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Saturday, August 09, 2003  

The trouble with 'heroes'

It now appears the story sponsored by survivors of some persons killed in the crash of flight 93 on September 11, 2001, and promoted by much of the media, is not true. They have claimed the passengers on the plane intentionally caused it to crash to prevent the greater carnage that would occur if the plane was guided into a major public building.

The popular perception is that passengers stormed the cockpit and fought with the hijackers, causing the plane to crash into a Pennsylvania field.

But the government now believes the terrorists intentionally brought the plane down, after a passenger revolt.

Thirty-three passengers, seven crew members and the four hijackers died. The theory is based on an analysis of cockpit recordings and is buried deep in a report on nine-eleven given to Congress last month. The F-B-I has tried to stay away from putting out a theory contradicting the story about the passengers storming the cockpit, out of sensitivity for the families.

At Mac-a-ro-nies, we've visited this territory before. I was one of the first bloggers to question the heroic saga of the rescue of Pfc. Jesssica Lynch. The general consensus now is much of the article in the Washington Post that made over a series of military blunders was malarkey. I also questioned whether a made-to-order Iraqi Gunga Din, Mohammed, had really been the key to Lynch's eventual release. It turned out his part in the rescue of Lynch had been much less than previously claimed and that Lynch had been treated well by medical personnel.

The FBI is in a sticky situation. If it stands by the evidence, it risks alienating the millions of Americans who would like to believe the passengers on Flight 93 were heroes instead of victims.

Meanwhile, an East Coast man has been charged with falsely claiming to have lost relatives on 9/11 for the second time.

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - A man accused of falsely claiming benefits for a fictional wife who supposedly died in the World Trade Center attack was charged Friday with making the same claim for a second invented spouse.

Prosecutors say Mark Christopher, 38, was not married to anyone, but applied for more than $83,000 in survivors' aid from the Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He received about $72,000.

Based on the new indictment Friday, Christopher faces a maximum 10 years in prison on charges of theft, identity theft and falsifying records. He was being held at the Camden County Jail on $50,000 bail.

Christopher claimed to have young children who had lost their mother to terrorism in the second case.

Obviously, the suspect's motivation is partly greed. However, in the absence of people's credulity in regard to the tragedy on September 11, I don't believe he, and the other impostors who are doubtlessly out there, would have targeted the agencies involved. He likely relied on the unwillingness of personnel to grill survivors of the 'heroes' of that day, i.e., those who died, to prevent close scrutiny of his claims.

I think so many of our countrymen embrace stories like these because they want to believe Americans are bigger than life and special in the eyes of the fates or God. They also derive a vicarious thrill from identifying with the 'heroes' thus created. That is partly because the made-up heroes fit their notions of what they want their heroes to be like. For example, a female soldier from the same company as Lynch did die in Iraq, but she was a Hopi single mother, not a blue-eyed blonde from the South.

Recently, Jessica Lynch's family announced they will not participate in the movie NBC is making about her, but rely on a book to tell her story instead. Perhaps the she realizes embracing the mythical version of herself may not be the best course to follow.

I do believe it is time we revisit the definition of the word 'hero' when used in the context of war or civil disorder.

he-ro n. pl. he-roes

A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life: soldiers and nurses who were heroes in an unpopular war.

Fortunately, not all Americans are easily misled or seeking vicarious gratification from false information that deems them and theirs 'heroic.' A youth in North Carolina sees the problem clearly.

Haley Price, 16, Jay M. Robinson High, Concord: The idea that Jessica Lynch should be celebrated as a hero is not only wrong, in my eyes, but is also condescending to all of the people who have been and will be prisoners of war and have not come home to medals or a day in their name. Now, had Jessica done something great like saved her entire platoon and was then captured and saved, that would have been different. However, nothing happened to her that does not happen to dozens of other people in every war that America has ever fought.

Pfc. Lynch is a soldier who experienced the gritty and painful reality of war firsthand. However, her injuries were substained in an automobile accident that could have occurred just as easily in civilian life. There is no proof she has done anything that fits the definition of 'hero.' I don't begrudge her her moment in the sun, but let's be realistic about what a hero is.

The survivors of those who died in the crash of flight 93 should accept the evidence of the terrorists intentionally crashing the plane in my opinion. There is no shame in their relatives having been victimized by terrorists. There is no reason to try to transform the passengers into Rambos. Being 'just folks' is fine.

7:07 PM