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Everyday heroes

Anthony Iannamorelli | Monday, September 12, 2005

For those students from New York City or the Washington D.C. area, and those who lost loved ones on Sept. 11, 2001, yesterday was a day of mourning and remembering. I am from neither of these places. I have no personal ties with any one of the victims of 9/11. I am from Fayette County, Penn., about 45 minutes of winding, tree-lined mountain road away from the crash site of Flight 93.

On that fateful day, America was at first confused, then terrified and angry, and all the while helpless. I am sure that millions of people in the countless small towns across America breathed a sigh of relief, believing they were safe, as they said prayers under their breath for those who were suffering in the big, far-away cities.

As I watched, someone joked that no one would bother to attack southwestern Penn. If they thought they would destroy the United States’ main coal and steel supplier, they were about 30 years too late. As soon as our quiet chuckles ended, the news broke that Flight 93 had crashed. It had crashed close. A feeling of dread moved like a shock wave from the site to the surrounding villages and towns. Many in the area thought that this was the start of a full-scale attack on every inch of America. It seems silly in hindsight, but we thought that if the small town of Shanksville was attacked, then nowhere was safe. It was not until later that week that the courageous truth came out.

The blood spilt on the ground in Shanksville is unique, set apart even from that of Gettysburg or the beaches of Normandy. The brave soldiers in those situations were prepared and trained for the horrors they would encounter. They awoke those mornings knowing they might not return to their loved ones. The 40 people who overpowered the highjackers and sacrificed their lives were in no way prepared to become heroes the morning they boarded the plane, but their actions have placed them in the ranks of the bravest of veterans.

The field where they crashed will soon be the sight of a memorial. But it will never be able to fully thank them. They overcame all fear to stop the evil and sacrificed themselves to save innocent lives just like theirs. And in doing this, they saved what had the potential to be the greatest symbolic loss of 9/11: the White House. But I do not think they thought of this as they charged the cockpit. They thought of the loved ones they called from the plane. They thought of the goodbyes sworn and hoped these would be made lies, not that they would be made heroes.

I know my area was not chosen as the sight of final resting place for these brave individuals. It was fortunate that a bare field was chosen instead of a town, or even a house. But now that ground is holy. And it will forever emanate the one question we must all ask ourselves: would we do the same thing they did in that situation?