Last night I saw the film UNITED 93. Everyone knows what this movie is about and many people will make a choice on whether or not they want or need to see it. I needed to see it. The film makes you feel like you are there as everything unfolds. Whether or not you see the film, stop and think about what it must have been like to be on that plane on that Tuesday morning. Look deep inside your heart and ask yourself how you would have acted on that plane had you been there. We consider the passengers of flight 93 American Heroes. And they are. But I honestly don't think "America the Beautiful" was on their minds when they took action. I think they did what they did out of personal conviction, the want to survive and the love they had for life and the people they would inevitiably leave behind. That makes them unsung heroes. They had no idea the number of lives they may have saved that day. I am grateful to them and I am glad their story is finally being told. That day changed our lives forever and it changed the world forever. I remember in the months following 9/11 and what a great place the world was. People were nice to each other, we seemed to be so full of compassion. The reality check worked. We were grateful for what we had and grateful we weren't in NYC or on one of the hijacked planes that day. I wish we had been able to hold onto that compassion, but the world is a decidedly different place today. Two years ago, I wrote a piece about 9/11 and one of the passengers on flight 93. I wanted to share that with you today. I have edited the piece a bit. (Special thanks to Jeanne for still having a copy of this, since I couldn't find mine.)
April 28, 2004
This past Sunday, my very good friend Michele took me to Boston to see Melissa Etheridge at The Avalon. It was an intimate setting and we were right up front. Melissa is Michele's favorite artist and she kept telling me how important it was that I make "the connection" with her. So the show starts and Melissa comes out and just kicks ass from the first note of the first song to the last note of the last song. It was a good ole', down home, rock 'n' roll show. I've been a fan of Melissa for about 10 years now. I'm not the die hard fan like Michele, but some of her songs really helped me through some difficult times in my life. I've often said that the Indigo Girls are the "Simon and Garfunkel" of our generation. And if that's the case, then Melissa is our Bruce Springsteen, Eagles and Bob Seger all rolled into one. She is America. Her music is right up there with baseball and apple pie.
Melissa is rocking out and I'm right up front and I'm in rock 'n' roll heaven. Then she starts playing this song and though I didn't recognize the song, I knew it was a special song because the energy in the room changed. Everyone really listened to this song and when they sang along it was loud and inspired and beautiful I knew the song was about 9/11. And when I heard the line "Wake up America!" I thought I would burst! It's what I've been saying ever since this war started. I've wanted to run to the top of every mountain, and stand on the top of every building and scream WAKE UP AMERICA! What happened? How did we get back to the 60's? A never ending war, the government trying to write discrimination into the constitution and a nation just sitting idly by and watching it happen!
I went home and put this song on headphones so I could really hear it and it was then that I realized this song was about Mark Bingham. He was one of the passengers that helped take down Flight 93 on 9/11. Did you know that Mark Bingham was gay? Should it matter? Should the sexual orientation of an American Hero matter? No. His sexual orientation had nothing to do with his heroics. He did what he did because he knew in his heart that it was the right thing to do. Should the sexual orientation of any American matter? No.
As I listen to this song over and over, it gives me goose bumps each time I hear it. It speaks volumes about us and how we view one another. We put too much emphasis on the "what" about each other. What color is your skin? What is your religion? What is your nationality? What is your gender? What is your sexual orientation? What matters is who we are and that we make a positive contribution to our society. What matters is that we live good lives and that we each understand that there is room for every one of us on this planet.
I'm not a big fan of the word "tolerance." Tolerance is for the arrogant who think, "Okay, I dont LIKE what you are, but I'll tolerate you and let you stick around." Tolerance to me is the arrogant giving me "permission" to live in their world. Acceptance is what it's about. If we could all just accept that it takes all kinds to make this world go around and just accept that we're all here to stay then I believe this world would be a better place.
The song by Melissa Etheridge is called "Tuesday Morning." Here are the lyrics with a foreword from her about how the song came to be. Thank you for reading this.
Tuesday Morning “J.T. [Jon Taylor] put some loops together for me, and on one he took this Civil Rights Gospel singer in the '60s, named Ella Jenkins, and sampled her singing an old Gospel song: ‘Up and down this road I go, skipping and a-dodging to the .44.' I was messing around with it, and hearing ‘skipping and a-dodging to the .44' over and over, and it just started getting way inside me. It was February 2002, five months after 9/11, and I started writing ‘Tuesday Morning.'”
“I remember getting People magazine with the stories of Flight 93, how these heroes did it. They get to Mark Bingham and there's his lover, and I thought, ‘Oh my god!' I hadn't heard that until I saw the People magazine. Time goes by, and the government starts putting out the benefits for the families of those who lost their lives; a certain percentage of people who lost their lives, of course, were homosexual-at least 10% of any population is gonna be homosexual-and the government says no. All of a sudden, that felt uncomfortable. I start watching as it unfolds, and they mention Mark Bingham but they don't mention that he's gay. It starts to get a little more whitewashed away. Here is a bona fide hero of our American culture, one of the four men who said, ‘C'mon, let's roll,' being wiped away. That's not okay with me.
“It was very hard when I was writing the song. In the original lyrics I'm not so nice. I think I even said by name, ‘Mr. Ashcroft, maybe it was your life that he saved. Where was that airplane going? And yet you will not acknowledge him.' I went really, really hard with it, and I remember thinking, ‘No one's going to hear me if I'm yelling so loud. My job is to present it, just kind of ask that it be considered.” - Melissa Etheridge
Up and down this road I go
Skippin' and dodgin'
From a 44
10:03 on a Tuesday morning
In the fall of an American dream
A man is doing what he knows is right
On flight 93
He loved his mom and he loved his dad
He loved his home and he loved his man
But on that bloody Tuesday morning
He died an American
Now you cannot change this
You can't erase this
You can't pretend this is not the truth
Even though he could not marry
Or teach your children in our schools
Because who he wants to love
Is breaking your God's rules
He stood up on a Tuesday morning
In the terror he was brave
And he made his choice
And without a doubt
A hundred lives he must have saved
And the things you might take for granted
Your inalienable rights
Some might chose to deny him
Even though he gave his life
Can you live with yourself in the land of the free
And make him less of a hero than the other three
Well it might begin to change ya
In a field in Pennsylvania
Stand up America
Hear the bell now as it tolls
Wake up America
It's Tuesday morning
Come on let's roll
This song can be found on Melissa's CD "Lucky."