Politics & Policy

“What Do I Tell the Pilot?”

We have never known anyone quite like her, this silky, brilliant, incandescently lovely, ferocious, charming woman. Barbara Olson, a heroine in life, a heroine in death, was murdered Tuesday morning in the blazing crash of a highjacked airliner exploding against the side of the Pentagon. The last words phoned to her beloved husband, Ted, were, “What do I tell the pilot to do?”

How like her to demand to take charge, to make things better, to set things right. That was the way she lived. But, this was not a head-to-head debate with some closed-minded suit. This was no TV show where a flick of her wheat shiny hair or crinkle of her cornflower eyes could turn away the savage wrath. Her brilliant mind, clicking to the last, could do nothing to save her life.

Barbara Olson was passionate about her beliefs and fearless as a mother tiger. She loved this country and loathed its detractors and despoilers with a relentless zeal. That was why she was on that plane — off to another venue to protect and defend what she held so dear. She had delayed her flight so as to have breakfast with her husband. It was his birthday.

The energy with which this girl-woman lived her life, the patriotic fervor with which she advanced and protected her deeply held beliefs leaves a shimmering example of what it means to be an American. On a personal level, one could know no more loyal friend, no sweeter advocate, no gentler, stronger soul.

She leaves behind a husband she adored, grandchildren-in-love she doted on, her legal career, her published work, her two big fluffy dogs, and a home she had built as a leafy redoubt to shelter them. She had more loving friends than any of us will have in a lifetime. Hers was a life lived in full but only by half. She was only 45.

To have had this sunny, funny, happy soul in our lives has enriched us all. To lose her in such a horrible, blinding, sickening flash of hatred and evil sickens the heart and seals the determination to use her life as an example of how it should be lived. And, as our bodies shiver for revenge, revenge, revenge against those who took her from us so early, so soon, we must look to her bravery as guidance for our own behavior. She would have wanted us to do. She would have told us to square the shoulders, lift the chin, and never, never, never give up doing the right thing even as our hearts ache with loss and anger.

Goodbye, Barbara. Hello, new angel. You shall not have died in vain.


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