It is a long ride from the shattered peace of Bergen County, N.J., to the mournful solitude of Wyndham, N.Y., the upstate ski resort where a memorial service was held Sunday for Jeremy Glick, 31.
Along the way, there was plenty of time for high school buddies Josh Denbeaux and Brad Stein to swap stories and reminisce about their former schoolmate and lifelong friend. "I can tell you this," said Stein, with a tone of reverence in his voice. "Even back in high school, that dude was unstoppable. Whatever happened on that plane, I know he had the guts and determination to do what needed to be done."
"That plane," of course, was United Airlines Flight 93 from Newark, bound for San Francisco, one of four jumbo jets hijacked September 11 by suicide terrorists bent on wreaking havoc. Flight 93 was the only one of the four that didn't hit its target with deadly accuracy. Instead, it plunged into the ground in rural western Pennsylvania, cutting short its flight path toward Washington, D.C.
Based on a last-minute cell-phone conversation between Glick and his wife, Lyzbeth, at her home in West Milford, N.J., investigators believe that Glick and other passengers decided to battle the hijackers. In so doing, they may have speeded the end of their own lives, but saved countless others.
According to published reports, Glick, a sales manager for a technology firm, told his wife that he and three other passengers, believed to be Mark Bingham, Todd Beamer and Tom Burnett, were planning to rush the hijackers. He told Lyzbeth that she needed to be strong, for herself and for their infant daughter, Emerson. The last words he spoke to his wife were these: "We've decided. We're going to do it."
Quiet leadership, Denbeaux said, was Glick's most defining characteristic. He showed it during college, where he was a judo champion. He showed it even earlier, as a member of Project Otzma in 1991, when he spent 10 months in Israel performing community service, studying Hebrew and honing his leadership skills.
He was, said Stein, physically imposing, standing just over six feet, with immense physical strength and the mental accuity to temper it. The third of six children raised by parents who valued kindness and compassion as much as physical strength and learning, Glick was the kind of guy who made his parents proud, Stein said, and he put their values into action.
There is talk, Denbeaux noted, that Glick, Bingham and Burnett may be honored with the Congressional Medal of Freedom, the highest award for valor that can be bestowed on a civilian. "That would be fitting," Denbeaux said.
This article is reprinted with permission of The Forward.