|Monday, September 17
Updated: September 19, 2:48 PM ET
Glick lost his life, but won his final bout
By Adrian Wojnarowski
Special to ESPN.com
Jeremy Glick had gone off to college and lost touch with his sensei, Nagaysu Ogasawara. They had trained judo for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of hours together over the years, a little curly-haired pipsqueak transforming into a 6-foot-2, 220 pound black belt.
Years later in 1992, Ogasawara found Glick in the City College of San Francisco gymnasium, without a team, without a coach, and without a doubt in the world he was going to win a national college judo championship for the University of Rochester.
"Actually," Ogasawara said over the telephone last week, "he was the team. ... the coach, too."
Ogasawara had gone to the national championships nine years ago to coach West Point's Cadets but ended up in the corner of his old student, marveling over Glick winning a title his university never bothered to keep on record. One at a time, each foe dropped to Jeremy Glick. One at time, he beat them. All the way to the end, all the way to last week on United Flight 93, bound Newark to Eternity.
This was the solace his wife, Lyzbeth, had on Tuesday morning, talking to her husband on the telephone. Two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center, a third burned into the side of the Pentagon, and now Jeremy, 31, was on Flight 93, a plane terrorists had re-routed for the White House, or the Capitol, or perhaps Air Force One. They talked for 20 minutes, with him telling his wife he had hatched a plan with two passengers -- presumably Thomas Burnett and Mark Bingham -- to charge the terrorists flying the plane and crash the plane out of harm's way on the ground.
"Take care of Emmy," Jeremy Glick told Lyz, thinking to the end of his baby daughter, and soon, he told his wife goodbye. She passed the telephone to her father because she couldn't bear to hear the rest. He listened to the muffled screams, the sounds of a struggle, and soon the voices were gone and Flight 93 crashed into the corn fields of rural Pennsylvania.
"All I can think is that it's too bad he didn't know how to handle a plane," Ogasawara said. "Because he smashed those people right away. Maybe he had help with others on the plane, but I know he wouldn't have needed it. Three people with knives? It would've been no problem for him."
Word started to spread to old friends that there was a Jeremy Glick on the fateful flight, and nobody had to hear it twice to believe it was their Jeremy Glick. He was an all-state wrestler for Saddle River Day School in Northern, N.J., a judo champion. Josh Denbeaux, a lawyer and high school buddy of Jeremy's oldest brother, Jonah, insisted: "Those attackers are pretty f----, sorry, because they ran into the toughest son of a bitch I've ever known ... He wasn't just going to be fighting them, he was going to be the leader of it."
For this, Lyz Glick is grateful. In her mind, this was the reason her husband was destined to die on that flight: so others could be saved. Always, they'll remember him as a hero. Always, they'll remember him bursting to the front of the plane, ending his life as he long lived it: Full of fire, fearless and ultimately, for everyone else.
"Immediately, I knew he was one of the guys who took them down," said Joe Augineillo, who coached Glick's high school soccer team. "I guarantee it. He was a tough, hard-nosed kid. He was my captain, the protector on my team, and if you gave him a bloody nose, and knocked his teeth out, he'd still be coming after you again. He wasn't the most talented kid on the team, but Lord, you never wanted to be in that kid's way."
Sometimes, we wonder the value of sports. What are they teaching kids? What are the lessons learned? Well, there's a judo sensei and high school soccer coach in Northern New Jersey praying something they imparted on Glick benefited him on Flight 93.
Nevertheless, Jeremy, Thomas Burnett and Mark Bingham have to be remembered among the greatest champions American sports have ever produced. Who knows where our country would be without him and the heroes of Flight 93? Who knows what would still be standing, who would still be alive?
"All I did was cry (Wednesday) morning," Augineillo said, "but the only time I could come close to smiling was imagining sitting next to Jeremy on the plane. I could hear him, saying, 'Aug, let's get these (bleeping) guys.' I'm sure they pounded the (crap) of them."
"It's just a shame Jeremy couldn't fly the plane, too."
Jeremy told his wife he had his plastic butter knife left from breakfast with him, reaching for a little humor in the darkest moment of his life. Soon, he was gone, pushing for the cockpit, pushing for the terrorists, pushing for the end with Bingham of San Francisco and Burnett of San Ramon, Calif.
Those attackers never made it to the White House, the Capitol, Air Force One or wherever it was that they intended to crash on their one-way ticket to Hell. Out of Flight 93, three came Americans and the people remembering the wrestling and judo champion on board understood those terrorist bastards never had a chance: Here rushed Jeremy Glick, the sweetest, surest, toughest SOB they had ever known.
Adrian Wojnarowski is a columnist for The Record (N.J.) and a regular contributor to ESPN.com.