Vice President Mike Pence revealed on Monday why the heroic acts of the passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001 is personal for him, and highlighted the role prayer played on board the plane that fateful day.
Speaking at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, 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 the heroes of Flight 93, so for me it’s personal.”
“So I speak on behalf of a grateful nation, but thank you for allowing me the privilege of speaking on behalf of my little family as well,” Pence said, while looking directly at the family members of the Flight 93 passengers.
Pence told the audience that he was a newly elected member of Congress from Indiana when the word came to evacuate the Capitol, which was believed to be a likely target of a hijacked plane.
“I will always remember the scenes of that day, watching the Capitol complex being evacuated. It was as though the building was literally hemorrhaging with people running in every direction,” he said.
Pence eventually ended up at the headquarters of the Capitol Police with other members of the House and Senate, where they were informed that a plane believed to be heading for the Capitol “was 12 minutes out.”
“In that moment, the room became silent,” he said.
“It was the longest 12 minutes of my life,” Pence added. “But it turned to 13 minutes. Then 14. Then we were informed that the plane had gone down in a field in Pennsylvania.”
Pence then recounted the actions that the 40 passengers and crew members took that Tuesday morning to thwart the terrorists’ plans and most likely save the lives of many Americans.
After learning about the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and on the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, passengers of Flight 93 banded together within minutes and devised a plan to charge the cockpit, likely using the plane’s food cart try to ram into the plane’s cockpit, where the knife-wielding hijackers had barricaded themselves.
“They not only planned, but history records that they prayed,” Pence said. “Together with Lisa Jefferson, a phone operator on the ground below, we’re told they prayed the Lord’s Prayer, and recited those ancient words (from Psalm 23), ‘Though I walk through valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.’”
Only 29 minutes after the terrorists took over the plane, passenger “Todd Beamer spoke those words that America and the world we never forget, ‘Let’s roll,’” Pence said.
After six minutes of struggle, Flight 93 plummeted to the earth into a farm field outside of Shanksville.
Echoing former President Abraham Lincoln’s famous words at Gettysburg, Pence said, “We cannot hallow this place beyond what the heroes of Flight 93 have already done.”
Pence went on to note it was not the first time that he and his wife Karen had come to the field.
“Not more than a year after that fateful day, Karen and I brought our three small children here to this hallowed ground on a drive back from Washington to Indiana,” he said, with his voice cracking.
Pence recalled that there was only a “makeshift” memorial then, consisting of plywood attached to fence with the names of fallen and timeline painted on it. There was also a wooden white cross in the field.
At the memorial, Pence went over the timeline of the flight with a park ranger and learned if the hijackers had prevailed, they would have reached Washington and had the ability to strike the U.S. Capitol just when Pence and hundreds of others were standing outside of it.
Pence said the debt of gratitude he owes to the passengers is one he will never be able to repay.
“As long as America endures, we will tell their story, and generations of Americans will ever be inspired by the faithful and courageous words and deeds of the heroes of Flight 93,” he said. “May God bless our beloved fallen. May God bless and comfort the families gathered here and all those who suffered loss on this day 16 years ago. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.”
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source: Western Journalism