- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 10, 2002

Noble: The passengers and promotional directors of Spirit Airlines, for their inspiring patriotic performance in spite of the specter of September 11.

Any psychotherapist or stand-up comic would attest to the fact that, even before September 11, flying was fearful enough. And, even if inspired by such fears, the inebriated pilots of America West airlines were enough to make the most sober-minded believer in the Bernoulli principle turn up a bottle before taking to the air. So it was no surprise that many airlines, already toasted by declines in travel, spiked many flights scheduled for the one-year anniversary of the attacks.

As if to restore America's high-flying spirits, Spirit Airlines made its September 11 passengers an entirely sober-minded proposal: They would fly free. The airline would pick up the tab (at an estimated total cost of $500,000) for every single person flying that day.

This promotion/thank-you/celebration of the American spirit brought cheers from across the country. The tickets were gulped up like sixpacks at a frat house, and even those who missed out on free tickets suddenly remembered that they had an awful lot to be thankful for.

It's also worth remembering that flying is a quintessentially American act invented by a pair of abstemious bicycle repairmen brothers, who were such optimists that not only did they believe that they could figure out a way to fly, but also that their luggage would land in the same area code that they did. Since September 11, millions of Americans have filled the skies with that same sort of spirited optimism.

Spirit's spirited promotion, and the spirited response of so many Americans, has ennobled us all.


Knaves: Vernon Coleman and Dane Coleman, two former White House mail-screeners, for stealing the milk money that American children had given to Afghan children for milk and school supplies.

It would be hard to imagine a theft more foul. One month after September 11, President Bush asked children across the country to send in $1 each to support the children of Afghanistan. They and their parents responded in amazing ways, especially considering the economic downturn and the vast amounts that they were giving to other September 11-related charities. More than 350,000 letters, containing more than $4 million, were sent to America's Fund for Afghan Children.

All that milk money looked like a gravy train to Mr. Coleman and Mr. Coleman (they are unrelated). But, instead of being touched by the lunch money, they simply looted letter after letter while working on an anthrax decontamination crew in a "restricted" mailroom at Bolling Air Force Base.

They were formally charged this week with taking $35,000 in traveler's checks sent to the White House Credit Union, and taking an unknown amount of cash from letters addressed to the Children's Fund. Dane Coleman admitted to giving some of the money to his wife, but the true extent of the pair's theft may never be discovered or, for that matter, recovered. Co-workers reported seeing a duffel-bag full of cash, which presumably had been used for smuggling the bills.

It's shocking that some knaves will stoop to robbing babes to bag a free lunch.


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