‘Let’s roll…’

What with all the extensive news coverage of Queen Elizabeth’s recent untimely(!) death at the age of one hundred and forty-seven, I actually forgot about this year’s anniversary of 9/11 until the day itself.

I’ll be kind and I won’t tell you again about how I was breaking up with a long-term boyfriend at that time and I equated the collapse of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre with the breakdown of the relationship. Hey, whaddya know, it just slipped out there for about the millionth time…!

Anyway, once I remembered what day it was, I settled down and watched UNITED 93 on Netflix. It’s an excellent and very moving docudrama thriller movie written and directed by British director, producer, screenwriter and former journalist Paul Greengrass. It mostly received rave reviews on its release, and was the first film to directly address the terrible disaster that befell the American people on the eleventh of September, 2001.

That was the day that Al-Qaeda terrorists, members of the organisation started by Osama Bin Laden in 1988, hijacked four American planes and piloted them, in three cases successfully, into various landmarks of U.S. power; the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in Manhattan and the Pentagon. These were all suicide missions.

United Airlines 93 never reached its intended destination, probably the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, the meeting place of the United States congress. This is because brave passengers and crew members, who realised what was happening, were determined that the hijackers would never reach their intended target.

The story opens on what was meant to be just another beautiful sunny September day, full of promise and laughter and light, in New York. Air traffic controllers on the ground chat and joke with each other as they go about their daily business. Almost agonisingly slowly, it becomes clear to them that today is not going to be just another ordinary day at work.

Three airplanes have been hijacked by terrorists. Shortly afterwards, each of these three planes crash into their intended targets, killing everyone on board. First the North Tower of the World Trade Centre is hit, then the South Tower, then the Pentagon. By this stage, it’s obvious there’s a pattern appearing, and the United States of America, the most powerful country in the world, is under attack by terrorists…

We see the passengers and crew climbing aboard the United 93 airplane, all laughing and chatting away happily enough. One flight attendants talks hopefully about giving up the job soon in order to spend more time with her husband and children. The four hijackers are an-board now too, and are anxious and visibly nervy and sweating in their seats.

They almost miss their cue due to nervousness. When the hijacking starts, it’s a bit messy. Someone gets killed- an innocent passenger- and the whole thing gets frantic. Two hi-jackers are holed up in the cockpit, trying to fly the plane as per the lessons they’ve been given in training for this ‘holy’ mission. Two others, screaming threats in a foreign language and brandishing their fake bomb and their knives, are out in the body of the plane, trying to subdue the frightened passengers.

Here’s the point where the passengers start saying goodbye to their loved ones via the plane telephone and maybe mobile phones. It’s heart-breaking to hear. A lady tells her son or daughter where her Last Will and Testament is stored. Another woman passes her phone to a terrified young girl and tells her gently to phone her family.

Some of the passengers hear from their families on the phone about the shocking fates of the other three planes. Gradually, they work out that the hi-jackers on board have no intention of returning them safely to the airport like they’ve promised. They’re going to be crashed into yet another American landmark for the ‘glorification of Allah.’

Well, the passengers aren’t having it. They may not be able to save themselves, but they’ll certainly stop these four terrorists from achieving their target and floating off up to heaven to live in Allah’s palace for all eternity. It’s time to take stock of what they have on board the plane that can be used as weapons against the terrorists.

Their revolt, even though they’ve had hardly any time to organise it, is ridiculously brave. They fight the terrorists for control of the plane and, in the event that they manage to breach the cockpit using a steel drinks trolley as a battering ram, they’ve even selected one of the passengers, a former pilot, to fly the plane for them.

Those poor frightened people. I reckon they figured, well, we’re going to die anyway, so we might as well do it thwarting these murdering bastards, excuse my language. Thirty-three passengers, seven crew and four terrorists died in the ensuing crash in a field in Pennsylvania. It shows you what the human spirit is capable of when its back is to the wall.

UNITED 93 is included on a list of ‘Great Films too Painful to Watch Twice.’ You should definitely watch it at least once. Even though we know the tragic ending, it’s still filled with the most awful tension and suspense. The acting is realistic and the dialogue painfully believable.

Just to add that Ben Sliney of Air Traffic Control down on the ground plays himself, and the funny thing- well, I don’t know if it’s truly funny or not, or if it’s just ironic or even tragic- is that today is his first day in his new job. (He was the Federal Aviation Administration National Operations Manager, responsible for shutting down U.S. airspace in the aftermath of the attacks.) It sure gives a new meaning to the traditional wife-to-husband greeting when he comes home for his dinner at 5 o’clock; ‘Hi honey, anything happen at work today…?’


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

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