During the attacks on September 11, 2001, one of the most heroic accounts of that day was aboard Flight 93 when the passengers made a decision, in the face of overwhelming odds, to try and stop what they knew was wrong. They intervened in a terrorist occupation of the flight. They coordinated among themselves, some communicated with their loved ones, and they acted using very principled values to stand in the face of danger. Ultimately, it would cost the lives of all on board, but the number saved is truly unimaginable as history would recall. But they did “something” to stop “the wrong”…

This week, I finally saw all nine minutes and twenty nine seconds of the George Floyd murder (I get that as I write this, the verdict is still out, but I will trust my own eyes and call it like I see it… a murder) and I felt such struggle and panic from the crowd standing on the street. There was a woman firefighter, a man who had been in police training, and many others yelling at the police to stop killing Mr. Floyd. They were watching something wrong with devastating effects. However, they were bound by cultural and societal requirements to obey law enforcement. That is what we’re supposed to do, comply with the right things. But what if it’s the wrong thing? What if they felt the compulsion like those on Flight 93 did and acted on their values and stopped the senseless murder of George Floyd? Policing has wrongs that aren’t being corrected in moments like that. All the officers on the scene that day, the ones who could have intervened and didn’t, were the supporting cast for an act of terror. For those on the street, suppose they risked arrests for acting against that wrong… What if? This contemplation isn’t any sort of indictment in any way on the bystanders that day. They did what society has always asked of them and they complied, legally, with law enforcement to stay back. I can only imagine what they live with in the aftermath of the conflict between what was societally instructed and what was truly right. They are Derek Chauvin’s victims, too. For that, my heart hurts for them. But what if next time…?

I don’t support anarchy or breaking of laws. I do support stopping a wrong regardless of those who is committing them. I simply pose the question that every time someone has to film police brutality and it’s clearly evident, such as the George Floyd murder was, what if the people on the street acted on their sense of principled values and used overwhelming force to stop a murder? What if in every instance we could witness heroes like those on Flight 93? What if policing changed, too? What if?

by Rory Andes

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