Heroes Of An Echo’s Strength


Pat Tillman


And I have nothing to give . . .except this gesture, this thread thrown between your humanity and mine: I want to hold you in my arms and as your soul got shot of its box of flesh to understand, as you have done, the wit of eternity: its gift of unhinged release tearing through the darkness of its knell.

The Dead of September 11th (Toni Morrison)

History books provide lessons, sans the muddy footprints. They present a narrative on the destructive nature of hatred, but only those who live through that history can truly speak to its ghastly dimensions. Eighteen years have removed us from that clear blue sky morning when American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center and changed everything. 

We are eighteen years removed from United Airlines Flight 175 banking hard and ramming into the South Tower and providing us with the horrible answer to all our many questions. Eighteen years removed from American Airlines Flight 77 breaching the west wall of the Pentagon. Eighteen years removed from Flight 93 plowing into a field in Pennsylvania as fighter jets raced to intercept its final destination.

The following are but a few of the mighty answers to the evil that men do. I chose stories that I’ve written on and read about, stories that moved me to tears and stories that left me knee deep in thoughts about forever. Stories whose afterglow provides me an eternal warmth.

Betty Ong and Madeline Amy Sweeney were the flight attendants on Flight 11 that morning. In the face of unimaginable horror, these two women managed to contact the airlines and thus provide authorities with crucial information on their attackers. And they stayed on the call from around the time their plane was hijacked until it lost signal moments before the attacks began.

Wherever the city needed him, that’s where you could find Father Mychal Judge. And that Tuesday morning was no different, as he arrived at the Trade Center shortly after the first plane hit. The NYFD Chaplain entered the North Tower with firefighters and rescue personnel, intent on climbing those stairs right along with them. He was killed by an avalanche of debris when the second plane hit.

Welles Crowther was an equities trader who was working on the 104th floor of the South Tower that morning. He called his mother after Flight 175 struck the South Tower to let her know he was okay. A volunteer firefighter, he had designs on joining the FDNY one day. September 11th became that day, as Crowther descended twenty six stories to the sky lobby, where he directed people to the one working staircase and then delivered them to firefighters before heading back up to save more. “The Man in the Red Bandana” is believed to have saved as many as eighteen people. Inside his final moments, he realized his dream so that others might live.

As head of corporate security for Morgan Stanley, Rick Rescorla had warned his company about the security weaknesses at the Trade Center. So when he was told by the Port Authority to keep all employees at their desks, he told them in no uncertain terms to “piss off”. After which he went about saving more than 2,700 people. He made it all the way down to the tenth floor of the South Tower with survivors, before turning around and heading back up for more. His body was never found.

At the Pentagon, Army Spc. Beau Doboszenski was working as a tour guide on the opposite side of the Pentagon when the building was hit. The massive structure is a city unto itself, so Doboszenski didn’t even realize there had been an attack initially. But the former volunteer firefighter and trained EMT sprang to action when a Navy captain asked for anyone with medical training. He ran around the building but was prevented from entering by police, so he gave first aid at a medical triage station. Later, he was part of a six man team that went back in to look for survivors, with the building still in flames.

It was due to the efforts of survivors and first responders that so many of the injured were able to make it outside of the Pentagon. That’s where Lieutenant Colonel Patricia Horoho went to work. Armed with nothing more than a first aid kit initially, Horoho tapped into her experience in burn care and trauma management. She cared for seventy five people that day.

The passengers and crew of Flight 93 knew full well they were not making it to Wednesday. They’d learned of the plot through friends and loved ones, which is when they decided to take matters into their own hands before the hijackers could deliver another wicked payload into another national landmark. And their actions speak not to some politicized t-shirt slogan, but to the better angels in us all.

The better angels are what Luis Alvarez believed in, because to believe otherwise would have been to leave his fallen brothers behind. And it was the fight in him that prevailed over that hopeless pit at Ground Zero for months on end after the attack; a painstaking search for any simple thread of humanity inside that hell on earth. And he would keep on fighting, into the final days of his life, along with Jon Stewart, to invoke that humanity on all the simple minds who prefer to forget.

