Culture

Flight 93 And 'Accidents of History'

(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, Pool)

The “Tower of Voices” memorial in Pennsylvania is a beautiful, 93-foot-high structure made of stainless steel that overlooks the 2,200-acre site where 40 brave Americans sacrificed their lives to protect the U.S. Capitol Building from terrorists bent on its destruction. It’s the world’s tallest wind chime tower and its 40 chimes commemorate the 40 men and women who fought a desperate battle for life.

They may have lost that fight, but they won the eternal gratitude of the nation. What makes their sacrifice even more astonishing are the strange and wondrous circumstances that led those 40 heroes to that time and place.

Scholar James Reston wrote a book of fiction about Flight 93, The 19th Hijacker, that ties together the disparate threads of history and weaves a tapestry of heroism that shows the seemingly random factors that led to the hijackers’ and passengers’ fates.

Flight 93 took off from Newark airport after a 25-minute delay that Reston believes was crucial to what happened. That delay gave friends and family time to call passengers and tell them of the horror happening in New York and at the Pentagon. Without that intelligence, the passengers would have been in the dark about the other attacks.

Also, the hijackers waited 46 minutes before moving on the cockpit. This gave the passengers additional time to plan and decide what to do.

Fox News:

Flight 93 was also different from the other hijacked flights in that the passengers were able to use their cell phones and call their loved ones – who informed them about the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.

Reston believes that if the plane had left on time, there wouldn’t have been the possibility of a “Democratic vote” in the back of the plane to storm the cockpit and overwhelm the minders – the hijackers tasked with keeping the passengers under control.

Also was the fact that the three other hijacked planes had five hijackers, whereas Flight 93 had just four. The fifth terrorist, Mohammed al-Qahtani, was originally part of the plan but was apprehended in August 2001 while trying to enter the U.S. from Dubai.

The terrorists considered Americans weak and soft. They couldn’t have known that among the passengers were athletes and several men of action. The terrorists never knew what hit them.

The Flight 93 hijackers, who were “scrawny and diminutive,” were no match for the passengers on board, which was “dotted with athletes,” Reston said.

Among the passengers, “there was a quarterback, there was a bungee jumper. There were two 200 pounders. There was a weightlifter. There was an all-star field hockey player … That’s a total accident of history,” Reston said. “So, they got together in the back of the plane and discuss [revolting]. They know they’ve only got a few minutes to do this. And in a Democratic vote, they decide to storm the cockpit.”

Only Americans would have taken a vote. Perhaps only Americans would have thought to take a vote. It’s the only time in the history of terrorist hijackings that passengers fought back.

The “Tower of Voices” may be the most unique monument in America. It honors the extraordinarily unique contributions of 40 extraordinary Americans who for one day — the last day of their lives — rose above the mundane to achieve immortality.

WESA Pittsburgh:

Winds must reach 15 miles per hour to activate the striker and make the chimes sing. Paul Murdoch, the architect of the park and president of Murdoch Architects, said he and park management are investigating how to make the chimes less wind-resistant, enabling visitors to hear them more often.

But when visitors do get the chance to hear the tower, the tones are unlike the glittery tinkle of backyard wind chimes. Somber vibrations clang with soft dissonance, creating an environment that begs the visitor to reflect on the actions of that day.