In terrible death, we celebrate brave lives
The Flight that Fought Back 8.30pm, Discovery
THIS docudrama is terrific television, an emotionally exhausting but ultimately uplifting story. The flight in question is United 93, the fourth aircraft al- Qa’ida terrorists hijacked on September 11, 2001: the one that crashed en route to Washington.
The researchers and writers have assembled the stories of the people on the flight and used all sorts of sources to illustrate their final hours. There are interviews with friends and families, recordings of phone conversations from the flight and re- enactments of what official investigations determined happened on the plane.
All the evidence is integrated into a coherent narrative that makes sense of the way passengers behaved when they realised what was occurring and tried to take back the plane from the terrorists.
Those interviewed who lost loved ones on the flight are calm. The actors who play passengers and crew on the plane are entirely credible. And even though everybody knows the out- come, this is a very dramatic dramatised documentary.
The reconstruction of the flight is plausible, unless of course you believe the conspiracy theory video, which holds that the flight landed in Cleveland, where everybody on it was smuggled into obscurity.
Everything is presented so calmly and clearly that there is no allpervasive sense of the horror involved. And this looks like a flaw, presenting all the principals as behaving with more courage and dignity than could be expected from ordinary people who suddenly found themselves facing an appalling end.
If this is the case, it is easy understand why.
This is a hard 90 minutes to get through. It would be almost unwatchable with actual audio of people pleading for their lives and collapsing in pain and fear. But even if the story is sanitised, it is difficult not to
to empathise with all the victims and admire the men and women who tried to stop the terrorists.
To call these people ordinary Americans is to underestimate what this random sample of people had done with their lives. Certainly their friends and family who are interviewed want us to think well of them. Certainly their foibles and failings do not get a mention.
But it is a fair bet that these victims of terrorism were in the main honest and honourable men and women who had no quarrel with their killers.
And it is a racing certainty that a profile of victims of terror anywhere in the world would come up with the same conclusion.
This program is far more a celebration of humanity than a denunciation of the wretched fools who presume to tell the rest of us how we should live — and die.
Ordinary people: United 93 passengers depicted in The Flight that Fought Back