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Sun, Sep 11, 2005

Heroes For Our Time: Flight 93

Discovery Channel Explores "The Flight that Fought Back"

by Aero-News Senior Correspondent Kevin R.C. "Hognose" O'Brien

By now, everyone knows the story of Flight 93: Islamist murder-suicide hijackers were thwarted by a passengers' revolt, and dived the plane into a rural area to keep from being overcome. The passengers, along with the hijackers, perished, but no one on the ground was hurt --which was quite a far thing from the hijackers' intentions.

On Sunday, a significant new documentary on the Discovery Channel is going to explore this flight, with a chilling reenactment of the events on board the plane, and interviews with the survivors of the Flight 93 passengers. Discovery's description of the film: "A definitive account of the heroic and tragic events aboard Flight 93. This docudrama will follow the story of the passenger's 'first strike back at terrorism' right up to today to show the power of the legacy of that dramatic and terrible flight."

I have seen segments of the film and I must warn you, it is intense. The film cuts back and forth between a believable recreation of events on the aircraft, to the present time -- in which, documentary fashion, family members of the murdered passengers talk about the event that changed so many lives, but none more directly or intensely than theirs.

I was particularly affected by the quiet, controlled demeanor of Louis Paul Nacke II. He was 14 when his father, Louis J. Nacke II (pictured above), a distribution manager for Kay-Bee Toys, was murdered on Flight 93. Young Nacke is now a cadet at West Point, a career choice which resulted very directly from the impact Sept. 11, 2001 had on him personally. I found it hard to match his self-control as he spoke.

The filmmakers interviewed Louis Paul Nacke II in a large, gloomy hall at West Point. The location added weight to his words, weight that was entirely unnecessary -- but this is a heavy film about a heavy subject. The film also makes extensive use of the audio recordings made as passengers used airphones and cell phones to call loved ones. The producers are careful to make sure that you are always clear on what's a reenactment, and what's an actual recording that preserves a voice now gone forever.

The flight ended on a Pennsylvania hillside; all who were aboard perished, but the success of the passengers' revolt is that no one on the ground was killed, unlike the scores that died in the Pentagon or thousands at the World Trade Center.

The revolt was enabled by a combination of modern communications, that let the passengers learn their probable fate; and the courage of those same passengers, that attempted to retake the plane from the hijackers.

This is the first significant documentary about the events of 9/11 to come to the small screen. Hollywood has appeared very reluctant to tell this story for some reason, but perhaps it takes a while to put a film this good together. The reenactments, particularly, rise above the low-budget variety familiar to most of us from crime shows.

"The Flight That Fought Back" airs on the Discovery Channel at 9 PM EDT on Sunday. Yes, that's Sunday, September 11th -- the fourth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, and of the events described and depicted in the show. It will be re-aired periodically. Check the Discovery Channel website or your cable provider's site or onscreen schedule for details in your area.

FMI: www.dsc.discovery.com

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