© By Jack Bogut
They say only animals have instinct. But show a 5 year old a puddle and the urge to stand in it and jump up and down is very hard to resist. The feeling is too strong to ignore.
Many a child has blamed “an invisible force” for pushing them into doing something they didn’t mean or understand.
As we get older we learn to put aside those feelings or compulsions in favor of maturity, logic, common sense, order, embarrassment, of just plain denial, because we think we should know better. But that doesn’t always work…
Only the sound of the wind broke the silence that day.
“I want to get out of here!” My wife said, squeezing my arm.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because they’re still here. I can feel them reaching out to us, trying to make contact. And I don’t know what to do.”
I put my arm around her shoulder, not doubting for a moment she was right, because I felt their presence too as we stood there, looking at the personal items hung on the fence. Jackets and hats, scarves and hankies, photographs and hand written notes, keys of all kinds and travel mugs, an almost full bottle of whisky with one drink taken out of it and a note explaining why, an unopened bottle of beer, and even an infant’s pacifier, all extremely personal items hung on the wire. You could cut the emotions left behind by the donors with a knife.
We were standing in an open field at the make-shift memorial for the heroes and victims of Flight 93, both of us in tears, wanting to leave but unable to go. There were a few other people there but no one spoke. The reverent sadness was so heavy it was hard to breathe as I thought back to Joni’s call just days before.
“Honey, turn on the TV,” she said. “A plane or helicopter or something has flown into one of the Twin Towers in New York City.”
We had just been on an island beach out of Greenwich, Connecticut the week before and saw the towers looming in the distance to the Southwest.
I walked into the news studio next door to tell our newsman about the call.
He was already watching the horror unfold as the second plane hit the second tower. We both stood there with our mouths open, not breathing, incredulous, shocked, stricken with grief thinking about the people in the buildings trying to find a way out. Then we saw bodies start to fall.
Our broadcast instincts took over and we got to work passing along over the airwaves what we knew, listening to the TV, checking news reports online, listening to various network’s coverage, and trying to make sense of a profoundly senseless situation.
Then our owner appeared in the hallway and said to cancel all commercials and regular music programming and just report what was going on.
We watched, horrified, as people chose to leap out of upper floor windows rather than burn in the fires behind them. We cleared our throats involuntarily as the billowing cloud of smoke and dust pushed through and filled the streets, choking the life out of many and blinding those lucky enough to find shelter.
Then came the reports of the plane hitting the Pentagon, and finally, a flight headed toward Cleveland that turned suddenly around and headed East Southeast apparently bound for Washington, DC, only to crash in a field near Somerset, PA.
It seemed the tragedy would never end as we heard of frantic cell phone calls to loved ones from the plane that hit the Pentagon, and of course, from the heroes that fought to overcome the terrorists on flight 93.
Todd Beamer’s, “Let’s roll,” is one of the things inscribed on the wall at the Flight 93 Memorial.
After all the bits and scraps of information were put together, there was no doubt the passengers on Flight 93 recognized what was going on and chose to sacrifice their own lives and bring the plane down short of the Nation’s Capital.
In the reverent quiet at the Flight 93 Memorial, if you listen, you can still hear faint echoes…
Let us never, ever, forget.