Mike Rowe is a national treasure.
The other day he used his Instagram account to promote his mother’s book, lamenting the book currently topping the Barnes & Noble bestseller list was called “Fear.” (I’ll let you look that one up if you don’t already know what it is.)
“[A] rather depressing tome designed to scare and divide the country even further than it already is,” Rowe wrote. And not because Mike Rowe is trying to squash another person’s political opinion. He’s fairly clear on his belief that we live in a place where everyone is free to express their opinions and that’s a marvelous thing that should be cherished. But — I think anyway — because Mike Rowe doesn’t like to promote fear.
Because Mike Rowe is a national treasure.
But this post isn’t really about him.
It’s about another post he created in response to a question about Colin Kaepernick, in which a fan of Rowe’s asked his opinion on the matter because Rowe had been fairly silent on the subject of Kaepernick-as-hero. Rowe had a timely and remarkable response I’ve copied below:
“We’re Going to Do Something.”
You’ve been very quiet about the Kaepernick PR disaster at Nike. Any thoughts? – Sam Wilder
Hi Sam. Nike’s free to celebrate whomever they wish, and Kaepernick is entitled to his opinion – kneeling, standing, or lying down. But if I was going to put someone’s face on a billboard – someone who epitomized bravery and sacrifice – I might have gone another way, especially this time of year. I might have gone with this guy – Tom Burnett.
Tom’s last act on earth was one of the most courageous things imaginable. And his last words to his wife, Deena, are among the most inspiring I’ve ever heard. Those exact words are at the top of this page, and the bottom. They were spoken seventeen years ago, under conditions I hope to never experience. I’ll never forget Tom’s last words. I hope you won’t either.
Transcript of Tom’s Last Calls to Deena
6:27 a.m.( pacific time) First cell phone call from Tom to Deena
Deena: Tom, are you O.K.?
Tom: No, I’m not. I’m on an airplane that has been hijacked.
Tom: Yes, They just knifed a guy.
Deena: A passenger?
Deena: Where are you? Are you in the air?
Tom: Yes, yes, just listen. Our airplane has been hijacked. It’s United Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco. We are in the air. The hijackers have already knifed a guy, one of them has a gun, they are telling us there is a bomb on board, please call the authorities. He hung up.
6:31 Deena calls 911
6:34 The phone rang in on call waiting, Tom’s second cell phone call.
Tom: They’re in the cockpit. The guy they knifed is dead.
Deena: He’s dead?
Tom: Yes. I tried to help him, but I couldn’t get a pulse.
Deena: Tom, they are hijacking planes all up and down the east coast. They are taking them and hitting designated targets. They’ve already hit both towers of the World Trade Center.
Tom: They’re talking about crashing this plane. (a pause) Oh my God. It’s a suicide mission…(he then tells people sitting around him)
Deena: Who are you talking to?
Tom: My seatmate. Do you know which airline is involved?
The rest of what happened on United Flight 93 is legend, and you can read about it here. And you should. And give it to the kids who weren’t alive 17 years ago so they can read it, too.
The report says Jarrah intended to fly the plane into the White House or the U.S. Capitol. “He was defeated by the alerted, unarmed passengers of United 93,” the report says.
The battle aboard the plane was burned into history by the story of one passenger, Todd Beamer, who used an onboard phone to call the FBI. At the end of his call, the operator overhead him say to other passengers, “Let’s roll.”
Here’s another post from the FBI investigation on the ground, as they sorted through debris and made sense of what they were hearing on the flight recorder. It will give you chills.
The heroism of knowing you will die but choosing to go out by fighting like hell to ensure others are saved is something most of us will never be asked to prove we have inside us. And many of us would fail the test. And so, as we celebrate the bravery of a man who stood for something so he could ultimately make millions off an ad campaign, we should perhaps do as Rowe suggests and remember and revere the Tom Burnetts and Todd Beamers of the world, who we don’t even recognize as we pass them on the street or are seated next to them on a plane. They’re not around to make millions off their heroism and they’ll never be celebrated with a name on the back of a jersey. But they saved countless lives as their last final measure of devotion. And they likely saved a country, too. The effects of a plane hitting the Capitol or White House are nearly too monstrous to consider. They are the everyday heroes deserving of recognition and respect. And to be remembered and revered as men who stood for something even if it meant sacrificing everything.