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Go ahead, show a little spunk

By George F. Smith
web posted November 12, 2001

We have too many heroes in this country not to make it through this crisis.

We first saw them at Ground Zero. Men of steel lost their lives in the twin tower collapse attempting to rescue trapped office workers, then others equally dedicated tried valiantly to dig them out.

And what level of courage does it take to say goodbye to your family then go hand-to-hand with suicidal hijackers, as a few men on United Flight 93 evidently did? Taking physical risks was not their norm, yet their actions were as brave as any in human history. It's possible they literally saved the country.

Now we're seeing new heroes overseas, some engaged in battle while others report on it.

But heroes are not the only ones shaping our reaction to this crisis. Some people are jump-starting our spirits with spunk.

When the airlines started flying again on September 15, United Flight 564 sealed its doors after boarding and was preparing to pull away from the gate at Denver International Airport. The pilot of the Washington, D.C.-bound flight came on the intercom. His words, captured by a medical transcriptionist, stunned many people when they were reported later.

Our Founding Fathers couldn't have said it better.

"First, I want to thank you for being brave enough to fly today," the pilot began. We're on our own from this point on, he told the passengers. The government can't help us. If someone tries to hijack the plane, stand up together and start throwing things at them. No one else will fight for you.

"We will not allow them to take over this plane," he said. "The U.S. Constitution begins with the words 'We, the people.' That's who we are, the people, and we will not be defeated."

Prior to 9-11, the pilot probably would've been furloughed for a few weeks and ordered to undergo counseling for stress. Before 9-11, the passengers would've been horrified to hear such talk, and many no doubt would have filed complaints.

On this day they broke into sustained applause, as did travelers on other flights who heard similar announcements.

Rudy Giuliani to Alweed bin Talal: Stuff it.
Rudy Giuliani to Alweed bin Talal: Stuff it.

You're now the mayor of New York, and someone has just trashed your city big-time. It's an unspeakable horror. A rep from one of our biggest allies, a country with an asset we kill for, pays a visit, expresses sympathy and writes you a check for $10 million. Then he tosses it on the floor.

Everyone knows the economy is in a skid. The heart of your city is still smoldering. Your personal life is in shreds. Your term of office is about up, but your popularity is so high you could probably change the law and stay over.

The check is lying there, all you have to do is stoop to get it. But you decide to leave that to a Georgia congresswoman. "Hey, you dropped something," you tell the rep.

A ten million dollar snub -- now that's spunk. That's leadership. That's rare.

Okay, you're now the former First Lady and a rising figure in politics as senator from New York. Seeking to soak up some publicity, you step on stage unannounced during a concert at Madison Square Garden to introduce a video clip. Beneath you, and you truly think they are, are several rows of cops and firemen who begin booing you mercilessly. Some even hurl profanities. You wrap up your speech in 20 seconds and scram.

They knew you hated them. Heroes have spunk, too.

Anyone who can survive 18 days without food among the ruins of Ground Zero has more than spunk going for them. Though it was only a cat, it was a feline that refused to die. "Precious" survived by lapping contaminated rainwater. She had sores on her mouth, burns on her paws, was filthy and dehydrated, but an SPCA official said she'd pull through.

There's plenty of opportunity for more spunk. Congress is actually considering granting pilots their second amendment rights while they're on the job. If that passes, and it should, I want to see fifty pilots in a TV commercial standing by a 767, staring with friendly defiance at the camera. In front of them is Clint Eastwood, dressed as a pilot. He grins. We all know what he's going to say, and we love to hear him say it. "Go ahead, make our day."

They tip their hats politely. That's called subtle spunk.

We will not be defeated.

George Smith is full-time freelance writer with a special interest in liberty issues and screenwriting. His articles have appeared on Ether Zone, and in the Gwinnett Daily Post, Writer's Yearbook, Creative Loafing, and Goal Magazine. He has a web site for screenwriters and other writers at

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