On United 93’s heroes and the empty skies that followed the 9/11 terror attacks

I grew up in a suburb just outside Chicago and O’Hare International Airport. There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t hear the roar of planes flying directly over my house or somewhere just off into the distance — until Sept. 11, 2001. Like most Americans, there was a tangled mess of thoughts swirling through my head after seeing American 11, United 175, and American 77 crash into the World Trade Center Towers and the Pentagon, respectively. As commercial flights were grounded in in the wake of the attacks, I remember noticing the silence and then feeling shame for thinking it contained an eerie beauty. To this day the shame still lingers, which is why I feel it is important to share the history of United 93 and the 33 passengers who stood up to their executioners.

The following is a brief excerpt from the 9/11 Commission Report:

At 9:57, a passenger assault began. Several passengers had terminated phone calls with loved ones in order to join the revolt. One of the callers ended her message as follows: “Everyone’s running up to first class. I’ve got to go. Bye.”

The cockpit voice recorder captured the sounds of the passenger assault muffled by the intervening cockpit door. Some family members who listened to the recording report that they can hear the voice of a loved one among the din. We cannot identify whose voices can be heard. But the assault was sustained.

In response, Jarrah immediately began to roll the airplane to the left and right, attempting to knock the passengers off balance. At 9:58:57, Jarrah told another hijacker in the cockpit to block the door. Jarrah continued to roll the airplane sharply left and right, but the assault continued. At 9:59:52, Jarrah changed tactics and pitched the nose of the airplane up and down to disrupt the assault. The recorder captured the sounds of loud thumps, crashes, shouts, and breaking glasses and plates. At 10:00:03, Jarrah stabilized the airplane.

Five seconds later, Jarrah asked, “Is that it? Shall we finish it off?” A hijacker responded, “No. Not yet. When they all come, we finish it off.” The sounds of fighting continued outside the cockpit. Again, Jarrah pitched the nose of the aircraft up and down. AT 10:00:26, a passenger in the background said, “In the cockpit. If we don’t we’ll die!” Sixteen seconds later, a passenger yelled, “Roll it!” Jarrah responded with violent maneuvers at about 10:01:00 and said, “Allah is the greatest! Allah is the greatest!” He then asked another hijacker in the cockpit, “Is that it? I mean, shall we put it down?” to which the other replied, “Yes, put it in it, and pull it down.”

The passengers continued their assault and on 10:02:23, a hijacker said, “Pull it down! Pull it down!” The hijackers remained at the controls but must have judged that the passengers were only seconds from overcoming them. The airplane headed down; the control wheel was turned hard to the right. The airplane rolled onto its back, and one of the hijackers began shouting, “Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest.” With the sounds of the passenger counterattack continuing, the aircraft plowed into an empty field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, at 580 miles per hour, about 20 minutes flying time from Washington, D.C.

Jarrah’s objective was to crash his airliner into symbols of the American Republic, the Capitol or the White House. He was defeated by the alerted, unarmed passengers of United 93.” — (The 9/11 Commission Report. 7- 8.)

It is almost impossible to fathom what it must be like to fight for ones life on a hijacked plane — let alone an aircraft where the hijackers perform barrel rolls and roller coaster maneuvering to obtain their objective. How many lives were saved because of the actions of those 33 passengers on Flight 93? There is no way to calculate an exact number, but the final intended destination — Washington, D.C. — gives us a clue.

Americans said “Never forget” after the 9/11 terror attacks, but it sadly feels like many of them want to forget. While it is indeed dangerous to allow painful memories to (ironically) hijack our collective psyche, the same can be said for losing important lessons from history.

Beauty can be found in incredibly horrific experiences, and the bravery and heroism displayed by the passengers of Flight 93 is a sterling example. If you have a moment to yourself today, say a prayer for the lost souls of September 11, 2001, and the loved ones they left behind.

MoMA: New York City’s zoo that masquerades as an art musuem

Museum of Modern Art is a strange place. It has everything one would expect from a first class art museum, but in many respects it is more like a zoo. Your friendly neighborhood blogger went to MoMA on his day off from work to check out art like Gustav Klimt’s Adele Bloch-Bauer II, but instead struggled not get to swept away in a rip tide of tourists taking selfies.

