On Bravery: The “One Last Time”

This morning, I had the opportunity to attend the retiring of a faded, wind-battered US flag. When it was unfurled to be saluted one last time, I couldn’t help thinking of what day it is today and about all the people twenty years ago who went out to do their jobs, many for one last time. Some knew they had a dangerous job to do that day. Rick Rescorla, a Cornish Vietnam vet and Morgan Stanley security officer in the World Trade Center, had drilled the employees under his charge for emergency evacuations, anticipating the possibility of a terrorist attack. Thanks to him, many of those employees survived the attacks, despite being near the top of the building. Some of Rescorla’s last known words were, “As soon as I make sure everyone else is out.” He was last seeing running up the stairs one last time.

Many other people did not anticipate what that day would bring, like those on United flight 93. It’s obvious from reading the words of Todd Beamer in his last known conversation (below) that he did not want to die. I think it would be fair to say it scared him. But he was willing to do the job before him, his family in the forefront of his mind, probably hoping it would end well while knowing it likely would not. He completed his task on September 11 over an empty Pennsylvania field. He stood up for himself, his family, and the community of strangers who make up his country one last time.

For many others, though, the heroic work and the struggles went on for weeks and even years after that day, sorting through rubble or misinformation or lingering trauma. They got up each morning knowing they had to face it again – one last time over and over. I’m sure there were days they didn’t want to, but their fight wasn’t over. Like the worn flag, they were there day after day, collecting battle scars visible or invisible. I would guess that those who met their one last time on September 11th had similarly been there for the daily grind, facing the daily battles they believed worth the struggle, however imperfectly, until that fight was a part of them.

That’s what I hope I (and we) never forget – that even though our nation and the world have problems, we can be brave enough to face them, whether it’s the rare “one last time” or the slower but equally as heroic step by step, day by day fight for something better, something worthwhile.

*Transcript of Todd Beamer’s last phone call – I wasn’t able to verifty that this is authentic, but it matches all the information I’m able to find about his final conversation. Also, I don’t who if anyone owns the rights to this; please let me know if this is a copyright infringement, and I will paraphrase instead.

Todd: Hello… Operator…listen to me…I can’t speak very loud. – This is an emergency. I’m a passenger on a United flight to San Francisco… We have a situation here…Our plane has been hijacked…can you understand me?

Lisa: (exhaling a deep breath to herself) I understand… Can the hijackers see you talking on the phone?

Todd: No

Lisa: Can you tell me how many hijackers are on the plane?

Todd: There are three that we know of.

Lisa: Can you see any weapons? What kind of weapons do they have?

Todd: Yes… they don’t have guns… they have knives – they took over the plane with knives.

Lisa: Do you mean…like steak knives?

Todd: No, these are razor knives…like box cutters.

Lisa: Can you tell what country these people are from?

Todd: No… I don’t know. They sound like they’re from the Mid-east.

Lisa: Have they said what they want?

Todd: Someone announced from the cockpit that there was a bomb on board. He said he was the captain and to stay in our seats and stay quiet.He said that they were meeting these men’s demands and returning to the airport… It was very broken English, and… I’m telling you… it sounded fake!

Lisa: Ok sir, please give me your name.

Todd: My name is Todd Beamer.

Lisa: Ok Todd… my name is Lisa… Do you know your flight number? If you can’t remember, it’s on your ticket.

Todd: It’s United Flight 93.

Lisa: Now Todd, can you try to tell me exactly what happened?

Todd: Two of the hijackers were sitting in first class near the cockpit. A third one was sitting near the back of the coach section. The two up. front got into the cockpit somehow; there was shouting. The third hijacker said he had a bomb. It looks like a bomb. He’s got it tied to his waist with a red belt of some kind.

Lisa: So is the door to the cockpit open?

Todd: No, the hijackers shut it behind them.

Lisa: Has anyone been injured?

Todd: Yes, they… they killed one passenger sitting in first class. There’s been lots of shouting. We don’t know if the pilots are dead or alive. A flight attendant told me that the pilot and copilot had been forced from the cockpit and may have been wounded.

