Heroic examples

Posted: Friday, September 14, 2001

It strikes me that the beginnings of an effective deterrent to the kind of horrific terrorism we have witnessed this week has already been demonstrated. I am referring to the heroic actions that the crew and passengers of Flight 93 must have engaged in to thwart its hijackers and cause it to crash into a farm field instead of its intended target. The kind of resolve these people showed in engaging their clear enemies, even at the cost of their own lives, was honorable beyond all measure. If the crew and passengers of the other flights had also somehow been able to cause their hijackers to veer off course, it would have sent a signal to all perpetrators of mayhem that our airliners are not effective weapons of mass destruction.

What is suggested to me by the example of Flight 93 is that there may be some preventive steps that can be taken to keep our airliners from being used as terrorist weapons in the future. A few that come to mind are:

* Train and certify flight crews in the effective use of close quarters self-defense methods to deter their being taken hostage. Knowing that crews are trained in such methods could make would-be hijackers think twice about executing their plans.

* When flight attendants conduct the emergency procedures briefings, they could mention resistive actions passengers could take in the event of a hijacking. This alone will send would-be hijackers a strong signal that fellow passengers might resist their planned actions.

* Establish an easy to remember number (perhaps "Call 93") that passengers with cell phones could dial to alert monitoring authorities as soon as possible in the event of a hijacking (in the event the crew is immobilized).

* Monitor all scheduled airline flights through use of existing technology to see that they stay on their authorized flight paths and forewarn those who reside in potential target areas when flights deviate significantly from their authorized routes.

* As an extreme measure, deploy effective defensive means to prevent flights that have been hijacked from reaching major targets that cannot be evacuated in time.

These (and other similar) steps could help in deterring our enemies where they are now choosing to reveal themselves, which is, sad to say, right among us. My hat is off to how our fellow citizens on Flight 93 chose to confront their enemies. And my heart aches for the price they had to pay for acting on their convictions, as it does for the families and friends they leave behind. While what I've suggested above may or may not prove workable, I think it's important for us to try to learn from Flight 93's heroic example.

Ray Behnert

Juneau



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