Perhaps the best way to describe what it feels like to walk through MoMa is to use a painting analogy: I felt like Georges Braque’s “Man with Guitar” (1911). It’s easy to feel like you’re coming apart at the seams as a cacophony of laughs, giggles, squeals, shuffling feet, and jumbled conversations make it incredibly difficult to properly take in each artist’s work.

Man with Guitar BraqueWhile it is impressive that any museum in the world can convince the average tourist to pay $25 to view Marcel Duchamp’s “In Advance of the Broken Arm” (1915) — yes, that’s right, Mr. Duchamp literally hung a shovel from a ceiling and deemed it art — packing in as many people into a museum as humanly possible isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Marcel DuchampMoMA is certainly a place every art lover should go to — once. I suppose Mr. Duchamp would call me a “bourgeois” snob for saying it, but I don’t care: It’s hard to appreciate art in a museum when families are invited to run around like a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off.

There is plenty to do in New York City if you love the arts. Unless you have a burning desire to check it out, I would suggest looking at the snow shovel in your garage, pretending you’ve just seen “art” by Duchamp, and calling it a day.

Eric Garner protesters miss the point: More government equals more force

Police Chokehold DeathSince a grand jury’s decision not to indict New York City Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo for his role in the death of Eric Garner, protests across the country have popped up. Racial complaints have taken center stage at these gatherings, but I have yet to see any protesters call attention to the role an ever-expansive government played in Mr. Garner’s death. Government equals force, which is why policemen were sent to bring an American into compliance with laws on selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.

Oddly enough, there are protesters in New York City who have turned the problem on its head — they’re holding “capitalism” accountable for Mr. Garner’s death instead of the politicians who want limited resources to go after the guy on the corner selling loose cigarettes.

USA Today reported December 6:

NEW YORK — Protesters staged a “die in” Friday night in an Apple store on Fifth Avenue and in Macy’s at Herald Square. …

Zandir Santos, 30, of Brooklyn, relished in the idea that protesters had disrupted life at an Apple store and a Macy’s in New York. The filmmaker said this is a pivotal time in American history and that police must change how they treat people.

“The CEO of Apple knows we shut his store down–that means capitalist America is going to take us seriously,” he said. “We are going to shake up your business and we want to hit you where it hurts.”

This blog covered Rosa DeLauro’s (D-Conn.) desire to tax Americans for every ounce of sugar they consume. This blog also covered New York City’s interest in banning e-cigarettes. The list goes on and on, but the point is always the same: when you vote for more government then you get more government, which includes the power to send cops to your door if you sell loose cigarettes, sell e-cigarettes, consume too much sugar, etc.

How many of the people protesting “capitalism” voted for the New York City politicians who crafted the laws that prompted NYPD to show up at Eric Garner’s footsteps? It’s a morbid question, but one worth considering: Did Eric Garner vote for the very same people whose rules and regulations played a part in his demise?

President Obama said Monday that the protests Americans are seeing now are “necessary” (provided they are peaceful), but he too only focuses on race — there have been thousands of federal regulations put in place under the Obama administration, and with that comes the power to enforce the government’s will.

The Hill reported May 15, 2013:

From 2009 through last year, there were more than 13,000 final rules published in the Federal Register, while fewer than 12,400 were finalized from 2005-2008, the report found. That’s an increase of nearly five percent.

Race is certainly an issue in Eric Garner’s death, but not in the way the media is portraying it. The National Journal reported November 9, 2012:

“93% of African-Americans voted for Obama, down 2 percentage points from 2008, although 96 percent of black women supported him.”

Translation: 93% of African-Americans voted for a guy who craves power to be consolidated into the hands of small elite in the nation’s capital, although 96 percent of black women supported him.

The conservative man and woman — white, black, brown, blue, or orange — just wants to be left alone. One way to make that happen is not to vote for power-hungry politicians who write endless lists of legislation that may require law enforcement officials to knock on your door in the middle of the night.

NYC considers ban on e-cigarettes because its officials are addicted to power

Ecig AP

In places like California’s San Rafael City, it is now illegal to smoke in your own home. Because New York City officials can’t be outdone by the west coast’s bureaucratic robber barons — and because they’re addicted to power — they’ve moved on to controlling the lives of those who use e-cigarettes. How weird will it be when they go after candy cigarettes down the road?

