[November 16, 2023] Sometime in early 2002, two Soldiers from my Engineer unit said something that shocked me. They said that they wished they had been on one of those planes that Muslim terrorists used to kill nearly 3,000 innocents on 9/11.
Several officers and I were sitting around talking about preparing to go to war in Iraq. This red-haired young man and his friend acted as message runners for me; they stayed close to me in case I needed something. One of them said something totally unexpected. All of us stopped talking and looked directly at him.
My operations officer asked the Soldier to repeat what he had just said. “I wish that I had been on one of those hijacked planes.” And he said it so matter of factly.
We were all curious why someone would say something like that, especially to a senior group of officers, a comment that certainly took courage. One of my officers asked if they were joking; they weren’t.
I asked for an explanation, not as their commanding officer but simply as a human being with a soul. Why would someone say such a thing, saying they would want to be on an airplane that crashed, killing all aboard? I was truly curious until they told me why.
These two very young Soldiers, both maybe 18 or 19 years old, said they wanted to be on those fatal flights because they might have prevented the hijacking. That’s right. They would be willing to risk it all. That is one view that was rare and also refreshing.
Were they pulling our collective legs? I don’t think so.
Seeing young folks who were not the classic cowards we see so often today was uplifting. They were interested in action, not words. Good for them.
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