- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 23, 2001

The heinous savagery that snuffed out almost 7,000 lives in the deadliest attack ever on U.S. civilians also obliterated the historic certainty that Island America was invincible to armed assault from abroad.
The new certainty is this: The 19 ruthless hijackers wielding toy-size blades who made war on the mighty United States by ramming airliners into national icons of power and prosperity also triggered the coming battle to "drain the swamp they live in" and rip out terrorism by the roots.
The scars left Sept. 11 at the World Trade Center and Pentagon killing grounds are wide and deep enough to be seen from space. The carnage reflects a hostility so intense and carefully plotted that there is little doubt these suicidal Islamic fanatics were sent by an enemy who would use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons if he had them.
Their caution may be camouflage in the age of terror, but U.S. officials speak of months of preparation before the wrathful sword will fall on al Qaeda network leader Osama bin Laden and in President Bush's words "every terrorist group of global reach."
"Whether we bring our enemies to justice, or justice to our enemies, justice will be done," Mr. Bush said as he told Congress and the nation of the gathering conflict and appointed Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge to direct a new Cabinet-level Office of Homeland Defense.
The stunning reality of the first major assault in 60 years on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor is restoring a long-dormant patriotic unity at home and forging commitments abroad. Mr. Bush will need both to repel political and military challenges that threaten to ravage the U.S. economy.
"God Bless America" quickly became the new battle hymn of the republic, and there were many Kate Smith moments amid public unfurlings of flags, blazing seas of memorial candles and crowded prayer services.
Times were so unusual that trial lawyers decided to hold off suing anybody over the disaster for a while, anyway and both major political parties canceled huge congressional campaign fund-raisers.
At home, the hunt was on for "sleeper" terrorists still hiding in Americanized lives. After all, the known hijackers hid in plain sight, taking lessons at private flight schools, using computers in public libraries to swap e-mail and surf the Internet, signing up at neighborhood gyms to stay fit to kill.
Still unexplained is how a small army of foreign conspirators some of whom lived together before dying together and taking thousands of innocents with them eluded the notice of the FBI and military despite many warning signs.
Among the kaleidoscope of images in the rear-view mirror during the first 10 seemingly endless days since "911" became a symbol of disaster rather than rescue:
Marwan Al-Shehhi, 23, the hijacker from the United Arab Emirates who authorities believe plowed United Airlines Flight 175 into the south tower of the World Trade Center, almost missed his target wide right and banked sharply in the final seconds. The right wing of the Boeing 767 came up 45 degrees or more as the pilot delivered the coup de grace. Theories vary on whether the hijacker was battling turbulence, angling for maximum impact, or, more likely, was distracted by the inferno sparked when Saudi co-conspirator Mohamed Atta, 33, piloted American Airlines Flight 11 into the north tower 18 minutes earlier.
Rep. Tom Lantos, California Democrat and a 73-year-old Hungarian Jew, excoriated belligerent U.S. officials for changing their tune from two weeks ago, when the Bush administration had cautioned Israel to avoid violent responses to terror, "calling piously for restraint."
United Airlines chose not to punish a pilot for violating policy four days after the attack by advising passengers to resist should any hijackers try to commandeer his Flight 564 out of Denver. "We have not changed the communications messages that the flight deck crew makes, and we don't intend to do so," United Airlines spokeswoman Liz Meagher told The Washington Times.
The historic loss of some 350 New York City firefighters was crystallized in the death of the department's chaplain, the Rev. Mychal Judge. The 68-year-old Franciscan priest himself died under falling rubble as he administered last rites to the fallen. Five rescuers reverently carried Father Mychal's body to St. Peter's Church on nearby Barclay Street and placed it on the altar.
Queen Elizabeth II stirred hearts by ordering her Coldstream Guards Band to play the American national anthem during the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. Americans who heard it wept at the unprecedented gesture, which also underscored the loss of some 250 Britons the most from any other nation. Nationals of 80 countries perished in the attacks; India, Australia, Israel, Germany and the Philippines reported high tolls.

