Leaderless, armed only with only plastic butter knives, knowing a wrong move would risk their own and others' lives, at least three guys did what Americans do: They voted.
They voted to jump the hijacker with the (perhaps fake) red bomb strapped to his chest. "Let's roll," Todd Beamer was overheard by a GTE supervisor saying. Moments before, Beamer and the GTE supervisor did something else characteristically American: They prayed. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me."
Thirty-five thousand feet below and to the north, voting had been suspended in New York City's mayoral primary, as the twin towers crumbled to dust.
Yet what an amazing feat of engineering! Gleaming 110-story towers hit by jumbo jets half again as huge as what the towers were designed to withstand. Yet the towers stood, bleeding smoke and fire, long enough to allow 15,000 or more New Yorkers to evacuate before the laws of physics finally brought the walls tumbling, crumbling down.
Here is another difference between us and the barbarians: They had no tools capable even of tearing down such heights of human glory. They had to borrow our own achievements to use against us. They think our strength lies in the visible sphere, in objects they can bomb to rubble. Fools. We built those towers, we can rebuild them -- or something even grander.
Minutes later Flight 93 crashed into Pennsylvania countryside. My first thought: Remember these men. They saved the White House. Now I think they saved us from something worse: the confusion, horror and lack of clarity that would result if our own military had had to shoot down an airliner. That, I suspect, was the hijackers' plan all along: Why wander as far as Cleveland before doubling back for Washington? Surely they knew American fighter planes would be airborne an hour after the World Trade Center assault.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.