of Osama bin Laden’s perverse ideology.
Three thousand people are no longer with us, which means three thousand sets of families and friends were victimized on September 11th. Those people who had a connection to the 9/11 victims not only had a part of their lives ripped away from them, but they had a part of their future destroyed as well; the weddings that didn’t happen, the children that weren’t born, the birthdays became a time of mourning. When seen from that perspective, the 9/11 attacks take on an almost unthinkably barbaric and inhuman dimension.
It was Osama bin Laden and his followers who decided to make war against us in this fashion. It was bin Laden, one of the most extreme adherents of a religion that has trouble reconciling itself to democracy, human rights, free market economics and the rest of modern civilization, that elected to use large scale terrorism on the United States. America did not seek out this fight. The fight was brought right into our home. We had no choice but to bring war upon bin Laden and all those that would stand with him. We have no choice but to continue to fight against all who follow in al-Qaeda’s path.
On this day, we should mourn. We should mourn for those who had loved ones taken from them. We should mourn for our country and all that it lost on that day. But we should also celebrate the men and women that gave their lives in order to save us. We almost never think of our neighbors and coworkers as potential heroes. As it turns out, the 9/11 attacks showed us that America is full of people who will rise in the face of unimaginable danger to help others.
At one of the darkest moments in this country’s history, there were many like Betty Ong who put themselves in harm’s way in order to do the right thing. During the worst attack on America’s soil, there were citizens that sacrificed their own lives in order to save the lives of others. These folks were not sports icons, blowhard politicians or members of the celebrity class. Our fallen 9/11 heroes were in fact ordinary Americans who were placed into unspeakable situations and performed extraordinary feats of selfless bravery.
On this day of sadness and pain, we should leave some room in our hearts for wonder. Hopefully we never stop marveling at the feats of our fallen champions from September 11th. The valorous dead deserve our remembrance and our reverence. We owe them far more than we can ever repay.