Flight 93 rips open the heart

The echoing sobs broke the silence of the darkened theater. One report described them as loud and uncontrollable.

Alice Hoagland said she had never heard anything like that in a theater. But then again, “United 93” is not like most movies, and the audience watching it at the Tribeca Film Festival Tuesday night in New York included many family members of the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93 which crashed near Shanksville, Somerset County, on Sept. 11, 2001.

The Los Gatos, Calif., woman lost her 31-year-old son, Mark Bingham, and this was her second time viewing the 111-minute film. Families also had an opportunity to see it before the public screening.

“It’s a movie America ought to see because it is terrorism pitted against heroism. It is beautiful, and I felt extremely proud that Cheyenne Jackson played the part of my son,” the tall rugby player who ran his own public relations company and nearly missed the flight.

“The director has very skillfully juxtaposed two conflicting forces and has done it in a way that is just spine-tingling,” Hoagland said.

“He lays, side by side, the humanity and the fear of the four young men who clearly were grappling to get to that sticking place within themselves so they could do that ugly, ugly thing they were about to do. It’s a human and almost a sympathetic look at the terrorists, but it pulls no punches about the violence they inflicted on the passengers.”

Elsewhere in New York’s Ziegfeld Theater was Ben Wainio, whose 27-year-old daughter, Honor Elizabeth Wainio, was killed on Flight 93.

“I heard much more heavy sobs and, really, people were definitely upset,” Wainio said, “I think it was mostly family members who had not seen it Monday night. A lot of people had tears in their eyes.”

“United 93” opened in theaters Friday, and Hamilton Peterson suggests it should be mandatory viewing for all high school civics classes.

“That’s how strongly I feel about it, and that is due to its accuracy and how they researched it,” the Bethesda, Md., lawyer said.

Peterson lost his father and stepmother, Donald and Jean Peterson of Spring Lake, N.J., on the flight. Married since 1984, with a blended family of six children, the couple was headed to a reunion at Yosemite National Park.

The movie underscores what President Bush told Peterson and others at the White House: The word “sacrifice” had been redefined by the passengers and crew who wrested control of the Boeing 757 and saved one more target from terrorism.

Peterson, president of Families of Flight 93, saw the movie at one of the private screenings director Paul Greengrass and Universal Pictures arranged. He also intended to watch it for a second time last night and doesn’t think it’s too soon for America.

” ‘Schindler’s List’ is a depiction of history that we all must be aware of, to ensure it never happens again,” said Peterson, the father of boys 6 and 10 who have not seen the R-rated movie.

Esther Heymann, Elizabeth Wainio’s stepmother, said she supports efforts to remind Americans about that day and “United 93” will do that.

“My goal is to get the Flight 93 memorial built and, of course along with that, the recognition that these 40 people deserve,” Heymann said from her Maryland home.