In ter­ri­ble death, we cel­e­brate brave lives

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

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.

Stephen Match­ett

Or­di­nary peo­ple: United 93 pas­sen­gers de­picted in The Flight that Fought Back

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