When you think of 9/11, there are many feelings and emotions that likely flood your mind…the first might be the events and images of that fateful day and the chronicles of incredible feats performed by the “average person”.  Or perhaps the ways our lives have changed since then, how we might look at an incident today with our post 9/11 eyes or the changes and challenges to the travel experience.

On the  9/11 anniversary I like most of the country, have thought about how much our lives have been altered by the events that took place on that September morning.

‘Are you guys ready? Let’s roll’

“Are you guys ready? Let’s roll!” That’s how Todd Beamer lived. And that’s how he died, helping to lead a takeover by passengers on United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed into a field in rural Pennsylvania. It was the fourth plane to go down in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Todd Beamer
Todd Beamer

After United Airlines Flight 93 was hijacked, Beamer and other passengers calls people on the ground via in-plane and cellular phones and learned that the World Trade Center had been attacked using hijacked airplanes. Beamer tried to place a credit card call through a phone located on the back of a plane seat but was routed to a customer-service representative instead, who passed him on to GTE supervisor Lisa Jefferson. Beamer reported that one passenger was killed and, later, that a flight attendant had told him the pilot and co-pilot had been forced from the cockpit and may have been wounded. He was also on the phone when the plane made its turn in a southeasterly direction, a move that had him briefly panicking. Later, he told the operator that some of the plane’s passengers were planning to “jump on” the hijackers and fly the plane into the ground before the hijackers’ plan could be followed through. Beamer also recited The Lords Prayer with Jefferson. According to Jefferson, Beamer’s last audible words were “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll.”

When I reflect on Todd Beamer actions, it makes me marvel at his courage and his sheer guts and I ask the question of myself, what would have I done in that situation?

It Wasn’t Just Humans Who Made A Difference – Remembering The Four Footed Hero’s – Miracles On Paws

Roselle With Medal

On September 11, Michael Hingson and his guide dog Roselle were in their office on the 78th floor of Tower One of the World Trade Center when the tower was struck by American Airlines flight 11. Michael reported that “Roselle did an incredible job.  She remained poised and calm through the entire day.   I would not be alive today if it weren’t for Roselle.” Roselle, successfully guided her blind master, and a co-worker down 78 dark flights of stairs in a World Trade Center building 15 minutes before it collapsed. “She didn’t bark, whine or flinch, even as firefighters running up the stairs rushed past,” Hingson said.

Handlers and their dogs working the pile

Hundreds of search and rescue dogs and their human handlers worked the pile (as the WTC was called) looking for victims and later cadavers. These dogs and their dog handlers and owners, displayed amazing courage.  The dogs were hoisted to high floors, crawled on their bellies and squeezed through cavities into debris. Some dogs walked like tightrope artists up girders to where they could get into the ruins, and still others sniffed through tons of sifted rubble for human remains that gave closure to grieving families.

Animal Therapy
Animal-Assisted Therapy dogs provide tremendous comfort to humans of all ages

Not all deployed dogs were search and rescue animals. Some were trained Animal-Assisted Therapy dogs who provided emotional support to rescue workers and to families of victims who perished on 9/11. Trained therapy dogs walked the floor in New York City’s Family Assistance Center, where people suddenly bereft of loved ones sought help. Therapy dogs also accompanied victims’ relatives on special ferry rides down the Hudson River to the site of the tragedy— the safest and most private way to travel to ground zero. Some people held the dogs and released pent-up grief. Other people overcome by sadness were calmed by the dogs.

Many of the hundreds of canines that worked in the chaos after the attack, are now old and retired…some have died.  They like the human hero’s of this tragic story, deserve our respect and gratitude for their service.

Compassion and Courage

Both of these 9/11 stories speak of compassion for our fellow man and the courage to act.  And in our challenging times, it is good to remember that those qualities are what make us human and in many ways, make life worth living.