Angel Patriots: The Crash of United Flight 93 and the Myth by Alexander T. Riley

By Alexander T. Riley

When United Flight ninety three, the fourth airplane hijacked within the September eleven, 2001 terrorist assaults, crashed right into a box close to Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the gash it left within the floor grew to become a countrywide web site of mourning. The flight’s forty passengers grew to become a media obsession, and numerous books, videos, and articles advised the story in their heroic struggle to band jointly and sacrifice their lives to forestall Flight ninety three from changing into a weapon of terror.  In Angel Patriots, Alexander Riley argues that by way of memorializing those members as patriots, we now have woven them into a lot greater tale of our nation—an current net of narratives, values, dramatic frameworks, and cultural characters approximately what it capability to be really American.           
Riley examines the symbolic effect and function of the Flight ninety three catastrophe within the nation’s collective awareness, delving into the spontaneous memorial efforts that blossomed in Shanksville instantly after the scoop of the crash unfold; the ad-hoc websites honoring the sufferers that during time emerged, comparable to a Parks Department-maintained memorial with reference to the crash web site and a Flight ninety three Chapel created by means of a neighborhood Catholic priest; and eventually, the production of an respectable, everlasting crash monument in Shanksville like these equipped for earlier American wars. Riley additionally analyzes the cultural narratives that developed in motion pictures and in books round the occasions at the day of the crash and the lives and deaths of its “angel patriot” passengers, uncovering how those representations of the development mirror the parable of the actual American nation—one that americans believed was once gravely threatened within the September eleven assaults. A profound and thought-provoking study, Angel Patriots unveils how, within the wake of 9-11, the United States mourned even more than the lack of life.

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The work done by those on a terminal ward in a hospital to avoid taking too seriously the humanity of the patients under their care sheds a penetrating light on death in its mundane appearance in our world. Once persons are socially ascribed as dying persons, they enter a special status, and a specific kind of cultural work is required to place persons into this category. This might seem counterintuitive; do we not know objectively when someone is or is not suffering from some illness or other malady serious enough to categorize him as “dying”?

The cinematic version of the narrative does not include any discussion of the social help Gardner got in his effort to pull himself out of the street. Gardner has been vocal in his praise especially of Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in the San Francisco area, which provided him with temporary housing and other material resources when he was homeless. The film also fails to give us a sociological context for considering Gardner against the backdrop of the many thousands of others who were more or less in his same situation in America during the Reagan administration, occupying the same structural place and possessing the same skills and tenacity, who did not become millionaires, and who in many instances met dismal ends in lifelong poverty or prison.

2 In the centuries since the Spanish conquest, Mexican culture, imprinted with a Spanish Catholicism itself centrally concerned with the meaning of death, has retained a focus on death that is absent in much of Europe and the West. 4 Some other kinds of societies have worked hard to efface death from popular consciousness. Philippe Ariès’s history of European death traces the emergence of la mort apprivoisée, or “tamed death,” in the Middle Ages, where death came to be seen as something that could be sensed in advance and prepared for by those with the proper vision.

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