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Schuringa’s Quick Action on Flight 253 Is a Life Lesson in Optimism

   Optimists live the action imperative. Do you?
   It wasn’t the billions spent on counterterrorism programs, airport security or terrorist watch lists, it was alert and courageous passengers and crew members who prevented disaster on Northwest 253’s Christmas Day flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. When Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab trided to ignite his makeshift incendiary device taped to his leg, people reacted.
   According to reports in the New York Times (, one woman shouted, “What are you doing?” and another shouted, “Fire!” Jasper Schuringa, a Dutch film director, in the same row but on the other side of the aircraft, immediately moved into action.
   “Without any hesitation, I just jumped over all the seats,” Mr. Schuringa said.“I was thinking, Oh, he’s trying to blow up the plane. I was trying to search his body for any explosive. I took some kind of object that was already melting and smoking, and I tried to put out the fire and when I did that I was also restraining the suspect.”
   “But then the fire was getting worse, so I grabbed the suspect out of the seat,” Mr. Schuringa said. Responding to calls for water, flight attendants doused the flames with fire extinguishers and helped Mr. Schuringa walk Mr. Abdulmutallab to first class, where he was stripped, searched and locked in handcuffs.
   Mr. Schuringa shrugged off praise for his swift action, which he said was reflexive. “When you hear a pop on the plane, you’re awake, trust me,” he said. “I just jumped. I didn’t think. I went over there and tried to save the plane.”
One of the attributes of optimists is a commitment to action. They invest their worry and fears into constructive action. Optimists are realists. They are aware of the problems they face, but are committed to overcome whatever challenge they face. Why? Because they have a track record of overcoming obstacles on the way to success, and they believe that they will prevail again.
   George W. Cecil summed it up well, “On the plains of hesitation, bleach the bones of countless millions who, at the dawn of victory, sat down to wait, and waiting died.” On flight 253, the quick action of Mr. Schuringa, fellow passengers and the crew made the difference between life and death.
   We may not be able to stop motivated Islamic terrorists from finding new ways to attack us, but we can all be ready to do what we can to stop them.
   General Peter Pace talks about the importance of action in defeating any enemy: “One thing the Marine Corps teaches is that it’s better to be doing something than doing nothing. If you stay where you are, you’re in the position where your enemy wants you to be. If you start doing something, you are changing the rules of the game.”
   Are you ready to act if you are the passenger next to a terrorist? Optimistically, one of the strengths of the American spirit is optimism. Let’s all commit to keeping that spirit alive. In this case, we got a life lesson from a Dutch film director. He didn’t direct this time; he had the courage and presence to take a starring role! Be ready to act. The next challenge may face you.

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