Teh Squeaky Wheel
Good morning, GN. I’m having a rough go the past few days and lazy bastard that I am,all I have to offer this morning is something I wrote and posted here 15 years ago.
Because of the nature of the beast, here at TSW we often mock decision science. That’s only fair; when someone proudly trots out their credentials in decision science and then repeatedly makes one stupid decision after another, well…
Flight 93 left Newark-NJ at 8:42 the morning of September 11 after having been delayed almost an hour. By around 9:30, it had been successfully taken over by the hijackers. The time of the cockpit intrusion and hijacking is determined through two sources – a phone call from passenger Tom Burnett to his wife in San Francisco and a garbled radio transmission from the cockpit. Once the terrorists were in control, the remaining passengers and crew were herded to the back of the plane. After a few minutes, the plane changed direction and headed towards Washington. By this time, around 9:40, other hijacked planes had hit both the WTC Towers and the Pentagon.
When Flight 93 left the ground, it had 44 passengers and crew. During the takeover, at least one passenger and two crewmembers (pilot and co-pilot) were killed. That left alive 37 passengers and crew – 17 men, 20 women – and the four hijackers. No children on board although one of the women, Lauren Grandcolas, was pregnant. For the most part, this was a group of strangers with the exception of one married couple and two friends traveling together. Some of the remaining flight crew had worked together before, so they were familiar with each other, or at the very least, had a common set of corporate experience to draw on. Several of the passengers were professional business types on business trips. Others were retired. Some were single; others were married with children and grandchildren. As far as flights go, this was a typical group of passengers on a cross-country midweek commute. Not a John Wayne or Bruce Willis in the bunch.
The plane is hijacked around 9:30. By 9:37, the passengers knew of the WTC attacks – this from a phone call that Jeremy Glick had with his wife. By 9:45, Tom Burnett tells his wife that a group of passengers is working on a plan to take back control of the plane. At 9:47, Jeremy Glick, again to his wife, telling of a vote that the passengers have taken – that they have decided to try to take back control of the plane.
Stop for a moment and put yourself on the plane. Before 9:30, you are blissfully unaware of anything going on in the outside world. Then you are hustled to the back of the plane by a bunch of knife-wielding terrorists with a bomb and told to sit down and shut up. Everyone is scared, the plane is bouncing up and down, it’s hard to hear, you don’t know any of these people, and you don’t know what the hell is going on. But within a few minutes new information is coming in – your plane isn’t the only plane hijacked. Your country is under attack…by hijacked planes. Within 15 minutes you accept the new information, you form groups, you formulate plans, you present the plans…and you take a vote. Fifteen minutes.
There was plenty of horror on September 11, 2001. The images of people jumping from the Twin Towers. The image of the second plane hitting and the realization that the first hit wasn’t an accident. Watching the Towers come down. Amidst the horror was admiration for the bravery of those that responded, did their jobs, and helped out. But the most amazing thing in my mind still is what occurred on Flight 93. Decision making at its best…by Americans. The realization that no one was going to help them, that if they were going to get out of this mess alive it was going to be up them, and that even if they didn’t get out of it alive, that they were going to determine their own fate.
Based on other phone calls, some of the passengers and crew spent their remaining time saying their good-byes to family and friends, while others prepared to assault the cockpit. No weapons onboard, so they improvised. They boiled water, pulled up seat cushions to defend against knifes, agreed to use the rolling food cart as a battering ram to get into the cockpit, and to use beverage cans as projectiles. The actual assault probably began around 9:57. CeeCee Lyles is on the phone with her husband at 9:58: “I think they’re going to do it. They’re forcing their way into the cockpit”. A little later she screams, then says: “They’re doing it! They’re doing it! They’re doing it!” The voice recorder at 9:59 pick ups a passenger screaming: “In the cockpit. If we don’t we’ll die!” At 10:01 the voice recorder picks up the last words from Flight 93 – the hijackers saying to put the plane down. The plan flies erratically for a few more minutes before finally hitting the ground in Shanskville, Pennsylvania.
If you follow the various timelines from all the reports that have come out of 9/11, from the moment the hijackers leave their seats and assault the cockpit to final impact, the entire event lasts, at most, 40 minutes. That this group of Americans was able to do what they did, in that amount of time, strikes me as little less than miraculous.
A reflective and prayerful Sabbath to you all, Gerbil Nation.
Good morning, Sven.
Sven -- continued prayers for your health, in all its aspects. Yours was a very well-written piece 15 years ago, and remains so, today. No need to reinvent the wheel. Thank you for sharing.
A most amazing fight and post-fight interview -- this is one excitable fat man. You can’t help but be happy for him.
It’s good to hear him give props to his opponent. That’s something you don’t often see.
It’s pretty common -- the rule, not the exception -- in the UFC.
It’s interesting in this day and age with all the talk about racism, grievance, equity and diversity, that if you watch MMA you see fighters from every country around the globe, but they are all fighters and athletes performing under the rules and traditions of the sport. Nobody cares where you are from or what color your skin is; all they care about is what you can do in the octagon or ring and how you handle yourself in victory or defeat.
Honor still exists
Although I don’t remember the content of your article clearly, I remember reading it all those years ago, and others at the time. I think I even wrote one of my own--nothing compared to any of yours--which at the time, I think Harper posted on her own account.
Thanks for reminding us.