Lost in the Shuffle

Alice Hoagland shakes hands with Senator John Hoeven.

I was thinking about all the things that took place while on assignment in Washington D.C. when I recalled something that I shouldn’t have forgotten.  While following Senator John Hoeven around the Capitol Building, we went to a meeting he had with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.  As we waited, McConnell finished up a meeting he was having with family members who lost loved-ones on 9/11.  It was a group of about six people, mostly parents.  As they exited the office Senator McConnell introduced the group to Senator Hoeven.  One by one they shook Hoeven’s hand and briefly explained how their sons or daughters had died during the attacks.  I was listening closely as one woman, Alice Hoagland, explained to the Senator that her son, Mark Bingham, was killed when Flight 93 crashed in a field in rural Pennsylvania.  I fought back a tear as she proudly discussed some of the details.  You may recall that Flight 93 is the flight that fought back.  Of the planes that were hijacked, it was the only one not to reach its target.  And that was due to the passengers rushing the cockpit and attacking the terrorists.  In fact, it was Alice Hoagland who told her son, Mark, in a phone call placed to him on the plane, that the hijackers were planning to crash the aircraft as part of a suicide mission.  It was then that a plan was put into place, and the famous phrase, “Let’s Roll!” was shouted.

As this all unfolded in Senator McConnell’s office, I tried to blend into the background while trying to videotape this moment yet somehow keep a respectful distance.  At about the same moment that I took the TV camera from my shoulder and set it down, Alice Hoagland approached me and introduced herself.  “I understand you’re from Grand Forks,” she said.  “Yes I am…you’ve heard of Grand Forks?” I asked.  “I lived there for a year when I was in middle school.  And even though I was only there for a year I really loved that town and the people, and I think about it quite often.”  I was speechless as she recalled her year in Grand Forks.

It really is a small world.  Cruel and painful at times, but there seemingly is good in all.  And I felt it when I shook Alice Hoagland’s hand.

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