Tag Archives: Pentagon

“Let’s Roll!”

“Remember the Alamo!”

“Remember the Maine!”

“December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy…”

Memories fade—it’s part of human nature. As the generation that experienced Pearl Harbor dies off, December 7 is becoming just another day.

President Abraham Lincoln’s words at the dedication of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, were perhaps a warning: “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.”

September 11, 2001, four planes were hijacked. Two planes hit the World Trade Center, completely destroying the twin towers while another hit the Pentagon. Nearly three thousand were killed in those buildings.

The Americans in the fourth plane became aware of what had happened, and prevented United Airlines Flight 93 from hitting its target, now believed to have been either the White House or the US Capitol. The passengers didn’t know what the target was—they just knew that the hijackers planned on hitting one more.

The pilots were dead; the passengers knew that they couldn’t land the plane, but they wanted try to keep it away from as many people as possible. In the rear of the plane, the Lord’s Prayer and the Twenty-Third Psalm were shared; then, with the call, “Let’s roll!” they stormed the cockpit—repeatedly. The terrorists fought ruthlessly to keep the passengers out; they tried sudden maneuvers to throw the passengers off balance. The passengers did not give up.

The plane did not reach Washington, DC, but instead crashed into a field east of Pittsburgh. The passengers won, knowing it was the last thing they would ever do.

That’s what makes a hero.

Remember them and their answer to the call, “Let’s roll!”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

mlk

As with most historical figures, as time passes, our recollection of The Reverend Doctor King changes. It’s sometimes hard to believe that so few years ago we had legally enforced segregation. That the Pentagon had separate bathrooms for blacks and whites because of Virginia law. That Norfolk shut down its public school system rather than integrate. That Rosa Parks was arrested for keeping her seat on a public bus.

Dr. King brought these ugly facts to the forefront, but did so in a way that made it impossible to ignore.

We all think of ourselves as the “good guys” and prior to the 1960s, equality was not something we wanted to think about. Whites weren’t biased, it’s just that blacks and whites were seen as different, or so we wanted to believe.

It’s true, blacks and whites are different. Not because of being black or white, but because each of us is an individual and every individual is different. It took us a long time to figure this out.

Today we look around and congratulate ourselves on making a lot of progress. We have a black president starting his second term. Neighborhoods are integrated. Mixed families are becoming more common.

However, making progress is different from reaching a goal.

It’s because Columbus found land in the New World that he’s renowned, not because he set sail. Armstrong wasn’t the first astronaut to head to the moon, he was the first to actually get there. Progress is good, but it’s only a step in the right direction.

We’re making progress, but we need to continue.

Today we may see Dr. King as an icon – an ideal. Like Washington, Lincoln, and so many others, in life he was not a marble statue but just another individual. The difference is that people like Washington, Lincoln, and King took on the challenges, took the heat, and told us what we needed to hear, whether we wanted to hear it or not. King was a man, not an icon, but that’s what makes what he did so monumental. He stood up when others feared to.

Celebrate tomorrow as a day that marks one more step forward for humanity.