Everyday Heroes


Newark Airport awoke on Tuesday morning around 5 AM when an inbound flight from the West Coast landed, carrying a not so full load of red-eyed passengers. Once the plane pulled into it’s designated gate, and the jetway was secured in place, an audible chime sounded, indicating that passengers could gather their belongings and disembark. Some exchanged business cards as they wrapped up their conversations from the previous five hours, while others struggled to jam blankets, jackets, and books back into their already overstuffed roll-abords. They all wandered through the vast and eerily quiet terminal, the silence only broken by a lonely janitor mopping a floor. The passengers and flight crew exchanged pleasantries with the security guard at the checkpoint as they exited the terminal. The weary night guard nodded apathetically, and glanced at his watch, quickly calculating that he had less than an hour until the end of his shift. Before long, the guard was greeted by his less than enthusiastic replacement, who after a short turnover report began listlessly preparing for the impending morning rush. Around 6:30 AM a steady line had formed at the checkpoint, and the guard watched on as passengers worked their way through the checkpoint. As the line at the checkpoint grew, so did the line at the coffee shop, and the guard found his mind wandering towards the cinnamon roll he would indulge in at the end of his shift. Coffee in hand, passengers congregated at their various gates. Sharp dressed corporate leaders jabbered into their cell phones. An elderly woman tapped two knitting needles together as she gracefully weaved a scarf or shawl. Two gentlemen passionately discussed Yankees baseball, and a young pregnant woman admired her growing belly. A cheery gate agent announced that the outgoing flight’s crew was aboard, and was making final preparations for boarding. Momentarily she would begin loading the plane in zones, which were identified on passenger’s tickets. After a few routine announcements about mileage incentive programs, she quickly reviewed the flight manifest, remarking that passengers would be glad to know that this wasn’t a very full flight. After a buzz from the flight crew aboard the plane, the gate agent announced that she would now be boarding zone 1, the first class passengers. A group of four young, dark skinned men quickly jumped up and approached the podium. The agent checked their tickets, and wished them a safe flight. Without reply, the four men proceeded down the jetway, and settled into their lavish accommodations in the front of the aircraft. A tall man, wearing a nicely tailored suit boarded with zone two, and sat just behind first class. He observed the inhabitants of the first few rows with some degree of jealousy as an attractive flight attendants offered the four men their complimentary beverages. As the rest of the passengers strolled on by him, he pulled the “Sky Mall” catalog out, and began flipping pages. He smiled as strange items like a refilling dog bowl and a Harry Potter magic wand made him think of his family. After boarding was complete, the captain introduced himself over the loudspeaker, commented on the weather in San Francisco, then admitted that there would be a slight delay, s the ground crew had identified a small but quickly rectifiable issue with a sensor or something. The man rolled his eyes, as he was accustomed to such delays. He again buried himself in Sky Mall, impressed by the number of gadgets that someone had packed into what looked like a credit card. As promised, the issue was fixed, and the plane took off, around 8 AM, bound for San Francisco. Exhausting the entertainment value of “Sky Mall,” the man flipped through the safety manual. Not finding it overly enthralling, he opted to try and fall asleep. Glad that no one was seated behind him, he leaned his seat back and closed his eyes. He was jerked awake when the aircraft suddenly lost altitude, sending his stomach to the top of his throat at an alarming and very uncomfortable rate. The engines whined loudly as the nose of the aircraft pitched forward. Shouts could be heard from the cockpit, and a woman screamed. After a moment of chaos, the aircraft leveled, and the struggle seemed to be over. A gravelly voice came over the loudspeaker, and in heavily accented english informed the passengers that the plane had been hijacked, and that the hijackers had a bomb on board. If they did not comply with instructions, they would die. Immediately following the announcement, one of the young men who had been sitting in first class burst from the cockpit, and began issuing orders to the passengers. He menacingly waved a knife around as he ushered the small group of passengers to the aft end of the aircraft. Once the passengers were re-seated, the terrorist returned to the cockpit. We all know what happened to United Flight 93. The passengers banded together, and using a food cart, scalding water, and uncommon valor, fought to regain control of the aircraft. They were unable to fully regain control,, but they were able to prevent yet another attack, potentially on the White House or the Capitol building in Washington D.C. The passengers and flight crew of United Flight 93 are heroes. They faced extraordinary circumstances with extraordinary courage. They all began September 11, 2001 as everyday people, just like you and me, but they are now heroes. That being said, I do not believe that the sinister plot by 20 Al Qaida operatives is what made those people heroes. They were already heroes. They were already wonderful people, who loved their families, who worked hard, and were trying to live virtuously. It was not the four men at the front of the plane who facilitated the magical transformation of the rest of the passengers. The passengers and flight crew of United Flight 93 were already heroes. Everyday we have opportunities to be a hero for someone. It is generally easier for us to identify heroes from extraordinary situations, but there are examples of ordinary heroism surrounding us everyday. In a lot of respects, ordinary heroism is as important, if not more so, than extraordinary heroism. Ordinary heroism occurs everyday all around us, while hopefully extraordinary situations only come about once in a great while. We don’t need to wait around for these situations to arise. To be a hero, all you have to do is inspire someone. We can accomplish this by a gesture as small as a “Thank You!” or helping a blind person cross the street. (Seriously, I am more than likely lost somewhere on Boston St. as you read this… HELP!)Acts of heroism don’t always have to be active. We may never know who is watching, and sometimes just by doing the right thing, living virtuously and working hard, we might inspire someone else to do the same! On days like today, it is important to remember. We need to remember the victims of the September 11 attacks, and we need to remember the everyday heroes who answered the call to help those victims. We need to remember the passengers and flight crew of United Flight 93, the firemen, law enforcement, and other first responders who rushed to the aid of those stricken at the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. We need to remember the heroes who helped others on the long descent down the towers. We need to remember all those afflicted by the attacks and reflect on it’s impact on our own lives. This remembrance is a somber one. It is painful to relive these memories. But I think there is a lot of positive things to be salvaged from the rubble. I think it’s important to realize that heroes aren’t pre-destined or chosen, or even prepared in any way. Heroes are everyday people like you and me. Everyday people like you and me can be heroes if we choose to answer the call. We don’t have to face the extraordinary circumstances of September 11th. All we have to do is inspire someone! Today, remember. Tomorrow, live as the everyday hero that you truly are!