Reason reports:

The real problem with e-cigarettes, according to [New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley] and other supporters of the ban, is that they look too much like the real thing. “E-cigarettes threaten, in my opinion, to undermine enforcement of the Smoke-Free Air Act,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said last week. “Because many of the e-cigarettes are designed to look like cigarettes and be used just like them, they can lead to confusion or confrontation.”

You might think that people of ordinary intelligence would pretty quickly learn to distinguish a burning stick of dried vegetable matter from an e-cigarette, which contains no tobacco and produces no smoke. And once they learned the difference, they could explain it to the New York City Council. “These are being touted as safer than cigarettes,” says Councilman James Gennaro, “but we don’t really know that.”

So now it’s okay to work on banning people from activities that look dangerous. It’s okay to ban activities that state planners fear might lead to “confusion” or “confrontation.” When do the bans on toy guns begin?

Where does it end? Answer: It doesn’t.

To the elitist mastermind, you are too dumb to be trusted with sodium consumption. You are too dumb to decide how much soda to drink in a single sitting. You are too dumb to decide how much water your toilet uses per flush and what kind of light bulbs you use in your home. You are too dumb to decide which health care plans are best for you — particularly if you’re young and healthy and only want a package that only includes catastrophic coverage. In the quest to create heaven on earth, officials addicted to the task create hellish fiefdoms all over the globe.

The reason why the compulsive do-gooder is so dangerous is because his regulations come in drips and drops over time. Whether you liken it to Chinese water torture or death by 10,000 paper cuts the results are the same — a slow death. Ironically, the bureaucratic busybody’s endless attempts to prevent individuals from harming themselves only hastens the death of free nations.

Related: When idiots dream big, they dream of Mayor Bloomberg

Judge to Bloomberg: No thanks on regulatory water torture, you tyrant

Remember when NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg started sounding like O’Brian from Orwell’s 1984?

“We’re not taking away anybody’s right to do things, we’re simply forcing you to understand that you have to make the conscious decision to go from one cup to another cup,” (Mayor Michael Bloomberg, NBC with Andrea Mitchell, May 31, 2012).

Why won’t you come to your senses, Winston? Why won’t you see the light on The Party? Why do you resist?

It turns out a judge in New York sees in Michael Bloomberg the same kind personality traits that would lead a man to torture his fellow citizens in order to “cure” them of their insanity (‘insanity’ being defined as a love for freedom).

The Wall Street Journal reports:

The city is “enjoined and permanently restrained from implementing or enforcing the new regulations,” New York Supreme Court Judge Milton Tingling decided one day before the sales limits would have taken effect. The city’s chief counsel, Michael Cardozo, pledged to “appeal the ruling as soon as possible.”

In halting the rules, Judge Tingling noted that the incoming sugary drink regime was “fraught with arbitrary and capricious consequences” that would be difficult to enforce with consistency “even within a particular city block, much less the city as a whole.”

“The loopholes in this rule effectively defeat the stated purpose of the rule,” the judge wrote.

Under a first-of-its-kind prohibition approved by the city Board of Health last year, establishments from restaurants to mobile food carts would have been prohibited from selling sugary drinks larger than 16 oz. After a three-month grace period, the city would have started fining violators $200 per sale.

The city rules, set to take effect on March 12, didn’t include convenience stores, such as 7-Elevens, and supermarkets, both of which are regulated by the state government.

Tyrants in the civilized world realized that the old school method of oppressing people through brute force alone was generally a loser for all parties. They came up with a better idea: Tyranny through regulatory water torture. In Michael Bloomberg’s case you could call it regulatory soda torture.

Drip. Drip. Drip. The master minds come up with new regulations every day. Thousands of federal regulations are added every year. In fact, there are so many regulations that law enforcement agencies can’t even enforce them all, and honest citizens often don’t even know they’re breaking the law — until the feds show up.

Meanwhile, loopholes in laws allow the masterminds to play king maker. 7-Eleven (with your Big Gulps), you’re exempt. Ma and Pa pizza joint? Nope. Grocery store chain with deep pockets, you’re exempt. Small business guy with a bowling alley? Sorry. Throw out thousands of dollars worth of cups because if you don’t we’re going to slap you with hefty fines.

