On September 11, 2001, Vice President Mike Pence was serving as a member of the House of Representatives. That morning Pence was scheduled to be in the U.S. Capitol building. The U.S. Capitol building was the intended target of the hijacked United Flight 93, which had just taken off from Newark, New Jersey. As the trapped passengers on flight 93 heard from family members that other hijacked planes were being used as weapons against their fellow Americans, they decided to take action.
According to History.com:
Huddled in the back of the plane, the passengers and crew of Flight 93 made a series of calls on their cell phones and the in-flight Airfones, informing family members and officials on the ground of the plane’s hijacking. When they learned the fate of the three other hijacked flights in New York City and Washington, D.C., the passengers realized that their plane was involved in a larger terrorist plot and would likely be used to carry out further attacks on U.S. soil.
\After a brief discussion, a vote was taken and the passengers decided to fight back against their hijackers, informing several people on the ground of their plans. One of the passengers, Thomas Burnett Jr., told his wife over the phone, “I know we’re all going to die. There’s three of us who are going to do something about it. I love you, honey.” Another passenger, Todd Beamer, was heard over an open line saying, “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll.”
As the passengers rushed the cockpit, the terrorist made the decision to crash the plane instead of facing the fury of the Americans on board. No one survived when the plane went down, exploding in a ball of flames in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
There is no doubt that the heroism of those on Flight 93 saved the lives of countless others. Vice President Mike Pence counts himself among the lives that were saved by the actions of those passengers. In a tearful, gripping, and emotional address this morning at the same spot where the plane went down, Pence recalls how these brave Americans literally saved his own life. Pence said:
“I'm also here to pay a debt of gratitude to the heroes of Flight 93 on a much more personal basis. For their actions on that day in these skies saved American lives and as my wife, Karen, who joins me here today knows, it's a debt I don't think I'll ever be able to repay. Because among the many lives that were saved by their selfless courage, they might well have saved my own life that day 16 years ago.”
The vice president told the story about how, upon visiting the wreckage a year after, he asked a park ranger what the intended target of Flight 93 was:
“I asked her if the U.S. Capitol was, in fact, the target, what time would the plane have reached the Capitol building? And what she told me I'll never forget. For at the time she said standing with hundreds of others, I was standing near the east front of the House of Representatives. 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 of the heroes of Flight 93. So for me it's personal. And I speak on behalf of a grateful nation.”
A beautiful story of remembrance.