Horror beyond description
Within a week, the initial frenzy of fear and cancellations eased, but there was no sense of peace.
The new "normal" meant helmeted National Guard troops patroled the streets of New York and Washington, fortress atmospheres at airports, Major League Baseball canceled for a week during the pennant race, and the first fall weekend in memory was without professional football. Even the Goodyear blimp may be grounded.
The realization sparked unity and patriotism amid unimaginable death and suffering. Bouquets of balloons. Candle-lit street shrines. Flags flying from cars, houses, fire trucks and the cranes lifting bent steel from 450,000 tons of debris in which so many were entombed.
The horror was beyond description. Far more body parts were retrieved than bodies. The faces of witnesses said more than journalists' reports. Only those who saw the carnage up close seemed to understand the severity of the terrorist strike.
Much of New York still is on foot, with all private traffic banned from the five square miles where Dutch colonists built the original town.
Smoke from the ruins casts a haze over that hole in the skyline once dominated by the 110-story twin towers. But Ground Zero no longer was a fiery hell that gave up only nine survivors after the towers collapsed the latest one the day after the attack.
One distraught woman, trying to escape World Trade Center Plaza, told a camera crew for New York's WABC-TV: "People were jumping out of windows. Everybody was wondering where to go, everything was blocked off by security, they told us to get out, but there was nowhere to go. Then I heard that another plane hit. And if you go over, you can see people jumping out the window, they're jumping out the window right now. Oh, my God."
Despite being the worst civilian death toll at any one place in the nation's history, the overall casualty count is lower than first thought when estimates ranged up to 40 percent of the 50,000 who worked at the World Trade Center. The city brought in 30,000 body bags.
By Friday, the official toll climbed to 6,333 missing and presumed dead at the World Trade Center, 252 more whose bodies had been recovered there, and 6,291 treated at city hospitals for burns and other injuries. Counted among the dead were the 157 aboard the two airliners that crashed into the towers.
These numbers do not include illegal aliens known to have been working at menial jobs, some known only by first names and paid in cash.
Officials reported 125 civilian or military employees dead or missing in the Pentagon crash, not including the 64 passengers killed when hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 zoomed in from the west at an unusually fast 460 mph over Arlington National Cemetery. The Boeing 757 demolished Wedge 1 of the five-sided military complex. By Friday, mortuary workers had retrieved the remains of 117 persons, of whom 52 were identified.
Thomas Scully, head of the federal Medicaid and Medicare program, said reporters missed the poignant fact that parents who left their children in day care never came back to get them and never will. "A large number of kids haven't been picked up at day care centers, a huge foster care problem," he said.
Officials said day care centers on low floors of the World Trade Center were evacuated in time, and none of the children was thought to be among the dead. Children in the Pentagon's day care center also escaped unharmed, but Defense Department officials closed the facility, and one government source told The Times it never will reopen.

Rooting for Rudy
Another 44 persons died on board United Airlines Flight 93, which officials say with certainty crashed at Shanksville, Pa., after passengers rebelled at 35,000 feet. Some called home on cellular phones, learned of the kamikaze attacks in New York and rallied heroically, giving their lives early to prevent the pirated 757 from being rammed into the White House or Capitol.
"Let's roll," Todd Beamer was heard to say over an open line after an apparent vote by passengers. He joined Mark Bingham, Tom Burnett and Jeremy Glick in jumping one hijacker and storming the commandeered cockpit.
"Get out of here, get out of here" are the last words heard on the cockpit voice recorder before Flight 93 drilled into a cornfield at 9:58 a.m. It presumably is the voice of a terrorist who suddenly realized the tables were turned.
If anyone emerged in better shape from the ashes in New York, it surely is Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. On Day One, the Republican mayor barely escaped death when an emergency command post at the World Trade Center collapsed while he was inside.
Mr. Giuliani soon was everywhere: working with rescuers, shepherding the needy, showing the wreckage to the president and other visiting officials, announcing news good and bad, haranguing scam artists and foot-draggers, consoling the widows of nearly 400 firefighters and some 75 police officers lost on the job.
Unmentioned in most reports were 41 Port Authority police who also died, many after helping 2,000 flee a commuter train stuck four stories below ground.
Talk of allowing the mayor to run for a third term despite the law's limit was snuffed, but the message was clear: Rudy was New York's hero in its agony.
The mayor topped himself three days ago. The beleaguered city offered to help the nation by investing $800 million of pension funds in the beleaguered stock market rather than bailing out.
"We're not going to be selling any securities. We're going to remain confident in the recovery of the U.S. economy," Mr. Giuliani said.
Another indicator of the extraordinary shift in the national culture comes from the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. Leo V. Boyle, the group's president, said "more urgent needs" justify an indefinite moratorium on filing lawsuits to seek money from catastrophe.
Kenneth M. Rothweiler, president of ATLA's Philadelphia affiliate, saw an image problem. "I would hate to tune in and hear Peter Jennings announce that 1,500 lawsuits have been filed," he said.
The American Bar Association set up a toll-free line (866/606-0626) where 1,000 volunteer lawyers offer free legal advice from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily to victims, military personnel and other lawyers.

