The Washington Times - July 27, 2008, 01:53AM

By P. Jeffrey Black


Think back to the day of 9/11, and the images of both planes slamming into the towers. Now vision in your mind for a moment the many brave men and women in uniform who were the first responders to those horrific terrorist attacks, and who subsequently lost their lives that day.

I’m willing to bet the visions you are having right now are of the men and women of the New York Fire and Police Department.  And you wouldn’t be alone in thinking that.  But were the fireman and police officers really the “first responders” to the terrorist attacks that day?

Not really.

A detail many of us tend to frequently overlook is that the uniformed airline crews, who’s primary mission was to ensure the safety of all the passengers on those planes that day, were actually the first responders to the terrorist attacks on 9/11 –– and they were also the first to die.

In fact, the airline crews actually fought the terrorist in hand-to-hand combat, and a number of them died trying to stop them from taking control of the aircraft.  If you really think about that for a moment, those airline crew members were the first Americans who actually fought the first battles in the War on Terror.

And when I remind people of this, their first response is usually, “Oh yeah, that’s right. Wow. I guess I really never thought of it that way.”

Unfortunately, many people haven’t thought of it that way, which is probably why there has never been a significant memorial honoring those brave crew members –– that is until now.

As reported by Debra Burlingame, after seven years since the terrorist attacks, the 9/11 airline crews are finally being honored and receiving the recognition they so rightly deserve. And unlike other 9/11 memorial fiascos we have seen in the past, you won’t see any corporate hacks fighting over the design of this memorial.



                               Valerie and Dean Thompson

Instead, this memorial was the creation of Valerie Thompson, an American Airlines flight attendant, who apparently understands the meaning behind, if you want something done right, then do it yourself

And right she did it.

The memorial was hand sculpted by her husband, Dean Thompson, and the final bronze structure, 18 feet high, is now positioned near the entrance of the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. 

To watch the amazing story of the creation of the memorial, and to see how the sculpture was molded and cast, click on the video at the bottom.



During the dedication ceremony of the memorial, which took place on July 4, 2008, Shirley Hall, also an American Airlines flight attendant, described to the attendees the meaning behind the sculpture:

A stone column rises to support a large globe, as we all know the aviation industry spans the world.

The impressive eagles, a national symbol of freedom, represent both airlines, American and United that lost flights that morning.

The Captain stands at the highest point, his copilot to his right, as it is on the airplane. The Captain is charged with the responsibility of protecting passengers, fellow crewmembers and the aircraft.

The First Officer is alert, his safety manual in hand, pointing to the western horizon, the intended destination of all four flights.

Back to back placement of the Flight Attendants to the Cockpit Crew shows the teamwork of all flight crews –– especially now post 9/11.

The young girl with her teddy bear represents the traveling public. She is the family on their big vacation, the newlyweds on honeymoon, the grandmother on her very first flight, the weary businessman and unfortunately now –– she is the soldier off to war.

The role best known by the general flying public is portrayed by the male flight attendant. He drapes a blanket around the small child. His duties show a commitment to passenger care and service.

Indicative of her role as a safety professional, the female Flight Attendant stands in the protected position: her hand held in the International sign for “stop”, shielding her passenger from harm.

There is only one thing to say after reading those words …

Its about darn time.



(Photos Credit:  Dean Thompson)