Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pivotal Points In Military History (Part 2)

     Session two of the four part series was presented by Mahlon Fuller, the watch supervisor of the Pittsburgh International Airport's control tower and radar room on the morning of 9/11/01. He participated in the shutdown of the nation's air space; with some 4,000 planes in the air, the mission was accomplished in less than three hours.
     Shortly after the Pentagon was hit, Fuller evacuated the radar room and control tower after a hijacked plane, later determined to be United 93, was spotted heading directly for the facility. When he returned to the radar room the plane was off the scope. Although he was indoors and did not see the it, Fuller believes the plane passed directly over the tower before crashing near Shanksville. eight miles beyond Pittsburgh's radar coverage.
     His narrative was accompanied by an NTSB animation of the last three minutes of United 93, showing not only the flight path, but also the air speed, altitude, horizontal situation indicator, compass heading and control position. As the passengers rushed the cabin, the pilot attempted to throw them off balance by rapidly banking the plane left and right.
     During the last thirty seconds the plane turned upside down, then dived into the earth at over 500 miles per hour. The NTSB has calculated that the tail of the plane reached the nose in less than 1/10 second.
     The resulting hole was approximately 40 feet x 20 feet x 25 feet deep. The largest piece found was about four feet long. Bits of wreckage and body parts were even found up in the nearby trees.
     Fuller has gone to the scene at least once every year since the crash, and is active in promoting the memorial. His slide show included pictures of the progress of the construction to date, as well as renderings of the project as it will be.
     He told of meeting many of the survivors' friends and families, and he has had dinner with a pilot who was the best friend of Flight 93's captain. The man told him that he never expected to be a bigot, but that he hopes that every Muslim will die a prolonged, painful death.
     Then Fuller compared that sentiment to that of the Amish after the massacre of five little girls at the Nickel Mine School in 2006. On the day of the shooting, a grandfather of one of the murdered Amish girls was heard warning some young relatives not to hate the killer, saying, "We must not think evil of this man."
     Another Amish father noted, "He had a mother and a wife and a soul and now he's standing before a just God." One Amish man held the shooter's sobbing father in his arms, reportedly for as long as an hour, to comfort him. The Amish have also set up a charitable fund for the family of the shooter.
     After 10 years Fuller, a Quaker, is still visibly shaken when speaking of the events of that day. He said that his personal journey has been one of Tragedy, Grief and a Hope that somewhere between those two extremes of attitude we will someday find a way to reconcile our differences and get along together.
     So do I.
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     My books, “There Are Only Seven Jokes” and “The Spirit Runs Through It” are available in paperback, or at the Kindle Store.

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