A few years ago I wrote the very first review published about the film "United 93." The film tells the story of the plane that was intended by terrorists to destroy the U.S. Capitol building. Instead, it crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. It was, as I wrote, "the story of the first victory of Americans over our 21st-century terrorist enemies."
I have heard it said that the 21st century began on September 11, and I would go so far as to say it began on United Flight 93. When the passengers reach loved ones on air phones and learn for the first time that the hijacked planes are being turned into murder machines, something changes. "United 93" refuses to mythologize this moment, and the shift is subtle. "This is a suicide mission," one of the passengers says. The next thing that happens needs no mythologizing at all — among a small group of men, this realization transforms their fear into resolve. They don't intend to die, and they don't intend to be used as fodder for the terrorists' plan.
The passenger revolt is preceded by enough doubt and hesitation that when it finally comes, we are relieved. No doubt this is meant to mirror the images of the hesitant terrorists at the start of the film.
Indeed, we see both passengers and terrorists praying just before the counterstrike. But it would take the worst kind of moral relativist to see these prayers and the actions that follow them as equivalent. I am confident no one watching "United 93" will make that mistake.
When the group of men on the plane — who the best evidence we have tells us included Thomas Burnett, Jeremy Glick and Mark Bingham — launch their assault on the terrorists, they inaugurate a new era.
"Make us a pack, not a herd" was a phrase uttered often in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. "United 93" shows us how quickly these brave men made themselves a pack of heroes.
September 11 was a disaster for radical Islam. For the radical Muslims of Al Qaeda and its fellow travelers, it marked the beginning of the failure of their dream to simultaneously launch a worldwide Islamic revolution and break the spirit of Western civilization. Even the most murderous and elaborate attack against Americans on American soil could not accomplish these goals.
For the particular group of Muslim terrorists portrayed in "United 93," September 11 was an even more personal failure. The men who hijack United Airlines Flight 93 seek to convert the airplane into a missile to be used against our U.S. Capitol building, just as two other planes were used to destroy the World Trade Center and one to attack the Pentagon. Instead, because a few American men learned so quickly the lesson of September 11, Flight 93 went down in a field in western Pennsylvania.
I hope you'll read the whole thing, and remember that September 11, 2001, was not just the day we were so murderously attacked. It was the day we fought back and won.
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