The great thing about regulatory water torture (from the tyrant’s perspective) is that individually these laws don’t anger people to action. In fact, if they’re targeted correctly, the affected constituency is too small to put up a fight, while the rest of the community either shrugs its shoulders or actually believes the stated intentions of the laws trump the slice of individual liberty they shave off.

But what happens over time, in the aggregate, is that you get a nation of infant-zombies. They can’t act or think for themselves, because someone else has always done so for them. They don’t think big, because their bureaucratic overlords only allow them to think small (no ideas greater than 16 ounces, Herr Citizen). They think they’re powerless to control their own destiny, so they gravitate to the shiniest goodie that is held out in front of them during election season. The law is arbitrarily enforced because there are simply too many to keep track of, that the more intelligent members of the population lose faith in the rule of law and the overall system. Civil society erodes.

And then we have the kind of polarized country you’re seeing unfold before us.

A new movement is in the making, and it has nothing to do with political parties. It’s not about Republicans or Democrats, because they both have failed us. It’s about liberty vs. tyranny.

Many Americans don’t realize this yet, but they will in time. And today in New York, one judge stood on the side of liberty.

Remembering 9/11 and the ‘what if?’ that never ends

On September 11th, 2001 I was just over a year out of the military, taking college classes and preparing myself to transfer to the University of Southern California. My grandmother spoke to me from our living room and said a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I talked about it with her from the kitchen for a few moments, and just as I walked into the family room I saw United Flight 175 hit the South Tower. A chill ran down my spine. The phone rang seconds later. It was my sister: “A plane just flew by my window. What’s going on?” she asked. Sadly, I don’t even remember my response, and I’ve never thought to ask her. I know that she was evacuated from her building, and that a kind stranger offered her a tee shirt to breath into to avoid inhaling dust and debris. I also know that on a deeper, more philosophical level I’ve been trying to answer her question — as it pertains to Islamic terrorism — ever since.

We can count dead bodies. We can put a dollar amount on the damage to the city of New York and the country as a whole. We can calculate the economic impact al Qaeda had on the United States and the world, but what we can’t do is quantify the psychological toll the terrorist attacks of 9/11 wreaked on the nation. Regardless, I am more than happy to offer myself up for amateur and professional sociologists everywhere.

Prior to 9/11, I was not much of a crier. As a former infantryman, I prided myself on having a bit of a “tough” exterior. I was a master at hiding my emotions and keeping my “military manner” when necessary. On that day though, I remember driving to class with tears in my eyes. I had to compose myself in the parking lot before entering the building, and while my body was in a college classroom my mind was somewhere else. Psychological aftershocks were reverberating in my head, and it wouldn’t be until years later that I would be able to look back and identify many of the changes to the landscape.

For instance, post 9/11 I found myself tearing up just listening to Tony Blair defend Western Civilization. I’d see pictures of George W. Bush meeting with injured soldiers and I’d get a lump in my throat. Sometimes, random stories about 9/11 would come on television and I’d struggle to keep my composure. I tried to tell a friend about former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell and I couldn’t finish because my voice kept cracking. I’ll now see the random veteran in public, and I although I want so badly to thank them for their service I rarely can do so because the tears begin before I ever utter a word. I can’t control it and I understand how it comes across as inane. However, I tend to think of my physiological response to these situations as something born out of the realization that the freedoms we enjoy are much more fragile than most people realize. When I think about the idea of America I have reactions that late night comedians find humorous — and I don’t care.

A friend of mine recently asked what my life would have been like if I entered the military after attending USC. It’s a good question, and it’s a slightly different version of the same question I ask myself almost every day: “What if I stayed in?”

When I exited the service in August, 2000 I was generally of the mindset that I had fulfilled some sort of unspoken, patriotic duty. In my mind, war could have broken out at any time, but it didn’t during my enlistment. I was under the impression that any war that involved the United States would take place years after I was in any position to help out. After returning to civilian life, working so hard to get into a prestigious university, taking out college loans and charting out a new path for myself, 9/11 suddenly had me second guessing everything. My friends were being sent to Afghanistan, and then Iraq. While I was in Southern California reading and writing my friends were being shot at. In California I was dating the woman who would ultimately become my wife, and yet there was always a part of me that screamed “You should be over there!” And I wasn’t. How many of my tears are of guilt and remorse I guess I’ll never know.

