(Originally posted 9/11/2011.)
I ran the NYC Marathon last year as part of Team Tillman, raising about 5,000 bucks (thanks to you) for the Pat Tillman Foundation. Pat Tillman left the Arizona Cardinals to join the United States Army Special Forces. He was killed fighting in the war in Afghanistan in 2004. So far, 171 Tillman Military Scholars have been awarded over $2.2 million in scholarship support from the Foundation.
The Team was invited to visit FDNY’s famous “Ten House” the day before the Marathon. That’s Engine Company 10 and Ladder Company 10 on 124 Liberty Street, across the street from the World Trade Center site. The Ten House members proudly wear and display #40, which was Tillman’s number. They devote a page on their site to Tillman. It was an honor to spend a little bit of time with them.
The motto of the Tillman Foundation is “Leadership Through Action.” Sadly, that seems scarce sometimes, whether it’s families, communities, politics, or even just office politics. So many times it’s all talk and NO action. Ten years ago today it wasn’t just cops and firemen and the military taking action. It was ordinary Americans.
On September 11, 2001, Deena Burnett was making breakfast for her three daughters when she received an unexpected call from her husband Tom. He was on board United Flight 93, flying coast to coast from Newark, New Jersey to San Francisco.
Tom told Deena that the plane had been hijacked by some men with bombs. The hijackers had taken over the cockpit and had turned the plane towards Washington DC. By this time, the passengers have already heard about the two hijacked planes that crashed into the twin World Trade Centre towers in New York City and another plane that slammed into the Pentagon. It dawned on them that Flight 93 was part of a grand scheme to crash hijacked airliners into prominent buildings. Knowing that they will be killed, Tom and a group of passengers decided to thwart the hijackers’ plan.
It was their moment of truth.
Tom told Deena: “I know we’re going to die….” And added: “We’re going to do something.” Another passenger Todd Beamer was heard saying: “Let’s roll!”
A group of passengers charged the hijackers. In the ensuring struggle, the hijackers were forced to abort their plan to crash the plane in Washington DC and plunged it in an open field in Pennsylvania instead. THAT’S when the “War On Terror” really began.
I thank God for those brave people willing to “do something.” But you don’t have to be facing death to Lead through Action. Ten years later there will be lots of 9/11 retrospectives to remind you of how you FELT that day. But don’t just feel. Do something. No matter how small it seems. (Bonus: it might make you…feel better.)
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