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  Minutemen of the Skies
by Phil Trent
9 November 2002

In the post 9/11 world, Americans will no longer be susceptible to hijacking by terrorists. As evidenced by the passengers onboard the plane with shoebomber Richard Reid, American airplane passengers are prepared and not afraid to combat this type of terrorism.

When we think of terrorism in the United States, the Oklahoma City bombing and the World Trade Center attacks come to mind. However, terrorism was much more common in the colonial days than it is today.

Prior to the Revolutionary War, French and Indian troops – keep in mind some Indian tribes allied with England - massacred various outposts of English settlers; not necessarily as acts of genocide, but more to strike fear in all of the English colonies. By the time centrally-located English troops arrived on the scene, it was almost certainly too late.

As a result of these massacres, local communities began to form militias to protect their respective communities. The men that formed these militias were called Minutemen, because they had to be ready to fight at a minute’s notice. They kept local stores of munitions to repel these quick attacks from the French and/or tribes of Indians allied with them.

Technology moves on; but from muskets to F-16s, the concept of repelling terrorism is the same: It has to be fought by the people present. On Sept. 11, there was not enough time for the federal government to react. America’s armed forces are more than able to repel any conventional invasion from any government on earth, but it cannot effectively defend against terrorism. All the King’s horses and all the King’s men could not save us that day nor ever again.

In wireless communications, there is something called frequency. Two sources that resonate on the same frequency are perceivable by both; mutually modifiable; susceptible to be jammed by all. Still, in any contest, the strongest frequency will overpower the weaker. Something that does not resonate on that same frequency is not perceivable - thus not susceptible to interference. This is the frequency of terrorism; they not able to compete on national terms, so they operate on a different frequency, or scale.

National governments operate on the same frequencies as other national governments. National defense forces are designed to defend themselves from other national governments. Small units that disregard their own lives, strike quickly, and disappear cannot be perceived by a national government in time. Weaker forces, said the ancient Chinese general Sun Tzu, should never directly confront the enemy. The Taliban directly opposed the U.S. by harboring terrorists and were taken apart in short order by our well-trained and well-equipped military.

The U.S. government can root out terrorism in foreign lands, use intelligence to prevent it, topple governments to slow it, but after all that - it is still each person’s responsibility to protect themselves. It is up to each individual to accept or reject this notion, but the reality of a live-terrorist situation will trump any wishful thinking.

The only act of thwarted terrorism on Sept. 11 was by common citizens aboard Flight 93. They formed a militia and defended themselves the best they could. On a cell phone, a wife of one of the militiamen onboard begged her husband to not draw attention and to wait it out. He said “If I wait, it will be too late.”

Perhaps during the first French and Indian massacres, colonial women begged their husbands and sons to wait for English troops to arrive. Probably other colonists figured out that to not fight and not be prepared to fight at a minute’s notice was the most risky option of all. Surely the people on the first three hijacked flights of Sept. 11th were waiting for help to arrive - simply because they did not act.

Doubt causes uncertainly, uncertainty causes inaction. Likely, passengers on the first three hijacked flights would have acted very differently had they known. Because of a 43-minute delay, the passengers of Flight 93 knew and they acted upon that knowledge. We know. We are certain. Should we find ourselves in similar circumstances - we will act. Since Sept. 11th, the would-be shoe bomber, Richard Reid, was attacked by passengers almost instantaneously.

Terrorism is ended over the skies in America. This is not to say that terrorists will never cause trouble for airplanes again. It does mean that passengers will fight back. If we are on an American flight, in which terrorists declare that the plane is under their control, we will hear the massive click of a hundred seat belts separating at once; each click indicating that another American is prepared to defend themselves and their countrymen. They say history repeats itself and it has. Let us all say hello to the new, improved Minutemen…of the Skies - filling your seat and those around you on your next flight.

Email Phil Trent