The story of United Airlines Flight 93 should be burned into the consciousness of every American alive today. If there is anything that could be called a success on that horrific day in 2001, it was the fight that the passengers took to the terrorists, foiling their plans to crash the plane into an unknown site, possibly the White House or the Capitol Building.
|(left to right: Glick, Bingham, Beamer, Burnett)|
A similar narrative played out August 21, 2015 when three Americans battled an Islamic extremist hell-bent on murdering passengers on that high-speed train in Europe. Only this time, they won the battle, and lived to tell their story themselves. Anthony Sadler, Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos were long-time friends on a holiday, dozing on that train, when U.S. airman Spencer Stone was awakened from a deep sleep, and turned around to see a man holding an assault rifle, which he said “looked like it was jammed and it wasn’t working.” His friend, 22-year-old National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos “just hit me on the shoulder and said ‘Let’s go,”’ before moving in to tackle the gunman. Skarlatos grabbed the gun, while the third friend, Anthony Sadler, joined in the brawl, and the three successfully beat the gunman into submission, with Stone putting a chokehold on him until he lay unconscious.
The gunman was armed with a small arsenal, including an AK, a pistol, and the familiar terrorist tool, a box-cutter, with which he was able to stab Stone in the neck and slice at his hand and thumb (which was successfully reattached in a French hospital). Stone is also credited with saving the life of a French-American teacher wounded in the neck with a gunshot wound and squirting blood. Stone said his military training kicked in and he "just stuck two of my fingers in his hole and found what I thought to be the artery, pushed down and the bleeding stopped." He said he kept the position until paramedics arrived.
|(Left to right: Sadler, Skarlatos, Stone)|
Two of them are members of a U.S. military that is still engaged in wars on multiple fronts against a branch of those same Islamic extremists. We can argue about the effectiveness, success, or hidden political agendas of these wars, but there is no debate about the bravery and honor of our U.S. military -- or that of ordinary citizens, such as Anthony Sadler, a student. Asked if there were lessons to be learned from this ordeal, Sadler had one piece of advice for all who find themselves faced with a choice such as theirs .... "Do something," he said. "Hiding, or sitting back, is not going to accomplish anything. And the gunman would've been successful if my friend Spencer had not gotten up. So I just want that lesson to be learned going forward. In times of terror like that, please do something. Don't just stand by and watch." For their acts of courage, the three young Americans received France's highest award, the Legion of Honor. Whether they qualify for Purple Hearts, remains to be seen.
But as we near the anniversary of September 11th, I hope we will renew our pride in the American spirit; that we will recall the extraordinary things that ordinary citizens are capable of doing in the face of pure Evil. It also seems fitting to recall the words that former President George W. Bush spoke only a couple months after the 9-1-1 tragedy: "Some of our greatest moments have been acts of courage for which no one could have been prepared. But we have our marching orders. My fellow Americans, let's roll!" And that's exactly what this latest generation of fearless young American men did as that train sped through the French countryside. Americans need a little boost to our national pride these days ... not to mention that it feels so good to see Evil defeated!
Joshua 1:9 "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."