10/10/2001 | Radio Rose Somma Tennent
That Others Might Live
"No greater love has any man than this, that a man should lay down his life for his friends."
We have all heard the tragic stories after the terrorist hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. We also heard the stories of bravery and sacrifice.
We've heard the story of the two friends who worked together at the WTC. One was Jewish the other a Christian who was a quadriplegic and whose nurse accompanied him to work each day. After the plane hit their building, the Jewish man told his friend's nurse to leave the building. He told her he would stay with his friend. And stay he did. Both men called their families told them goodbye and that they were loved. Not long after those calls were made their building collapsed and those two friends went down with it.
We heard the story of the woman in a wheelchair, who when the first plane hit the World Trade Center was overwhelmed when she considered how she would make it down the 68 flights of stairs before her. Fortunately for her, Michael Benfante and his co-worker John Cerqueira spotted her behind a set of glass doors. These men carried the woman and her wheelchair down all 68 flights of stairs reaching the street just moments before the building collapsed.
We heard the story of the brave passengers on Flight 93. After their plane had been taken over, several passengers called their loved ones at home. They quickly learned about the fates of the other planes hijacked and the attack on the World Trade Center Towers and the Pentagon. It wasn't long before several passengers decided their plane would not be used as weapon.
Jeremy Glick, one of the passengers, told his wife on the phone: "We've taken a vote. We're going to do something. If he [the hijacker] is going to crash into something, well, let's not let that happen." Flight 93 crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pa., killing the 44 on board - but no one else.
I will never forget the story a picture told. U.S. News and World Report printed a photograph of people on the stairwell evacuating the World Trade Center. All of the people in the stairwell were going down the steps. Only one man, a New York firefighter, was going up the steps. More than 300 New York firefighters are still missing at Ground Zero.
So many acts of bravery. So many men and women willing to give up their lives so that others might live. But this isn't the first time in the history of our country that men and women were willing to sacrifice so much for others.
John Hancock, the president of the Continental Congress, declared after signing the Declaration with unusually large writing: "His majesty can now read my name without glasses. And he can also double the price on my head." Many of the signers and thousands of colonists lost lives, property, families and reputations as a result of their resolve to fight for a free nation.
One example is Abraham Clark. Clark was a signer from New Jersey with two sons who went on to fight in the Revolutionary War. His sons were captured by the British and put on the Jersey, a prison ship right off the shores of New York. Because of the brutality against the patriots on this ship, it was eventually referred to as the "Hell Ship." Abraham Clark's sons experienced extremely brutal treatment because of who their father was. One son was put into solitary confinement without food. When the war was just about over, the British made Abraham Clark an offer: Recant and come out in favor of the king, and we will release your sons. Anyone of us who are parents and love our child more than our own life can imagine how difficult it must have been for Abraham Clark to answer with a firm NO.
There are stories from more recent wars. The Dorchester was a freighter that had been converted into a troop transport. It was hit off the coast of Greenland at 1 a.m. on Feb. 3, 1943. The very first people on deck after the boat was hit were four chaplains: a Catholic priest, a Jewish rabbi and two Protestant pastors. These men immediately went to work to calm and assure the men and hand out life jackets. When there were no life jackets left, the chaplains took theirs off and gave them away. An eyewitness reported that 18 minutes after the boat was hit the four chaplains could be seen holding hands and praying as the boat went down.
The heroes of World War II were not just those who fought that war, but those here at home who made great sacrifices of their own. We often respectfully, and with great reverence, refer to the people of World War II as "the greatest generation." Now it is our turn to be the greatest generation. This is our history. That others might live, we must mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.