Break the Chain Fly the Friendly Skies

Exclusive (10/01/2001) When we are touched by tragedy, we often ask ourselves what we would do if we were closer to what happened. The world is asking "what do we do now? How do we react?" It is perhaps for this reason that this supposed first-person account of a pilot advocating vigilante justice on his plane is so popular.

SAMPLE CHAIN LETTER TEXT

Subject: FW: Read this if you are planning on flying soon

Worth reading if you are going to be flying anytime soon. The following is from a letter by a professional friend and her return flight to D.C. this week.

"I just wanted to drop you all a note and let you know that I arrived safe and sound into Dulles Airport tonight [9/15] at about 6:00. It was an interesting flight.

The airport in Denver was almost spooky, it was so empty and quiet. No one was in line for the security check point when I got there so that went fairly quickly, just x-ray of my bags and then a chemical test to be sure nothing explosive was on them.

Then I waited 2 1/2 hours to board the plane. What happened after we boarded was interesting and thought I would share it with you.

The pilot/captain came on the loudspeaker after the doors were closed. His speech went like this:

First I want to thank you for being brave enough to fly today. The doors are now closed and we have no help from the outside for any problems that might occur inside this plane. As you could tell when you checked in, the government has made some changes to increase security in the airports.

They have not, however, made any rules about what happens after those doors close. Until they do that, we have made our own rules and I want to share them with you. Once those doors close, we only have each other.

The security has taken care of a threat like guns with all of the increased scanning, etc. Then we have the supposed bomb. If you have a bomb, there is no need to tell me about it, or anyone else on this plane; you are already in control. So, for this flight, there are no bombs that exist on this plane.

Now, the threats that are left are things like plastics, wood, knives, and other weapons that can be made or things like that which can be used as weapons. Here is our plan and our rules. If someone or several people stand up and say they are hijacking this plane, I want you all to stand up together. Then take whatever you have available to you and throw it at them. Throw it at their faces and heads so they will have to raise their hands to protect themselves.

The very best protection you have against knives are the pillows and blankets. Whoever is close to these people should then try to get a blanket over their head-then they won't be able to see. Once that is done, get them down and keep them there. Do not let them up. I will then land the plane at the closest place and we WILL take care of them.

After all, there are usually only a few of them and we are 200+ strong! We will not allow them to take over this plane.

I find it interesting that the US Constitution begins with the words "We, the people"-that's who we are, THE people and we will not be defeated.

With that, the passengers on the plane all began to applaud, people had tears in their eyes, and we began the trip toward the runway.

The flight attendant then began the safety speech. One of the things she said is that we are all so busy and live our lives at such a fast pace. She asked that everyone turn to their neighbors on either side and introduce themselves, tell each other something about your families and children, show pictures, whatever. She said "for today, we consider you family. We will treat you as such and ask that you do the same with us."

Throughout the flight we learned that for the crew, this was their first flight since Tuesday's tragedies. It was a day that everyone leaned on each other and together everyone was stronger than any one person alone. It was quite an experience.

You can imagine the feeling when that plane touched down at Dulles and we heard "welcome to Washington Dulles Airport, where the local time is 5:40". Again, the cabin was filled with applause.

Last night I saw a program with college students where one of them said that at their campus there are no more hyphenated titles, i.e., African-American, etc., everyone is just an American. No one will ever be able to take that pride away from us. "

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The author is anonymous and the completeness of the retelling is very suspect. However, there are several related reports that corroborate the account. Here is another anonymous telling of an inspiring captain's speech (with fewer details):

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I wanted to give everyone an update on my first travels since Sept. 11th.

As I arrived at the airport we immediately noticed the ghost town like look. There was mostly extra security and VERY somber (vs. the usual bitter or chipper) airline employees.

Security passage and luggage checks were quite thorough; my suitcase was searched and my small round tipped cuticle scissors were confiscated. I didn't feel special though because I heard a women on her cell phone complaining that they took her, what she called, "eyebrow pluckers". The ticket agent told me that they took her friends eyelash curler...eyelash curling can be painful but yikes?!

Since the flight was less than half full we were upgraded to first class "compliments of AA" for all of my miles in the air. After the airplane was swept/searched we took off. In first class we were given our new plastic flatware and poured wine from a screw top bottle (the flight attendants corkscrew was taken away).

Arriving in Dallas was even eerier, as one of the country's busiest airports, it was odd not to have the hustle bustle about.

However, it was the trip home which I will never forget...

O.K. there was the usual weather and equipment delays but it was the pilot that was different.

As we taxied he spoke to us about how sorry he was for the past week and thanked us for our support and patience.

He also stated that if any of us saw someone that appeared aggressive, threatening, had a weapon, making threats or was a terrorist that we should yell. He said yell loud and stand up!

He said everyone stand up and get in the isles, get in their way, block them, take them down and hold em'! and, I will land this plane!

He said, please don't be afraid and we don't expect such actions but I want you to be aware.

He had hurt and anger in his voice. I sat up and listened. His words did not scare or make me afraid, they made me feel strong.

He was honest and talked to us in a way we needed. I appreciated that he did not fly in silence but brought us in and could feel our want for exactly what he told us.

I felt safe and was glad to be on Mr. Al Wilson's flight (ok the big brawny male flight attendant helped too).

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As Snopes.com points out, accounts like these serve a valuable purpose for many. They give us a feeling that there is something we can do to avoid such a tragedy in the future. And as such, they help with healing.

But it is still very important in the wake of this tragedy that we rely upon valid and reliable sources over anonymously authored and haphazardly forwarded "testimonials." The rumor machine remains in top gear and we must suspect anything in our e-mail that isn't easily identifiable and verifiable.

What Do You Think?


References: None

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