JULY 2023

Happy Independence Day!

A year ago today this Independence Day, I was on the job. As a pilot for a major airline, I may have had to work, but the weather was beautiful, and there were no delays (hard to imagine right?). As we taxied to Runway 13 right at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, I noticed the downtown Manhattan skyline, specifically the Freedom Tower, standing tall at 1776 feet.

We made the 180 turn and lined up on the runway to take off, we began our acceleration. The “Heads Up Display” we look through to receive flight data indicated that the airplane was in “ROLL” mode as we began to move down the runway. I’ve seen this indication multiple times every day at work for years, but for some reason, seeing it on the 4th of July last year, I thought “Let’s Roll.” I’d never thought of the “ROLL” mode in that way.

Of course that’s the phrase heard by ground operator Lisa Jefferson as Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer got off the phone to help his fellow passengers and crew attempt to take back Flight 93. If not for their actions, a major emotional symbol of our nation and our freedoms, most likely the Capitol, would have been destroyed, and worse, so many more blameless people would have been lost.

In the last year or so, The 9:57 Project has given a lot of thought about “The Spirit of 9:57,” the embodiment of courage and teamwork that gave rise to the actions by the heroes of Flight 93. Todd may have said those words, but he was just one of forty who must have thought, I’ve got to help the others now. We know Todd’s story because we have testimony about it. All forty have a place in history, some more mysterious than others, because we don’t have all the specifics. They began a long line of courage and teamwork that extended from the aisle of their 757, to the veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq, and continues to this day in other ways. America’s veterans still want to help, and The 9:57 Project gives them a chance to do so, by relating stories of teamwork and courage to America’s young people. The help of a veteran is without limits at times- if he is put in the right position...

A couple days ago I was on a run in my neighborhood and noticed how a recent storm had fallen several trees. Many neighbors had branches and even entire trees cut and gathered at the curbside for pickup. This reminded me of the actions of my pal Jeff J. Braunhausen, a fellow veteran of the 101st Airborne, whose Chattanooga, Tennessee neighborhood had been ransacked by tornadoes one night a few years ago, with several houses destroyed.

He related to me how when light came the next morning, people had not only lost homes, some with no loss at all were in despair, simply because fallen trees blocked exit from the neighborhood. So Jeff got busy with his chainsaw delivering not only free passage but hope. When the storms come and inevitably pass, some among us have the tools, literally, to clear the debris of damage.

Jeff is just a typical 101st guy, and I am personally thankful to him not only because he helped his neighbors, but because I was the eleventh Army aviator he helped in coming to work for the airline he flies for. He is not a recruiter and gets no bonus for his services, just the joy of assisting his fellow veterans get a good job. I am grateful for it.

This brings me back to the story of Flight 93. I used to hear the phrase "Spirit of 1776," growing up, especially on this day, which to me means Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, and our imperfect national story to achieve those ends. Just like the "Spirit of 9:57," none of those pursuits would be possible without the spirit of help that comes from our friends.

In addition to the help The 9:57 Project gets from many veterans, we’ve been so fortunate lately to receive advice and support from families of our Flight 93 heroes. They are amazing heroes themselves, the epitome of courage and resilience. Thank you to David and Peggy Beamer for your support and help over all these years, and thank you to our new friend Debby Borza, mother of Deora Bodley, the youngest passenger on Flight 93, who according to her Mom, lived so “bright.”

Through your help for The 9:57 Project, we’ve come to know your children, and that has been a gift that is so immense that it’s challenging to put into words. And Happy Birthday Debby, born on the 4th of July!

And, Jeffrey J. - thanks again for my job!

John Hamilton


On June 30, The 9:57 Project welcomed a group of teachers from Kentucky as they traveled across Pennsylvania. Their work took them to Philadelphia, Gettysburg, and Shanksville in an effort to seek new ways to engage young people with American history. Our co-founder Peter Findler met up with them to share how The 9:57 Project uses the Flight 93 National Memorial to engage students with the history of 9/11, and shared ways that they can get involved with our work through our free curriculum guide and small group discussions with Veterans in the classroom. We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to share our work with them and we look forward to future collaboration!

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