Nearly seven years after 19 Islamic jihadists took control of four commercial airliners with the intention of raining death and destruction on America, the flight crews who were first to die that day have finally been appropriately honored.
The 9/11 Flight Crew Memorial dedication in Grapevine, Texas, host city to Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport, took place on Independence Day.
What a fitting day to remember the 33 individuals who were the first first responders and the only uniformed service members to confront the faces of evil up close, in hand-to-hand battle. From the pilots in the cockpit and the forward flight attendants who were attacked with folding knives and box cutters, to the crew members who alerted the world, to those who joined with passengers using whatever was at hand to mount a do-or-die resistance and successfully stopping the suicide killers from reaching the nation’s capital, these 33 men and women should be remembered for their bravery, dedication to duty, and shared humanity as they faced what they knew to be the last moments of their lives.
What is immediately noticeable about this glorious memorial is that it was entirely conceived and built by individuals who come from, or are closely connected to, the aviation community. Too often, memorials become mired in controversy because they stray too far from their intended purpose, which is to mark an historic event, honor the individuals whose lives shaped or were personally touched by that event, and to inspire those of us who live on, today and tomorrow, to lead our lives in a way that gives meaning to those values which we hold dear as a people.
Men and women for whom the attack on airplanes was deeply and intensely personal built this memorial. It was the vision of Valerie Thompson, an American Airlines flight attendant with 20 years seniority, for whom the 9/11 attacks were a call to action to build a permanent remembrance to her colleagues and to honor all those aviation professionals whose lives changed forever on September 11. Her husband, Dean Thompson, sculpted the one-and-a-half-life-sized bronze figures adapted from an original design by Bryce Cameron Liston. The 18-foot structure is situated on the outskirts of Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport, where a steady flow of commercial jetliners in their final landing approach can be seen in the distance, adding a living reminder of what we lost and what continues to be an object of terrorist obsession.