Vice President Mike Pence took the stage today in Shanksville, Pennsylvania where United Flight 93 crashed on September 11, 2001. His remarks to the crowd in remembrance of the victims that day started out as planned before he suddenly brought his speech to a screeching halt.
Everyone in attendance was shocked at what he stopped for when they saw what he did straight from the podium.
Sixteen years ago today, an airplane had taken off from Newark, New Jersey before hijackers took over with the plan to fly the commercial aircraft full of passengers into the U.S. Capitol building as part of a joint terrorist attack on America.
A group of heroes on board fought the terrorists and brought the plane down before it could make it to the intended target. Everyone on board perished in that Pennsylvania field, but countless lives were spared by it not making it to the capital that horrific morning now burned into our nation’s history.
This was an especially difficult speech for Mike Pence to give because of one personal fact that came out today during his speech. The emotional Vice President stopped and was unable to speak while he sobbed about this very tragic event that nearly took his life.
“On September 11, 2001, Vice President Mike Pence was serving as a member of the House of Representatives. That morning Pence was scheduled to be in the U.S. Capitol building,” Independent Journal Review explained.
“The U.S. Capitol building was the intended target of the hijacked United Flight 93, which had just taken off from Newark, New Jersey. As the trapped passengers on flight 93 heard from family members that other hijacked planes were being used as weapons against their fellow Americans, they decided to take action.”
Had it not been for these heroes on board 93 who fought terrorists off with their own hands, Mike Pence wouldn’t be out Vice President today because he would have been killed in the U.S. Capitol building. The aircraft didn’t make it that far because these brave men had grit and did what they knew they had to do to save hundreds of lives – including Pence’s.
The Vice President got emotional thinking what these heroes did who died in the field he stood in. He didn’t try to hide his tears, it was a moment that was seen and felt by everyone in attendance and those watching the live coverage of his speech. It was a moment in time we all need to remember, as many have seen to forgotten too easily in their desire for divisiveness.
According to History.com:
Huddled in the back of the plane, the passengers and crew of Flight 93 made a series of calls on their cell phones and the in-flight Airfones, informing family members and officials on the ground of the plane’s hijacking. When they learned the fate of the three other hijacked flights in New York City and Washington, D.C., the passengers realized that their plane was involved in a larger terrorist plot and would likely be used to carry out further attacks on U.S. soil.
After a brief discussion, a vote was taken and the passengers decided to fight back against their hijackers, informing several people on the ground of their plans. One of the passengers, Thomas Burnett Jr., told his wife over the phone, “I know we’re all going to die. There’s three of us who are going to do something about it. I love you, honey.” Another passenger, Todd Beamer, was heard over an open line saying, “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll.”
The three men rushed the cockpit where the terrorists had taken control but were so horrified at the wrath of angry Americans that like cowards, crashed the plane into the field instead of fighting the men.
It’s because of three men that countless lives in Washington were spared that morning – three heroes who wore the weight of nation on their shoulds as they kicked the cockpit open, facing terrorism head-on. “Vice President Mike Pence counts himself among the lives that were saved by the actions of those passengers,” IJReview added.
With tears in his eyes and a heart bursting with gratitude for these passengers who he couldn’t personally thank, the appreciation for their bravery was palpable from the podium where Pence stood.
“I’m also here to pay a debt of gratitude to the heroes of Flight 93 on a much more personal basis. For their actions on that day in these skies saved American lives and as my wife, Karen, who joins me here today knows, it’s a debt I don’t think I’ll ever be able to repay, Pence said. “Because among the many lives that were saved by their selfless courage, they might well have saved my own life that day 16 years ago.”
It wasn’t until a year after the terrorist attack that Pence learned that where he was standing the moment the plane went down, would have been directly in the bullseye of where they plane was aiming for.
When he visited the site in Shanksville a year after the attack, he asked the park ranger about the intended target:
“I asked her if the U.S. Capitol was, in fact, the target, what time would the plane have reached the Capitol building? And what she told me I’ll never forget. For at the time she said standing with hundreds of others, I was standing near the east front of the House of Representatives,” Pence said. “I will always believe that I and many others in our nation’s capital were able to go home that day to hug our families because of the courage and selflessness of the heroes of Flight 93. So for me it’s personal. And I speak on behalf of a grateful nation.”
Pence’s incredible story of remembrance was a beautiful tribute to the brave men he honored today. It serves as a reminder of the American spirit and what real heroism is.