Lisa: Where is the 3rd hijacker now Todd?

Todd: He’s near the back of the plane. They forced most of the passengers into first class. There are fourteen of us here in the back. Five are flight attendants. He hasn’t noticed that I slipped into this pantry to get the phone. The guy with the bomb ordered us to sit on the floor in the rear of the plane… Oh Jesus… Help!

Lisa: Todd… are you ok? Tell me what’s happening!

Todd: Hello… We’re going down… I think we’re going to crash… Wait – wait a minute. No, we’re leveling off… we’re ok. I think we may be turning around… That’s it – we changed directions. Do you hear me… we’re flying east again.

Lisa: Ok Todd… What’s going on with the other passengers?

Todd: Everyone is… really scared. A few passengers with cell phones have made calls to relatives. A guy, Jeremy, was talking to his wife just before the hijacking started. She told him that hijackers had crashed two planes into the World Trade Center… Lisa is that true??

Lisa: Todd… I have to tell you the truth… it’s very bad. The World Trade Center is gone. Both of the towers have been destroyed.

Todd: Oh God —help us!

Lisa: A third plane was taken over by terrorists. It crashed into the Pentagon in Washington DC. Our country is under attack… and I’m afraid that your plane may be part of their plan.

Todd: Oh dear God. Dear God… Lisa, will you do something for me?

Lisa: I’ll try… if I can… Yes.

Todd: I want you to call my wife and my kids for me and tell them what’s happened. Promise me you’ll call.

Lisa: I promise – I’ll call.

Todd: Our home number is __________… You have the same name as my wife… Lisa… We’ve been married for 10 years. She’s pregnant with our 3rd child. Tell her that I love her… (choking up)…I’ll always love her…(clearing throat) We have two boys. David, he’s 3 and Andrew, he’s 1…Tell them…(choking) tell them that their daddy loves them and that he is so proud of them. (clearing throat again) Our baby is due January 12th…I saw an ultra sound…it was great…we still don’t know if it’s a girl or a boy…Lisa?

Lisa: (barely able to speak) I’ll tell them, I promise Todd.

Todd: I’m going back to the group—if I can get back I will…

Lisa: Todd, leave this line open…are you still there?…

Lisa: (dials the phone.) Hello, FBI, my name is Lisa Jefferson, I’m a telephone supervisor for GTE. I need to report a terrorist hijacking of a United Airlines Flight 93…Yes I’ll hold.

Goodwin: Hello, this is Agent Goodwin.. I understand you have a hijacking situation?

Lisa: Yes sir, I’ve been talking with a passenger, a Todd Beamer, on Flight 93 who managed to get to an air phone unnoticed.

Goodwin: Where did this flight originate, and what was its destination?

Lisa: The flight left Newark New Jersey at 8 A.M. departing for San Francisco. The hijackers took over the plane shortly after takeoff, and several minutes later the plane changed course – it is now flying east.

Goodwin: Ms. Jefferson…I need to talk to someone aboard that plane. Can you get me thru to the planes phone?Lisa: I still have that line open sir, I can patch you through on a conference call…hold a mo-

Todd: Hello Lisa, Lisa are you there?

Lisa: Yes, I’m here. Todd, I made a call to the FBI, Agent Goodwin is on the line and will be talking to you as well.

Todd: The others all know that this isn’t your normal hijacking. Jeremy called his wife again on his cell phone. She told him more about the World Trade Center and all.

Goodwin: Hello Todd. This is Agent Goodwin with the FBI. We have been monitoring your flight. Your plane is on a course for Washington, DC. These terrorists sent two planes into the World Trade Center and one plane into the Pentagon. Our best guess is that they plan to fly your plane into either the White House or the United States Capital Building.

Todd: I understand…hold on…I’ll…I’ll be back..

Lisa: Mr. Goodwin, how much time do they have before they get to Washington?