As a religious man, I have tried my best to live up to God’s plan for my life. There are too many coincidences — sheer blessings — for me to to believe there isn’t someone upstairs looking out for me. And so, my mind and my spirit tell me that writing is what I was made for. My mind and my spirit tell me that I can do more for God and country through the written word than I could with an M16A2 or an M4 carbine — but my heart often tells me I failed to be there for my buddy Leija or any number of other guys I knew from Charlie 1/18.

Perhaps the better question is: What would I be like if September 11th never happened? In a sick and twisted way, I think I would have been worse off spiritually. Hopefully, I’ll have many more September 11ths to turn it over in my head, along with the the friends I’ve met through this blog.

Thanks for reading,


What if this kid had stayed in the military instead of getting out and going to USC? I ask myself that almost every day.

Mayor Bloomberg: Soda Jerk serves up soft tyranny

If you remember Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!! then you’ll remember Soda Popinski. Mayor Bloomberg is a little like Soda Popinski, not because of his association with carbonated beverages as much as the fact that a lot of people want to punch him in the face right now. That tends to happen when you’re a tyrannical soda jerk.

A friend of mine read about New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg (aka Soda Jerk), and his plan to ban sales of sodas, sweetened ice tea and energy drinks above 16 ounces at many venues. Although I never gathered this friend to be particularly political, she likened the mayor to Loki, from Marvel’s Avengers:

“Is not this simpler? Is this not your natural state? It’s the unspoken truth of humanity, that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power, for identity. You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel,” (Marvel’s Loki).

My reply? Bloomberg and his ilk are arguably worse than a “Loki” type of dictator or tyrant because soft tyranny is harder to get people to see. The power-hungry politicians, absent of any principles, chip away at our freedoms and liberties until one day we wake up and say, “What happened? Where did it all go?”

If an invading force landed on American shores tomorrow we would fight tooth and nail to save the nation, but when the Bloomberg’s of the world slowly enslave the citizenry under the guise of “doing something,” then liberal allies bizarrely find ways to defend the indefensible.

Two telling snippets from the Soda Jerk:

“Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States, public health officials are wringing their hands saying, ‘Oh, this is terrible,’” Bloomberg told The New York Times. “New York City is not about wringing your hands; it’s about doing something.

We’re not taking away anybody’s right to do things, we’re simply forcing you to understand that you have to make the conscious decision to go from one cup to another cup.”

When you listen to Soda Jerk, ask yourself one question: Why is that Mayor Bloomberg is never really concerned with what the necessary and proper role of the government is? Liberals are always concerned about “doing something,” even if meddling on their part infringes upon the individual liberties of the population. They seek to act because the optics of action are preferable to principled restraint.

At what point do all of these “minor” infringements on liberty add up to something so divorced from our founding that it becomes time to break ties with our oppressors? Ask any liberal politician and many so-called “Republicans” today to speak on the limits of the federal government, and watch them hem and haw because, in truth, they don’t believe there are any limits to what you can be “forced” to understand. That same mentality then bleeds into state politics, where sick and twisted men like Mayor Bloomberg feel the need to tell you what sized carbonated beverage you can buy at a restaurant, what kind of oil cooks your french fries, and whether or not you can attend Happy Hour.

There are politicians who are using the Death by 1000 Paper Cuts method on our nation. They have been at it for decades, and many of us are sick of bleeding. Send a message this election season that you’ve had enough. And then do it again, and again, and again because it’s going to take years to undo the mess we’ve made of ourselves.

Ever shake up a can of soda, throw it in the air and then witness what happens when it hits the concrete? Well, guys like Bloomberg have been shaking brand U.S.A. up for quite some time, and the pressure is intense. There’s a reason why the Tea Party and the Occupy movements bubbled up, and if they keep “shaking” the nation our little can is going to burst. And that’s when things will get … sticky.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have 32 ounces of something to drink. Perhaps more.