A 9/11 Remembrance: “Let’s roll” with Reverence
As September arrives the first anniversary of 9-11 demands attention. Indeed, the collapsing WTC, the wounded Pentagon, and the fate of the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 will become permanently ensconced in our national memory with the enduring images of Americans in their finest hour, not unlike the patriots at Bunker Hill or the Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima.
On September 11, 2001, terrorists assumed control of United Airlines Flight 93. Shortly afterwards, through communication by cell phone, it became apparent to the passengers that they were captured in a death mission. Having heard of the plane slamming into the Pentagon, they must have feared their plane was a missile targeted for buildings housing the United States Congress or the White House or the Supreme Court. Rather than meekly surrender to the inevitable, Todd Beamer led the heroes of Flight 93 against the terrorists with the battle cry – “Let’s roll.” They stormed the cockpit and aborted the treacherous objective of the terrorists by forcing the plane to crash in a remote area in Pennsylvania. In doing so, the heroes of Flight 93 sacrificed their lives to preserve the lives of others and the democratic institutions the targeted structures symbolize: the executive, legislative and judicial branches of our government.
Recently, Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden appropriated “Let’s roll” as his motto to motivate his team’s pursuit of victory on a football field. Bowden explained “that guy” on the plane inspired his fellow passengers; he believed it should work for his team (who did not fare well last season).Tee shirts, mugs and other paraphernalia were soon issued. In my opinion Bowden should have never hi-jacked this “motto” prefacing the certain death of the heroes of Flight 93. Crass materialism swallowed inspirational musings. Memorable phrases aptly describing historic, tragic events deserve – perhaps demand – reverence.
Unfortunately, we as lawyers too often mirror the attitude of aggressive, single-minded coaches who would seize a sacred phrase to achieve competitive, pedestrian goals. Perhaps a “winning at all costs” attitude motivates such activity. Aggressiveness and single-mindedness are not vices, but using those traits to achieve “winning at all costs” are as inappropriate to our oath of office as Bowden’s mundane employment of the battle cry “Let’s roll.” Our tolerance of such conduct creates an environment untempered by the reverence we should hold for our institutions. If nothing else, the heroes of Flight 93 challenge us as a profession to revere and protect our institutions. No other profession is so intertwined with all branches of our government. Lawyers assist legislatures who create laws, permeate the executive branch engaged in enforcing laws, and litigate before judges who interpret laws. What we do and how we do it matters to society.
Those buildings the terrorists targeted for destruction are monuments to our country’s founding principles and to the belief that law is the only sovereign of a free people.*
The terrorists, in contrast would supplant law by “divine guidance,” Heinous acts are justified by perceived injustices. As exemplified by the Taliban government, the disenfranchisement and subjugation of women, assassination of dissidents, and governance by fiat replace the rule of law. Make no mistake about it; the attempted kamikaze mission of Flight 93 was a frontal assault on America’s fundamental beliefs.
The events of 9-11 should inspire us but also remind us, as lawyers and American citizens that there are people who deeply love this country and who will sacrifice everything to protect others and to preserve our democratic institutions. Todd Beamer and the other heroes will never see their children grow to adulthood. They are not around to teach their young families how our government works. Our tribute to them, especially from members our profession should not be mugs and tee shirts. What we do and how we do it as lawyers will enhance or diminish the institutions that impact and influence Todd’s children as well as our own. In undertaking the trials and tribulations of the legal profession, let’s keep in mind the lesson provided by 9-11. The only fitting tribute for lawyers is to elevate the level of our practice and of our associates so our democratic institutions are worthy of the sacrifices made on 9-11. “Let’s roll” with the same reverence and dedication exhibited by the heroes of United Airlines Flight 93.
- Anonymous,” Residences of the Court: Past and Present-Part III: The Past Fifty Years.” The Supreme Court Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. III, No.2 (Spring 1981), pp.8-9
Explanatory Note: in 2001-2002 I was the President of the Gloucester County Bar Association. As President, I wrote monthly articles in the Per Curiam, the Gloucester County Bar Association newsletter. In September, 2002, the article reprinted above was written to honor our 9-11 American heroes who took down United Airlines Flight 93, knowing they were sacrificing themselves to protect others. I thought it appropriate to republish this article as we approach the 10th anniversary of that tragic event. It is part of the American character that when horrific events occur, American heroes emerge. We should always remember the heroes of United Airlines Flight 93 as well as those 9-11 heroes in Washington and New York. Kenneth A. DiMuzio, Sr.