Pat Tillman refused to forget. The California kid who busted it to get the last remaining football scholarship at Arizona State in 1994, was full of plans that were bigger than his 5’11” frame. And it was destined, really, that he would excel at college ball and get a shot at the NFL. He was picked by the Arizona Cardinals with the 226th pick in the 1998 NFL draft, and he was so thankful for the opportunity they had given him that years later, he turned down a big contract offer from the St. Louis Rams. Out of loyalty. Who does that?

Pat Tillman, that’s who. Because the kid never met a promise he wouldn’t keep, or a cause he wouldn’t stand behind. A gritty, hard nosed linebacker, Tillman was making an NFL life for himself when September 11th happened. And never mind that he was thousands of miles removed and times zones away . . because to Pat, Manhattan and Virginia and Pennsylvania were every bit as much his home as the place he laid his head. And all those people lost, his neighbors.

So the kid from central casting who was busy making bank playing the game he loved, decided to enlist in the Army. And dammit if he missed the fucking memo about athletes being self absorbed jerks. And dammit if the world is not the most unfair thing, because the kid from central casting didn’t make it home. And dammit but those numbers lie, because the casualties did not end at 2,977 on Tuesday, September 11th. Those numbers keep crawling upwards, like a furious rage of ivy into a sleepless sky.

Maybe there is no rectitude to the catechisms. Maybe faith is found inside the footprints of those who prosper the darkness so that we may gain the light.

40 thoughts on “Heroes Of An Echo’s Strength

  1. What can I say since you know how I feel. It’s beautifully penned Marc, starting with Ms Morrison’s poignant quote. I remember being at the funeral home that night, seeing if I could help, when they brought in Rev. Mychal Judge. He was the very first to be taken from the site and they told me later, with the exception of his head wound that was more internal, he didn’t have a scratch on him. How he looked as if he was peacefully sleeping, which he was, just for all eternity.

    I truly hope, and I’m sure it will since you’re so widely read unlike myself, this essay will be read and reread so everyone gives the fallen their due.


    Liked by 2 people

    • Susannah,

      You bring the heart and soul of that town with you wherever you go. And when you write, it ambles inside your nouns and verbs.

      Ms Morrison’s quote came to mind right quick. The rest of this post was hard to write and I struggled with who and what to include, because there are countless heroes who showed up in the hours and days and weeks and months and years after the attacks.

      And many keep on showing up.

      And Rev. Mychal Judge showed up. Everyday. I had to set the tone for the courage that exists inside peace, and those images still shake me.

      To remembrance. Always.


      • He rushed down there and was killed practically instantly. There’s an iconic photograph of two firemen carrying him out. Not to get biblical but it had such a Christ like feel to it. It was as if he was divinely sent to take them all home.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I know that photograph well. And you’re right, it seemed so, didn’t it?

          Back after it happened, we were having a conversation about it and someone asked the predictable question. If there was a God, how could he let this happen. To which I replied with, God was everywhere that day. In Judge, in the first responders, in the office workers who took it upon themselves to save as many people as they possibly could, damn the consequences. I don’t wear religion on my sleeve, but for that belief. Because I believe it.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I know what you mean. MJ’s wake was another moment, lying in an open casket at St. Francis Assisi Parish where he lived as a friar, the neighborhood Firehouse right across the street where I believe all were lost. They’ve renamed the block after him. He was a very handsome man…tall, distinguished with many young people as cheerful followers. I knew an actor who would go talk to him. Still amazes me. All of it.

            Liked by 1 person

          • If only. And I feel that’s how many people think of it, like it didn’t really happen. I saw it on Tuesday when I was down there. Tourists eating hotdogs, taking photos like they were at Epcot. Got me upset.


  2. Dearest B,

    You chose the perfect quote from the late great Toni Morrisson to get us into the mood for this fantastic post.

