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Two men have died in his place

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Two men have died in his place

Steve Scheibner was the keynote speaker for the Evening of Honor.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin


POSTED May 10, 2014 1:32 a.m.

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The letters appeared in red across the top of the computer screen where just a day before American Airlines co-pilot Steve Scheibner had last seen his name.

It was the employee booking system that was supposed to put Scheibner in the first officer’s seat of a Boeing 767 taking off from Boston’s Logan International Airport for a transcontinental, non-stop flight to Los Angeles.

That flight was American Airlines Flight 11 – the plane that hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

And he was within a 20-minute window of being one of the 92 people that instantly perished when at 8:46 a.m. the silver fuselage of the massive airliner shattered the Lower Manhattan skyline and changed America forever. 

With an American flag illuminated behind him, Scheibner – a Detroit native that was living in Maine when he put his name in on Sept. 10 at 3 p.m. to make himself available to fly the next day – paced back and forth on the podium at The Place of Refuge Friday night to tell the story about how two men have died in his place. 

The first, Tom McGuinness, held seniority in the company and bumped him from the flight manifest within the 30-minute window that the company allows whenever route assignments become available and have not been claimed. 

It was McGuinness’ name, Scheibner said, that he was searching for when he logged back in to the computer program to see exactly who it was that slid into the seat – one that, as a pilot that had flown every one of the 757 and 767 airliners that the company owned, he had physically sat in before. 

All he saw were those red letters. The code for what the airline enters when a flight never reaches its destination. 

It was a seat, Scheibner said, that he was qualified to sit in. He had all of the certifications and the flight hours and had it not been for a man slightly his senior in the company ladder – a Portsmouth, New Hampshire native that kissed his wife goodbye the same way that he did every time he left on a trip – it would have been him Mohammad Atta and a set of determined hijackers kill when they turned a regular September morning into a defining event the world over. 

But the other man who died in his place – not to take away from McGuinness’ passing, he said – is something altogether different. That man had nails driven into his hands and feet, wore a crown of thorns and died, he said, for the sins of all mankind so that the promise of life everlasting can be passed even in the face of immeasurable sadness and incredible shock. 

He encouraged everybody in attendance to stop living like “Someday Saints” and start living like “Borrowed Time Believers” – realizing that not everything can be put off until tomorrow because he learned all too well about what can happen tomorrow. 

The event, Evening of Heroes, was a fundraiser to benefit the church’s annual Memorial Day Celebration at Woodward Park that draws tens of thousands of people to pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of their country. 

This year a new panel will be unveiled with the likeness of Second Lieutenant Emily Perez – the first female minority Cadet Command Sergeant Major in the history of the United States Military Academy at West Point and the first in the “Class of 9/11” to die in the Global War on Terror. 

A brief video showcasing her life was shown as a part of Friday’s ceremonies. Her family will be on hand for the weekend that kicks off on Friday, May 23. 

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