Goodwin: Not long ma’am. They changed course over Cleveland; they’re approaching Pittsburgh now. Washington may be twenty minutes away.

Todd: (breathing a little heavier) The plane seems to be changing directions just a little. It’s getting pretty rough up here. The plane is flying real erratic…We’re not going to make it out of here. Listen to me…I want you to hear this…I have talked with the others…we have decided we would not be pawns in these hijackers suicidal plot.

Lisa: Todd, what are you going to do?

Todd: We’ve hatched a plan. Four of us are going to rush the hijacker with the bomb. After we take him out, we’ll break into the cockpit. A stewardess is getting some boiling water to throw on the hijackers at the controls. We’ll get them…and we’ll take them out. Lisa… will you do one last thing for me?

Lisa: Yes… What is it?

Todd: Would you pray with me?

They pray: Our father which art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, And forgive us our trespasses As we forgive our trespassers, And lead us not into temptation But deliver us from evil For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory Forever…Amen. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…He makes me to lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside the still waters, He restores my soul, He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.

Todd: (softer) God help me…Jesus help me…(clears throat and louder) Are you guys ready?… Let’s Roll!

Image of offerings left at Flight 93 memorial courtesy of brandnewday via Pixabay.

Light the World with Books (Giveaway!)

Here’s part one of the Christmas Book Flood plan: a multi-day, multi-author book giveaway! This one is going on on Facebook at:

https://www.facebook.com/LighttheWorldwithBooks/ 

With more details at:

http://www.nikkitrionfo.com/

All you have to do is tag Facebook posts that brighten your day with #LightTheWorldWithBooks and you and your friend are entered to win. There’s a new book (and new contest) every day! And #LightTheWorld is sponsored by the LDS Church, but participants and their posts don’t have to be LDS to win (and most of the books are for a general readership). So, get out there, brighten up Facebook, and win some free books!

Pitch Wars Pep Talk

The submissions window is closed, and the mentors are now frantically reading through the subs, looking for “the one.” When I was a hopeful, this was the stage where I was biting my nails and checking my email every 10 (5? 3?) minutes, so I want to let y’all know what things look like on my side of the inbox.

I got a little over 100 subs, and you guys brought your A-game. I’m super impressed with the quality of the writing and the intriguing ideas I’m reading. I’m still in the process of requesting fulls. And I have to choose just one manuscript to work with. This is going to be hard. As in, I’m going to loose sleep over this decision. When concepts and writing are this strong, it’s going to come down to which story clicks with me the most–something that’s completely subjective–and I think the other mentors are in the same situation. Agents are too, and I have a lot more sympathy for them now.

So, to everyone who subbed to me, congratulations on finishing a manuscript, on polishing it until it shines, and on being brave enough to put it out there. No matter what happens with Pitch Wars, you are doing amazing things. Pitch Wars is awesome, but it’s not your one and only chance. I was a Pitch Wars alternate (when such a thing existed). I ended up publishing that manuscript with a small press. Then I found my agent in a different pitch contest. And the journey doesn’t end with getting published or getting an agent. There are still revisions and rejections and waiting and waiting and waiting.

So, take a deep breath, soak in a warm bath, eat some good chocolate. Find something else to work on for the next month so the waiting doesn’t kill you. And no matter what happens with Pitch Wars, it’s just one step on your path. Keep going!

Pitch Wars wish list!

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Welcome to my Pitch Wars wish list! This is an awesome community, and I’m excited for the chance to give back this year as a mentor in the adult category.

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Obligatory Pitch Wars GIF 😉

My official bio: E.B. Wheeler grew up in Georgia and California. She majored in history with an English minor and earned graduate degrees in history and landscape architecture from Utah State University. She’s the award-winning author of The Haunting of Springett Hall, Born to Treason, and No Peace with the Dawn (November 2016), as well as several short stories, magazine articles, and scripts for educational software programs. She was a 2014 Pitch Wars alternate, and her work is represented by Abigail Samoun of Red Fox Literary. In addition to writing, she consults about historic preservation and teaches history at Utah State University.

