The Success of 9/11

At the 9/11 hearings yesterday, Commissioner Fred Fielding opened his questioning of former FBI Director Louis Freeh with the following statement:
FIELDING: I am sure it’s no surprise to you or anybody here that there’s a lot of interest in today’s hearings and there’s a lot of interest simply because on September 11th we were totally beaten. We were beaten and all our systems failed.
Our systems to stop hijackings failed. Our intelligence, domestic and foreign apparatus failed. We had 19 people who were able to — some of whom were known by the CIA to be terrorists — entered our country, got visas, were living under their own names in this country, took flight lessons. They beat the security screening with knives to get into the aircraft and turn four aircraft into missiles.
And they had to have — it was interesting — they had to have 100 percent success in order to do this and they did.

What troubles me about Fielding’s statement is that all of our system’s did not fail. One of them succeeded — the ability of the citizens of this country to identify a threat and take action as individuals to elminate it. The ability that was demonstrated so dramatically — and successfully — by the passengers on Flight 93, the only hijacked plane where the terrorists failed in their mission to crash into a valuable target.
As I wrote one year after the 9/11 attacks, I don’t believe that America began responding effectively to Al Qaeda when we invaded Afghanistan. I believe we began responding effectively the moment that the passengers of Flight 93, fed information via cellphone calls from the ground, recognized what the terrorists on their flight planned to do — and acted to stop it.
After all the hearings that the commission has had on the failures of our government to prevent 9/11, or even to respond effectively while it was happening, shouldn’t there be at least one hearing to discuss what went right on that day? Where is the session devoted to studying the actions of the passengers of Flight 93, and their success at foiling the terrorists they confronted? Is there nothing at all to be learned from their actions, and their sacrifice — or is the comissison just more interested in finding fault than in actually recognizing success?
Or is it a more basic blindness — is the 9/11 commission, and our government in general, incapable of recognizing a defense against terrorism that merely consists of individual Americans willing to fight when it becomes necessary? That a defense that doesn’t require a huge appropriation bill and a massive administrative army simply doesn’t fit with the Washington mindset?
Update: Jay has related thoughts.