Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Heroes of 9-11

Recently declassified government photo of the work at the 9-11 site. Public domain

A lot of articles are going to appear about the threat of further terrorism, the losses, how America has changed et cetera, but for the moment, I want to look in to the past, not to see the evil that perpetrated these attacks, but the heroic people who rose to meet them. Some of the stories will be familiar, nearly common knowledge even, but some of them will not be. All of them, however, demonstrate what makes America great.

Todd Beamer

An accountant at Oracle, Todd also taught sunday school with his wife Lisa for six years and had two children, David and Drew. After their plane was hijacked, Todd and other passengers made attempts (13 successful) to call home by both in-plane and cell phones*. Todd, in his, did not quite get through but instead ended up on the phone with GTE Supervisor Lisa Jefferson*, and, as he and others were told of the attack on the WTC, a resolution was made to jump the hijackers. After briefly panicking when the plane jerked southeast, Todd recited the Lords Prayer with Mrs. Jefferson,* and then is quoted as having said "You guys ready? Lets roll." 4 months after his death, his youngest child and only daughter, Morgan Kay, was born.

Lieutenant Heather Penny

Stuck between a logistical rock and hard place, the USAF had a difficult choice to make that morning: take time to properly arm its aircraft, or catch up to the planes quickly. When the choice was made however, Lieutenant Penny didn't question it, but simply to the sky with her orders to ram flight 93. Not even equipped with gun ammo, her F-16 had nothing but its own physical force to stop the terrorist plane before it reached Washington. When asked about the experience, she had nothing to say but this: "We had to protect the airspace any way we could"

Fabrizio Bivona

Just as some are inspired to die for their country, some, in outrage, are inspired to live for it. That describes the fate of NYC Paramedic and Firefighter Fabrizio Bivona perfectly. Many of his fellow paramedics didn't come home that day, and left alive, he has seen firsthand the real impact that 9/11 has had on 1,000's of survivors and families. He describes himself as having served on counterterrorism teams "before it was popular," and appreciates the progress and attempts at progress that were made by the Bush administration, but also laments the "politicization of homeland security." Inspired to act, this common man made an unsuccesful attempt at a US Congressional Seat to raise hell, and though preferring the notion of others stepping up to fulfill this noble cause, has not ruled out making another attempt in the future, saying he is thoroughly disgusted by the Obama administration on this issue. "I see the frontline to the survival of America—where the front lines have been drawn—is now inside our government. For me, I always want to be where the fight is."

Joe Irizarry

Prior to 911, Joe had an ordinary boring life of driving the subway trains underneath Manhattan. At the Courtlandt Street subway station, at the foot of the towers, Joe arrived just in time to have his train literally shook by the impact of the planes. Knowing something was wrong, he looked around him, and saw people en masse fleeing the debris of 9/11, and kept his doors open several minutes to offer refuge from those running away from a mysterious smoke he did not know the source of. "The smoke was coming down so I had no idea what was going on in the streets. I just wanted to make sure the people were safe." According to witness Linda Di Silvio, he executed his good decision well, being in charge and keeping the whole train car of people under control. "Joe was, you know, the brick there." Finally, when he knew it was too close to collapse, he gunned it out of the station for Continental Avenue, the end of the line. Joe would not realize he was a 911 hero until he made it to the crew room, and was told about the towers collapse.

Mike Cammarta

22-year-old Mike Cammarta, a former Little League World Series participant, left just one last message to his family when he rushed in to the WTC on 9-11: "I am going to the World Trade Center, a plane just hit it. Just tell everyone I am all right." He was stationed at Ladder #11 as a student, hoping to graduate from Fire Academy to carry his Uncles badge and the tradition of his family. He was even to take his uncles shield number, 1138. Throughout all his days, he counted the experience of playing right-field in the Little League World Series at the age of 12 as one of the most fantastic of his life, and on the 5th Anniversary of the 911 attacks, Little League International commemorated him with his uniform number permaneantly affixed to the stadium walls and admittance to the Hall of Excellence of the Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum.
Welles Crowther

A successful NYC equities trader, Welles still found the time to serve his country as a volunteer firefighter, and in the finish, he would give far more time then he ever realized. Still a young man not even yet over his youthful eccentricity of carrying a red bandana, he helped someone to safety who then, wondering who had helped him, had somehow gotten a hold of his mother. His mother sent a picture, and immediately the helper was known to be Welles. Welles himself perished, but the people he helped lived.

Ret. Sargent Major Tony Rose

After his office was nearly taken out by the impact of the plane on the Pentagon, the Sargeant Major, feeling hot and dark like Hell, searched for a way out. Barely finding it, he heard the cries of those still inside, and with a few other survivors, found a flooded utilities that was just cool enough to pry through the wreckage. Working in shifts and having to tunnel their way around fallen electric live wires from the ruined walls, they gradually carried seven survivors to safety, while confronted with the sheer gruesomeness of the attack in the form of the body parts of a small child.

Gary Smiley

There's an old cynical saying that "No good deed goes unpunished," and certainly this maxim has been true for Gary Smiley. One of the most decorated living paramedics of 9/11, Gary Smiley suffered through extensive surgery and medical care to recover from the 9/11 attacks. During this process, he was shortchanged by the Fire Commisioner of NYC during his period in the hospital, not being given full pay and being held back for elite assignments as he recovered from his 9/11 injuries. He has had to face NYC in lawsuits as a reward for his heroism, lawsuits in which Commisoner Salvatore Cassano has claimed, and still claims, he somehow earned his current position. Cassano was responsible, according to His Honor Morgenthau, for ignoring a smoking gun warning that caused the fatal fire at the Deutsche Bank after the towers collapsed.

*APPENDIX - 911 Conspiracy Theories surrounding cell phone usage on flight 93

It is often said that cell phones cannot be used at 10000 feet. However, when looking at the assumptions behind the prediction that the cellular "handshake," could not be carried out, I noticed a few inconsistencies:

1 - Not all of the calls were cellular, some of them were using in-plane phones (including Todd Beamers.) The "handshake" phenomenon may also help explain why Beamer was not able to get through to his wife and kids, but instead ended up on the phone with a business manager for the in-plane phone service.

2 - Only a total of 13 calls out of 33 passengers on board were successful. Considering as nearly all passengers on the plane had cell phones, and most who failed would've tried several times, this seems somewhat consistent.

3 - Somerset County is flat and underpopulated. As a result, their will be fewer cellphone towers for the same area by far. This may also explain why similar phone calls did not occur on the other flights. It may also help explain why the terrorists were not expecting cell calls to be a problem - they may have been thinking like our conspiracy theorists.

As a result, I think we can conclude that the cell calls were in fact valid.