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Look, it’s me

Like an agent, you want a mentor who clicks with you, so here’s a little more about me: I’m married with two kids, ages 4 and 7. We have a mini mini-farm with gardens, two woolly rabbits, four chickens, and a cat. I love Corgis, but I’ve promised my husband no more pets for the time being. 🙂 I love Indian food and cheesecake. I’m a Mormon. I have a rare neurological condition called Brown-Sequard syndrome from a spinal cord injury. My favorite color is burgundy. The most amazing places I’ve visited are the Pantheon in Rome, Charlemagne’s Palace in Aachen, Little Bighorn in Montana, and Wales–yeah, the whole country–I love it. 🙂

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“O” yes, I love history too 🙂

Books and shows I think are brilliant and can’t get enough of: Jane Eyre, Lord of the Rings, Northanger Abbey, Arabella, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Secret Garden, The King of Attolia, Calvin and Hobbes, most of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books, The Scarlet Pimpernel (the musical even more than the book), Les Mis (ditto), My Little Ponies: Friendship is Magic, Avatar: The Last Airbender, The West Wing, Stargate: SG-1, and the BBC’s Merlin.

My critiquing style: For the person I select, we’ll go through your manuscript at least a couple of times, first for plot and character arcs, and then for fine tuning to bring out the best in your book. I’m honest in my critiques, but not crushing. I expect you to be open to feedback, but, ultimately, it’s your vision, and we can brainstorm together on trouble spots.

My critiquing strengths: I’m good at spotting sagging plot and character arcs and eliminating inconsistencies in both, ratcheting up the tension and stakes. I’ll also help you tighten up your language–make every word matter and cut the stuff that doesn’t add anything. Not sure if you have enough historical detail, or too much? I’m your girl. I worked writing scripts, so I’m good with dialogue too.

Things I love in a book:

  • Interesting characters who feel like real people I want to spend more time with. I especially love a cast of great characters. Bonus points if one of them has a disability that affects them but doesn’t define them.
  • Realistic emotions–give me the whole range: laughing, crying, scared, excited–but I prefer an overall optimistic/hopeful tone, at least in the ending.
  • Strong voice and gorgeous (but not purple/distracting) writing
  • Wit and/or humor. I don’t expect to be laughing through the whole book, but I love clever dialogue and funny situations.
  • A good love story. That can mean romance, but also love between parent and child, siblings, friends, etc. Code Name Verity was gorgeous and broke my heart and I loved it, and it’s all about friendship.
  • At least a little bit of mystery (Gothic romances are my guilty pleasure)
  • New insights into the world or the human condition
  • A historical angle, especially about a lesser known person, place, or event

What I don’t love:

  • Books that put down or stereotype any ethnicity, religion, etc. Individual characters can have prejudices, but the general tone of the book should not be derogatory (To Kill a Mockingbird does this well).
  • On-screen rape or child abuse. If it’s a necessary part of the story and it happens off-stage or is not graphic, I can deal with it, but I just can’t “watch” it happen.
  • Ditto with extremely graphic violence. I can handle blood and death, but I can’t do detailed murder scenes, or battle scenes that get down to the nitty-gritty of individual organs. If you’re describing someone’s squishy entrails, I may barf on your manuscript. 🙂
  • Graphic sex. I like my romances on the “sweet” side (though kissing is great!), and if sex scenes are necessary, I prefer them closed door. I don’t expect a sexless world, I just don’t need to see it happen.
  • Historical settings or characters that aren’t really historical. If Wikipedia was your only research source, it’s probably not historical enough for my tastes. Likewise if your historical character is abnormally “enlightened” for his or her time period–really just a modern person stuck in a historical setting (unless they really ARE a modern person stuck in a historical setting 🙂 ). Obviously fantasy worlds are different, but they should still have strong world-building.