    And then you took the magic that is your gift with the written word to share these eleven heroes and their actions on that day and after. Because you are right. It is not over, there are still many victims and there will be more deaths to come.

    I could make a comment on each of the heroes you chose but that would just be redundant. You said it perfectly.

    Your last paragraph touched me to the core and brought tears to my eyes.

    Beautifully done, Marco.



    Liked by 1 person

    • Q.

      That quote came to mind and it was the easiest part of this post. I struggled with what to include, because the truth is, there are so many heroes from that day.

      The casualties are not even close to their end, eighteen years later. Which is why I resented the politicization of actions and words (ie: Let’s Roll). And make no mistake, these things were used rather than revered by politicians. Sadly.

      They are all one. As are we when bad times come to pass.

      I became very emotional near the end of this. I actually went on a long rant that I removed, because it veered way off course and is for another day.

      Thank you so much Q. Truly and much.

      Love and peace.


      Liked by 1 person

      • I love when the proper quote pops up – though most times I have to search for one or to make sure I have it right .

        No, sadly, they are not. I loathe that “Let’s Roll”…can only shake my head.

        Yes, and yes. Why it takes disasters for us to become one…

        Always, B.

        Love and peace and heroes

        Liked by 1 person

        • Toni Morrison was a national treasure, and so it was apt that she provided my preamble.

          I feel it’s disrespectful to the memory of those who made an impossible decision so that others would not perish. We apply fast food logic to stoicism, as per. Ugh.

          And then we unraveled and became more politicized than ever. For shame. Well . . not all of ‘we’, but unfortunately the people who are supposed to be legislating a safer world . . ain’t interested.

          And always. 🙂

          Well said, as per usual.

          Liked by 2 people

          • She was and yes, apt and a propos.

            It is disrespectful. I can’t even imagine going forth knowing full-well you will probably not come out alive. Fast food logic – that is an invention that should disappear.

            Which is a tragedy in itself. And no, not all ‘we’ – but those peeps. They gots their own agenda and it don’t involve us.

            And then some 🙂

            I do try.

            Liked by 1 person

          • You’re welcome.

            Just the sound of it grates on my sensibilities. And you are correct. There will be no getting rid of it any time soon.

            I swear they avoid the right things.

            And then some.

            I thank you. Must be your influence 😉

            Liked by 1 person

          • Thank God there are people like Stewart who keep the fight going. And dammit that it has to be a fight to protect the people who protected us on one of the nation’s darkest days.


            Liked by 1 person

          • I made the mistake of watching some talking head rail on about Stewart after his appearance before Congress. This dunce was saying that Stewart was on a “look at me” tour and I really think the moderator let him off the hook. Because I would have called him a fucking idiot for such a comment.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Seriously? Why in the name of hell would Stewart “waste” so much of his time if it was just a ‘look at me’ situation. What a fucking asshole.


  3. This is a very important post….
    and I hope it stays in the blogosphere for others to read it later – and again and again – so we never forget and so we keep awareness of these small and important parts of 911. From Horoho to the Man in the Red Bandana – heroes documented.
    and as noted before – we often forget about those who were sick from being exposed to this – cancer – limb loss – head issues, etc. – ugh…

    my father was devastated when Pearl Harbor was attacked and it changed him forever – maybe even added to his PTS – anyhow, one day in the 90’s – he shared with me how so many people had no idea bout Pearl Harbor – he was shocked at how it was so minimized and even dismissed by young folks – – I now see that (a little) with 911 – the younger generation has no idea of what it felt like and what devastation it was – and posts like this – well – they are important – thanks for taking the time to craft it….

    Liked by 1 person

  4. With each anniversary we learn more about the incredible humanity that had a hand in saving or treating lives. Thank you for sharing a few of their stories. If only today we were more like we were September 12 though I hate the thought of having to experience that horror that happened on that beautiful autumn day again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right, for a time there after the attacks, people were different. They listened, they gave of themselves. And there wasn’t all the yelling over each other. For a time. And then it went away.

      Liked by 1 person

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