Just as Rear Admiral Michelle Janine Howard was blatantly shortchanged, her role in the rescue of the Maersk Alabama from Somali pirates relegated to footnote status, Leroy Wilton Homer Jr., first officer of United Airlines Flight 93, hijacked as part of the infamous 9/11/2001 terrorist attack, has escaped the notice of television, radio and print.
Rear Admiral Michelle Janine Howard is Black. The late LeRoy Wilton Homer Jr. was — surprise — Black.
It truly is telling that in this supposedly new and improved, allegedly enlightened America, the media persists in its age-old practice of giving African Americans short shrift. Racist discrimination, after all this time, is still institutionalized, entrenched in one of the world’s most powerful systems of information.
Some of the crew and passengers tried to foil the hijacking and reclaim the aircraft. During this struggle, it crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, resulting in some 40 deaths, yet sparing countless others at the intended target, the White House.
Consider the catastrophe that would have been. Now, ponder that Homer, the pilot, has virtually been omitted from media coverage.
I saw the 2006 television film Flight 93 and was gratified that LeRoy Wilton Homer, Jr. even got mentioned, played by British actor Biski Gugushe. As history books in kids’ classrooms are updated, along with chronicling how courageous the White passengers were in thwarting the hijackers by crashing the jet into a field in Pennsylvania, killing everyone on board, let us hope this man is made part of the remembrance. Just in case he isn’t, here’s a primer of sorts that Black youngsters — and others, for that matter — can read and reflect on.
So, for the record, LeRoy Wilton Homer Jr. couldn’t’ve had flying more in his blood unless he’d been born with wings. At 15, he started flight instruction in a Cessna 152. By 18, Homer had his private pilot’s license and joined the U.S. Air Force, where he became a second lieutenant.
He served in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Desert Shield and in Somalia. He left air force in 1965 as a captain.
For his actions piloting UA Flight 93, posthumously received, among other awards and citations, are honorary membership in The Tuskegee Airmen and the Congress of Racial Equality’s (CORE) Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award. He is survived by his wife, Melodie and daughter, Laurel.
He is not, however, appropriately acknowledged in the American media.