I’ll look at anything that fits my likes/dislikes, but to give you an idea what I prefer, here are some of my favorites genres:

  • Upmarket historical fiction–the kind of books you might read in book club–either set in the past, or moving back and forth between past and present (The Help, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, The Shape of Mercy, The Rent Collector, Lynn Austin’s Candle in the Darkness)
  • Fantasy, especially with a historical angle or feel (Tim Power’s The Anubis Gates, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Patricia’s Wrede’s A Matter of Magic)
  • Retellings of myths, legends, folktales, and classics–historical or modern setting (Tim Power’s The Drawing of the Dark, Steven Brust’s The Phoenix Guards)
  • Historical mystery–either set in the past or with modern people trying to solve a historical mystery (ranging from Anne Perry to Clive Cussler/Dan Brown-esque books)
  • Clean historical romance. I love a good love story, but I’m also kind of picky about them. There has to be more keeping the characters apart than a misunderstanding that could be cleared up with a five minute conversation, and I like to see both of the main characters grow. “Enemies-to-lovers” is my favorite romance trope–love that chemistry.

I’m not the greatest Tweeter, but I’ll try to hop on every evening to answer questions until the submission window closes. Also, I usually try to follow other writers back, but I’ll wait until after the mentees are announced to avoid any mixed messages. I will give feedback to everyone who queries to me, though it may take me a couple of weeks to get to them all.

Back to the Pitch Wars Linky

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Born to Treason Kindle ebook update

And now, a message for my readers 🙂 : If any of you bought the Kindle version of Born to Treason recently and found that the file was corrupted, the publisher has re-uploaded a fresh, shiny file to Amazon, so you should be able to update it by the end of the day. Sorry for the inconvenience. Isn’t technology a wonder? Such a headache sometimes, but it’s also amazing what it can do. Thanks for reading!

All the news!

So, I’ve been quiet this month because I’ve been busy editing and marketing, but I have a couple of exciting pieces of news to wrap up the summer.

First, The Haunting of Springett Hall won the 2015 Gold Quill for best young adult fiction from the League of Utah Writers at their annual conference last weekend!

Second, my next book, Born to Treason (an adult historical fiction about a Welsh Catholic girl who has to choose between her country and her faith during the Reformation) will be published by Cedar Fort in May 2016!

And now, back to work…

Launch day!

Happy book birthday to my first novel, the Haunting of Springett Hall! Check out these first stops on the blog tour to read reviews and see what people are saying about it:

“The story itself was brilliant, I loved the romance and the paranormal and the bravery these two characters showed in the face of not just evil, but also their own faults. ”
Reading Lark

“I loved this book! It was not at all what I expected and I was really distressed that I didn’t have the time to devour it like I normally might have. Every time I had to put it down I groaned and inwardly complained about the other things I had to do instead.”
Literary Time Out

“It is a delicious ghost story with a twist.”
The Stubby Pencil’s Library

“This book has mysteries, suspense and danger around every corner. Just when I thought I had it figured out, the characters would unravel something new that messed up my theory. You’re going to want to stay up late reading this one!”
My Book a Day

“I get a little leery of paranormal stories because some of them are really far out there, but this one, even though there’s black magic and the occult, was handled in a clever way that didn’t leave me feeling icky. I really enjoyed the mystery of it all and the way things unfolded. There’s plenty of adventure, magic, and creepiness (especially the rats) mixed in with a great clean romance!”
Katie’s Clean Book Collection

“This book grabs your attention from the beginning and pulls you along for a great mystery and romance.”
Bookworm Lisa

“Definitely a great ghost story and the romance was a great add to the story!”
Community Bookstop

Books by E.B. Wheeler

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No Peace with the Dawn is now available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or add it on Goodreads.

 

 

BornToTreasonCover

 

Find Born to Treason at Amazon, Books and Things, Deseret Books, and through Barnes and Noble, Seagull Books, and many local book stores. Or add it on Goodreads.

 

 

TheHauntingofSpringettHallCover

 

The Haunting of Springett Hall is available on Amazon and Books and Things, or from Barnes & Noble, Seagull Books, and many independent book stores. Remember to add it on Goodreads!

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