Hero: How a Warwick woman helped thwart terrorists
Originally published in The Times Herald-Record on Sunday, November 11, 2001

  By Beth Quinn
  The Times Herald-Record
   Sure, Osama bin Laden. You had four terrorists on Flight 93, the one that crashed into a Pennsylvania field. You had big plans for that plane, didn't you. The White House, maybe? Or Air Force One?
   But we had Linda Gronlund on that plane. Linda Gronlund of Warwick, New York, USA. You didn't figure on her, did you? What could a woman from Orange County, New York, USA, do to bother the likes of you and your murderers?
   I will tell you. She was among the passengers who hatched the plot to take back the airplane. Angry and defiant, they gathered their wits and resolved to stop you.
   They were the ones who stood up to your mad men in their final hour. "Oh, no," they said. "You will not kill anymore people on the ground. You will not topple one more national monument. You will die first."
   And so would Linda Gronlund, along with the 44 others on that plane.
   She is my hero now.
   Linda Gronlund knew she was going to die. Like several others on that plane, she made a cell phone call from 35,000 feet, just moments before the plane went down. She called her younger sister, Elsa. We have been hijacked, she told her. We know about the World Trade Center. We have voted on a plan. We will thwart this enemy to prevent others from dying, even if we can't save ourselves.
   Then she told her sister, her lifelong best friend, where to find all her personal papers. She knew she would have no further use for them.
   Those who knew Linda Gronlund have no doubt that she was among the ringleaders on that airplane, raising her middle finger in defiance at the men wearing red headbands who were carrying knives and talking of bombs.
   Linda Gronlund was the kind of person who would take no prisoners if she believed in a cause, according to her friends and co-workers at BMW in Montvale, N.J., where she worked as an attorney.
   "She would have been at the forefront of any decision to take back that plane," said David Freilich of Warwick, a friend of Gronlund's and a former colleague. "I have no doubt that she sacrificed herself."
   Her mother, Doris Gronlund of Sag Harbor, Long Island, is also certain her daughter's stubborn defiance helped prevent the flight from completing its mission. It is what she keeps telling herself, over and over. It is what she holds onto.
   Osama bin Laden, you would never have suspected this from a woman, would you? Women in your world aren't meant for bravery. You would surely expect them to cringe in their seats as your terrorists did their deadly work.
   Well, Mr. bin Laden, she had a surprise for you, didn't she? Listen. Here's the woman who helped stop your crazy men. She was a lawyer. She was also a marine chemist. She sailed and went scuba diving, and she held a brown belt in karate.
   She was a race-car driver who could take a car apart and put it back together blindfolded. As one of her co-workers said, "She was the best car guy we had around here."
   Yet you would have had to look past the wide smile, the sense of humor, the rosy cheeks, the Nordic blonde good looks to see the steel in her.
   She had no fear. Those who knew her have never seen her back down from anything, let alone your miserable, puling, little dead terrorists.
   She is my hero now.
   Osama bin Laden, you should know that Linda Gronlund got on that plane with her boyfriend, Joseph DeLuca, to take a vacation. It was her birthday the next day, her 47th. They were going to tour the California vineyards. They were going to celebrate.
   But when your terrorists took over in the cockpit, she knew her vacation was canceled. Soon, she realized that her birthday was canceled, too. There would be no more birthdays, ever.
   But not before she and the others on that flight said, "Screw you," to your evil lunatics. Wherever you wanted that plane to end up - wherever you planned for more death and destruction on the ground - they said, over our dead bodies.
   We don't know how, but they stopped you. How very brave they were. How remarkable.
   Don't imagine that you killed them. They died, yes, but they decided how and when. They saved American lives. They deserve the Congressional Medal of Honor. Linda Gronlund and the others on that flight deserve a statue, a black marble wall, a monument.
   Osama bin Laden, when you count your enemies in America, you must remember now to count the women, too. You must remember that in America, we have more Linda Gronlunds.
   The women of America will not cringe in an airline seat. We will not hide in the basement. We will not be victims.
   In Linda Gronlund of Warwick, New York, USA, you have given us a role model. Do not underestimate us. Do not turn your back on us, for we will follow her lead.
   We have a new hero now.

© 2001 Orange County Publications, a division of Ottaway Newspapers Inc., all rights reserved.