Most of us have sat through a pointless TV sitcom. Afterward, we utter a familiar complaint …
“There goes 30 minutes of my life I’ll never get back.”
Our time has been wasted. Of course, the fault lies not with shows’ producers, directors, actors or network. The blame falls on us for not getting up and doing something worthwhile.
A summertime journey to New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa., deepened my appreciation for the preciousness of time. Minutes mattered in each place on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. Yes, the placement of hands on the clock are etched into memories there — 8:46 and 9:03, when the Twin Towers in New York were struck by hijacked commercial airliners, and 9:59 and 10:28, when the two skyscrapers collapsed; 9:37, when a third terrorist-captured plane hit the Pentagon in Washington; and 10:03, when a fourth, United Airlines Flight 93, crashed into a field just north of Shanksville. The 2,977 innocent lives lost because of those instances deserve honor and remembrance.
But the minutes and seconds surrounding those clock readings pack an important lesson, too.
Heroism, courage and heartfelt emotion filled each tick of the second-hand in those places. In New York, firefighters raced into the burning towers, hurrying to rescue the injured, dying and trapped people inside the World Trade Center. Many escaped, thanks to the bravery shown by first-responders in the 102 minutes that passed between the first crash and the final tower collapse. Three-hundred and 43 FDNY firefighters died, trying to spare the futures — those hours yet unrealized — of others.
Their sacrifices remain dear to New Yorkers. A decade later, voices still pause while recalling the rescuers’ gesture.
On 9/11, time could not be squandered. A pastor I met in Lower Manhattan recounted another poignant example. Father Kevin Madigan leads St. Peter’s Church, which faces the World Trade Center. Madigan himself narrowly dodged death, having pointed a group of police officers and a fellow priest toward safety in a nearby subway tunnel as the South Tower began to implode. After patiently retelling his 9/11 experiences in a July interview in the lobby of the church office, the pastor handed me an essay he’d written about the day and its impact.
I read his reflections as my wife, daughter and I walked from St. Peter’s toward the construction site of the new World Trade Center and the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum. In his reflections, Madigan noted the city’s “profound sense of coming together” to find survivors and support the families of the missing immediately afterward. “In that light, one thing that should not go without mention were the final phone calls of those trapped in the towers to their family members,” Father Madigan wrote. “Many of these calls were left on voicemail, so we have a record of the last words of those who realized they were about to die. And to a one, they consist of a single theme — telling their wives, husbands, lovers, parents, children, friends simply, ‘Goodbye,’ that they loved them and to remember them.”
To read those words — while walking beside my own loved ones, through that hallowed spot — moved me. I felt fortunate, blessed.
As the three of us stood inside a country chapel 300 miles away on another leg of our July trek, I realized just how meaningful our time can be.
Ed Root carefully explained how minutes mattered aboard Flight 93 on 9/11. Thirty-three passengers, two pilots and five flight attendants assumed this Boeing 757 would fly from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco, as scheduled. After all, the skies were gorgeous blue, “severe clear” in aviation lingo. But four people who boarded that aircraft were actually among 19 al-Qaida terrorists on a suicide mission to hijack fully fueled planes and crash them into symbolic American landmarks. Aside from a few people traveling together, the other passengers sat down as strangers, just as many of us do on work trips or vacations. They were businessmen and women, college students and retirees. The crew included Lorraine Bay, a senior flight attendant and Root’s first-cousin, who “was like the big sister I never had.”
Forty-six minutes after takeoff, the terrorists stood, wrapped red bandanas around their heads, stormed the cockpit, killed or incapacitated the pilots and assumed the controls.
Moments later, through airphone and cellphone calls to loved ones and 911 and airline operators, the attendants and passengers learned of the other crashes in New York and Washington. They realized Flight 93, now turned back east, was being aimed toward similar targets — most likely, the U.S. Capitol, authorities learned later.
In their calls, they said I-love-you’s to family and friends. They prayed. Then they took a vote — sit, as the hijackers ordered, or retaliate? With time running out, they chose the latter.
“These people, in a half an hour, got information, sat down together, discussed it, shared information, decided to act and then acted. In a half an hour,” Root said inside the Flight 93 Memorial Chapel near Shanksville. “We all have to think, ‘What would I have done if I was there?’”
