Prominent columnist Michael Kinsley writes:
So, what's the lesson [of United 93]? Is it to defy authority and follow your own instincts in an emergency? If so, we haven't learned it. For a while after 9/11 there was talk of changing the official policy regarding hijackings and to start encouraging the passengers to whack the hijackers with their pillows, and so on.... But today, airline passengers are still told at the start of every flight that in an emergency they should remain calm and follow instructions from anyone in a uniform....
Poking around the Web, I stumbled across the official "Hijacking Survival Guidelines" for employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They say, "Stay calm and encourage others around you to do the same. Do not challenge the hijackers physically or verbally. Comply with their instructions. Do not struggle...."
So the U.S. government is kicking in millions of dollars for a memorial to the heroes of United 93. But meanwhile it is officially encouraging people not to do what these heroes did, should the occasion arise.
Should another hijacking occur, I think many passengers are likely to resist the terrorists regardless of what government bureaucrats might say. Flight 93 has entered the popular consciousness in a much more powerful way than any government-issued instructions could. Still, it is deeply troubling that the homeland security bureaucracy can't get this relatively simple issue right. If they can't even learn the most obvious lessons of the last major terrorist attack, I highly doubt that they can effectively prepare for the next one.