Friday, September 7, 2012

Where I Cut My Bow From The Wood

Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.

- Ambrose Redmoon

Ours is a culture obsessed with and mesmerized by the super hero.  We flock to the movies to see costumed warriors imbued with skills and strength that far exceed the norm "save the day" from those who wish to do us harm.  September 11, 2001 reminded us on a scale one hopes we never have to endure again that super heroes are all around us.  It reminded us that it is not the Spandex tights, capes or cowls that make the hero but, rather, the stuff that percolates inside of him and her.  

Barbara Olson was a conservative political commentator who appeared often on CNN.  In the 1990's she worked as an investigator for the House Government Reform Committee.  She also had worked for Senate Minority Whip Don Nickles before becoming turning her professional attention to television.   She was a lawyer by trade, having graduated from Cardozo Law School in 1989. 

She was one of the passengers aboard American 77, which the hijackers crashed into the Pentagon.  She was the wife of the Solicitor General of the United States Theodore Olson, who might be best known in modern American history as the attorney who argued the Bush side of the argument in Bush v. Gore before the Supreme Court of the United States.  American 77 was a flight that Barbara Olson had not intended to take.  She ultimately decided to take it - as opposed to her original selection - so that she could spend her husband's birthday with him. 

Barbara Olson was only forty-five at the time she was murdered.  Her husband survived her, as did two siblings - her sister Antoinette and her brother David - and her mom Louise. 

Betty Ann Ong  spent the final fourteen years of her life working as a flight attendant for American Airlines.  On Tuesday, September 11, 2001 she was part of the crew working American 11, which had been scheduled to fly from Boston to Los Angeles.  All hopes for a routine, perhaps even boring cross-country jaunt evaporated when the flight was hijacked shortly after it took off from Logan Airport.  American 11 never came anywhere near Los Angeles, California that morning.  Instead the cowards who hijacked it flew it into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. 

In a display of courage that cannot even adequately be described as extraordinary, with chaos having broken loose on the plane all around her, Betty Ong calmly called the American Airlines reservation center in North Carolina - using one of the crew phones at the rear of the coach cabin - and for close to twenty minutes provided those on the ground with information about what was going on inside the plane.  Her presence was so remarkable that during a hearing in January 2004 the 09/11 Commission played a four-minute excerpt of Ms. Ong's conversation with the American Airlines personnel on the ground because Commission Chairman Thomas Kean wanted the public to hear her heroism firsthand and the "duty, courage, selflessness and love" that was evident in the midst of the chaos of Sept. 11

Betty Ann Ong was forty-five years old when she was murdered on September 11, 2001.  Approximately a decade after her death, her hometown of San Francisco created a lasting legacy to her.  The City's Recreation Commission voted to rename the Recreation Center in Chinatown - a facility where Ms. Ong played as a child in the neighborhood where she grew up - for her.  “Her extraordinary act of heroism on 9/11 made a significant contribution not only to the city, but to the nation," said Recreation Commission President Marc Buell.   Well said Mr. Buell.  Well said.

Cora Holland, fifty-two years old, was a resident of Sudbury, Massachusetts.  Ms. Holland was one of the passengers who was on American 11 out of Boston - bound for Los Angeles - when the jet was hijacked so that it could be used as a missile into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.  Ms. Holland was with the Sudbury Food Pantry.  The Food Pantry is an interdenominational group that provides help to needy families. 

She and her husband, Dr. Stephen Holland, had raised three children:  daughters Stephanie and Jessica and a son Nathaniel.  Only three short weeks before she died, they became "empty nesters" for the first time in a quarter century of marriage when Nate - who was eighteen  when his mom died - struck out on his own.  In addition to her husband and three kids, Cora Holland was also survived by Stephanie's husband Victor and her two grandchildren Drew and Amelia. 

On the day she died, Cora Holland was on her way to California to visit her mother.  And doubt not for a moment the lessons she taught to her own children, which in the case of Stephanie she has passed on to her own kids.  Read this, which details the composure and presence of two children, both of whom had their grandmother stolen from them far too soon in their lives, in dealing with her death and honoring her memory.  Remarkable stuff.  But perhaps not unsurprising considering their genealogy.



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