Father Al Mascherino wrestled with that question himself after 9/11. The heroic decision to fight back inspired Mascherino, a 67-year-old Catholic priest who lives near Shanksville, to renovate an empty church and create the Flight 93 Memorial Chapel, just a couple miles from the site of the crash. The quick action by the passengers and crew members stopped the hijackers from fulfilling their twisted goal of hitting the Capitol.
Just a handful of minutes elapsed from the moment when passenger Todd Beamer said, “Are you guys ready? OK. Let’s roll,” until the hijackers — about to be overtaken — crashed the jet in that open Pennsylvania field. “That’s what impressed me,” Mascherino said in a voice roughened through three victories over cancer.
“And I thought of all the times in my life I’d gone into a particularly difficult sequence of things that cost a lot of time, like months and even years of my life — wasted,” Father Al continued. “When I realized that in four minutes flat, they were able to decide what they wanted to do, and in four minutes, they changed the destiny of the world, I said, ‘I’m not wasting any more time,’ and I never have since then.”
As we reflect on 9/11 today, each of us should remember who the trapped and captive people called that day, what they said and what they did.
In just a few minutes.
Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Most of us have sat through a pointless TV sitcom. Afterward, we utter a familiar complaint …
- 9/11: 10th Anniversary Coverage
Delores Ann Day
Delores Ann Day, 77, of Terre Haute, passed away at 2:10 a.m. on Tuesday, June 5, 2012, in Union Hospital.
Wabash Valley lights the night in memory of those lost to terrorism
As the sun set and skies turned pink Sunday, about 30 people worked to light 9,200 tea candles at the Fairbanks Park Chauncey Rose Memorial.
‘September Souls’ a 9/11 story told one piece at a time
Amid the mourning, artwork was born.
The resulting quilt, “September Souls,” will be on display in Indiana State University’s Cunningham Memorial Library through October, along with a short video about its creator, the late Rosemary England.
Terre Haute South site of 9/11 ceremony to ‘remember the fallen’
The morning was clear, warm and comfortable, not unlike 10 years ago on Sept. 11, 2001, when hijackers on suicide missions murdered nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
Donors remember times of need as they let the ‘red’ flow
The music floating about Fairbanks Park was serene, but inside the air-conditioned RV nearby, the blood was pumping.
Service honors those who boldly leap into the face of danger
Religious services around the Wabash Valley marked the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, including a special service honoring America’s emergency responders Sunday at Good Shepherd Baptist Church on the south side of Terre Haute.
ISU ensembles honor memory of 9/11
Vocal and instrumental music blended with visual images as Indiana State University student performers joined Sunday in songs of reflection and hope in memory of 9/11.
EDITORIAL: Inspired by resilience in our post-9/11 world
The places directly linked to 9/11 can seem so distant from our own surroundings here in the Wabash Valley.
True heroism: Flight 93 rewrote conclusion to plot by 9/11 terrorists (see VIDEO)
Walking in the Shadows of 9/11
Last of a three-part series
The place — chosen by fate — holds a powerful silence.
MARK BENNETT: Value of every minute deeply realized on 9/11 (related VIDEO)
This summer, the Tribune-Star’s Mark Bennett visited New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa., sites where the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, are now memorialized. He observed the cityscapes and landscapes forever changed by the events of that day and talked with people he encountered there, many of whom witnessed the attacks and their aftermath from close range and had personal ties to its victims.
Three sites ... a shared goal: Travelers will experience 3 distinct environments at 9/11 memorials
A national sense of tragedy provides a common, connecting thread to these three places.
A broad plot by al-Qaida terrorists sent hijacked commercial airlines crashing into the World Trade Center towers in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a remote field near Shanksville, Pa., on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. A decade later, most Americans old enough to vote know the basic story and remember where they were on 9/11.
Pilot recalls escorting Air Force One on 9/11
Piloting his F-16 fighter jet on the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001, then-Lt. Col. Chris Colbert of the Terre Haute-based 181st Fighter Wing, could see that the shimmering object in the distance was a very, very large aircraft.
Volunteers turn out for 9/11 Day of Service
Building handicapped ramps, pulling weeds along a city park trail and assembling packages for U.S. military personnel were all part of a 9/11 Day of Service on Saturday organized by Terre Haute Ministries.
Pentagon Memorial pays tribute to 184 lives lost in 9/11 attack on Washington (related VIDEO)
Walking in the Shadows of 9/11
Second of a three-part series
The latch clicked loudly, and Lt. Col. Robert L. Ditchey pushed open a door inside Corridor 4 of the Pentagon.
He entered an area that resembles an urban alley, but with a roof.
“This is where the final pieces of the aircraft had crashed through,” explained Ditchey, Pentagon press officer for the Department of Defense.
Sept. 11, 2001 — A date seared into the minds of Americans
There are events so important in our lives that we remember every detail. Sometimes, these are personal celebrations such as weddings, births and graduations. But other events, sudden and tragic on a national scale, such as the brutal terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11, become defining moments for a generation.
B.J. RILEY: Quieting the roar of the presses …
There are memories branded forever in our minds. They are as clear as if they occurred just yesterday. I will never forget that Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, or the days that followed …
A CHANGED NATION: After 9/11, air travel, privacy, security all took on new rules
A lot has changed in the decade since passenger planes were used as missiles to destroy the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and to damage the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
9/11 Day of Service in Valley: Consolidated 5th-graders swept away with helping others
After the 9/11 tragedy, many saw a spirit of unity emerging across the country as Americans pulled together and helped each other during a dark time in U.S. history.
WHY I SERVE: The soldier
On the wall of his office inside the Myers Technology Building, Chris Pfaff pointed to a map of Afghanistan, a place about as different from the Indiana State University campus as one can imagine.
'ALMOST SURREAL': A decade later, two men who witnessed the attacks look back
The underground Metro train shook noticeably.
Something had happened. William Hanna, a retired U.S. Army colonel living in Virginia, was on board the Metro and could feel the shock.
WHY I SERVE: The firefighter
Big red trucks and blaring sirens always held a special appeal for Jason Kame.
“I always wanted to be a fireman. I was one of those kids that always knew what I wanted to do,” he said inside the Terre Haute Fire Department’s Headquarters Station at First and Spruce streets.
TEACHING TRAGEDY: Attacks created new chapters for the history books
The 9/11 terrorist attacks permanently changed the daily routine for students in the Vigo County School Corp.
WHY I SERVE: The police officer
Joe Watts heard the calling to wear a police uniform early in life.
“I tell everyone that as far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a state trooper,” Watts says.
TEACHING TRAGEDY: 9/11 attacks were a ‘historical turning point’
Incoming college freshmen this fall would have been about 8 years old when 9/11 occurred, and college faculty find that with each passing year, students know less and less about the terrorist attacks.
Ralston took part in congressional terrorism study before 9/11
Years before the terrorist attacks in 2001, Terre Haute resident Patrick R. Ralston was part of a national panel that would assess how the U.S. government could assist state and local responders in combating terrorism.
IN GOD WE TRUST: Many sought comfort in prayer, religion after attacks
In times of tragedy, many people turn to prayer to help them begin to cope with myriad emotions.
LIFE & LIBERTY: Americans won’t let lives be ruled by fear, prof says
In the post-9/11 world, Americans have been willing to make some concessions in the name of national security, but not many, says a St. Mary-of-the-Woods College faculty member.
Ten years removed, 9/11 attack on NYC remains on minds of many (see VIDEO)
First of a three-part series
A decade later, images from Sept. 11, 2001, remain vivid in the minds of most Americans. Plane crashes. Collapsing skyscrapers. Staggering people covered in dust. Horror. Shock. Confusion. Fear. Heroism.
9/11 Memorial Event to honor those killed in attacks
Late last year, Terri (T.J.) Coonce had a vision for a 9/11 memorial event.
Inspired by an uncle and cousin who had served in Afghanistan, she wanted to honor not only those killed in the terrorist attacks, but also all American service members who have since lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.
‘Remember those who were heroes that day’
Half-time shows at college football games are normally reserved for some relatively light entertainment and a chance to buy some snacks.
- More 9/11: 10th Anniversary Coverage Headlines
- Delores Ann Day