Turning a profit
Stockbrokers driven by fear and greed seemed less concerned about image. Day after day, they drove equity markets into declines to protect current investments or make hay on severely depressed prices.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 14.26 percent during the week, which the Associated Press ranks fifth in all-time one-week losses. The 1,369.7-point loss was the largest one-week point drop in history.
On Monday alone, investors recorded losses of $590 billion, or 73 percent more than the $341 billion the nation spent to wage World War II.
Brokers' eagerness to profit recalled the 1998 comment in a finance industry publication by Ken Matthews, chief financial officer of Chatham Steel Co. in Savannah, Ga.: "The finance people come on the battlefield after the battle is over and kill the wounded."
Others turning profits were the goldbugs who fear unstable currency and drove gold prices up 6 percent on the New York Mercantile Exchange before the New York Stock Exchange even reopened Monday.
Careful rescue efforts gave way to efficient cleanup and removal operations with little expectation that even one more person would be found alive.
Many wondered how the monumental twin towers could be toppled so easily and cataclysmically, particularly when each was designed to withstand a direct hit by a jetliner.
American Airlines Flight 11 plunged into Tower 1 just above the 96th floor at about 8:45 a.m. Workers were evacuating both buildings when United Airlines Flight 175 returned from a detour over south New Jersey and struck Tower 2 above the 80th floor about 18 minutes later. The Boeing 767s, both originally bound for California, each carried 13,900 gallons of fuel.
Construction engineers say firefighters should have expected an hour's time to evacuate survivors. However, concrete insulation protecting steel beams in building cores did not prevent the beams from melting in heat estimated above 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.
"It was the fire that killed the buildings. Nothing on earth could survive those temperatures with that amount of fuel burning," engineer Chris Wise said.
As top floors collapsed one after the other, the increasing weight became a 225,000-ton pile driver plunging into a hole with thousands of helpless humans.

The surprise factor
The FBI went after those behind the attacks with the largest investigation in U.S. history, assigning more that 4,000 agents and 3,000 support personnel. The FBI command center coordinates another 500 detailed from 32 agencies.
The FBI sought 240 for questioning and held 80 on immigration charges and six as material witnesses.
Could the terrorists have known what havoc they would wreak?
Their plans, and the results, were so unthinkable that no defense ever was considered, even among military fans of writer Tom Clancy, whose 1994 novel "Debt of Honor" ended with a terrorist decapitating the government and the Capitol dome by plunging a hijacked 747 into a joint session of Congress.
The novel's climax focused on an ingenious plan to bring the giant plane within a minute or two of Washington before it was recognized as a threat.
"It had never occurred to anyone to have fighter aircraft aloft over the capital on any other night like this one. [The pilots] elaborate lies and maneuvers were hardly necessary at all," Mr. Clancy wrote.
Military leaders and the FBI admit to being caught by surprise; they expressed a sense of futility that air defenses could have repelled such an outrageous attack.
"The fact that there were a number of individuals that happened to have received training at flight schools here is news, quite obviously," FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III told reporters. "If we had understood that to be the case, we would have perhaps one could have averted this."
Mr. Mueller said that he "and everybody else" was astonished. He has not explained the surprise, since the FBI previously had detected that terrorists were getting flight training.
Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta testified Thursday that his agency knew some facts of the plot, which he did not describe, but not enough to figure out what was happening.
On Aug. 17, 25 days before that bloody Tuesday, FBI agents arrested a man named Zacarias Moussaoui, a French-Moroccan, after he drew attention in Oklahoma and Minnesota while seeking training to steer a 747, on which he had no experience.
Back in February, a government witness testified in a New York court that pilots were being trained by al Qaeda, the terror network run by fugitive Saudi millionaire Osama bin Laden.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said al Qaeda, led by bin Laden and the militant Palestinian group Hamas, is active in 50 or 60 countries.

Response too late
There were few alibis for the painfully slow response by federal air- traffic controllers and Air Force interceptors on the nation's new day of infamy as four passenger planes that took off within 12 minutes of one another fell like dominos in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Only two airline crews had time to punch in the "7700" transponder code to signal they were hijacked.
News blackouts among some agencies delayed by almost 10 days the news that airlines and the FAA received a wave of bomb threats and false hijacking reports as the four actual incidents unfolded. These threats and reports apparently were designed to divert resources and thwart understanding of the plot.
One controller reportedly was delayed 15 minutes in reporting the hijacking of Flight 93 near Cleveland because he was guiding two other flights to emergency landings after bomb threats.
Even when the alarm sounded, military leaders reacted slowly.
"We're pretty good if the threat is coming from outside. We're not so good if it's coming from inside," the incoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard B. Myers, told a Senate committee.
"What will keep me awake in this job will be the things we haven't thought about. There are probably more surprises out there," said Gen. Myers, an Air Force fighter pilot who has flown the F-16s called to defend Washington and New York.
Vice President Richard B. Cheney said last Sunday that President Bush issued orders to shoot down airliners that threaten Washington, but questions linger about whether American fighter pilots would do so. And if they did it over New York or Washington, where could the target fall without spraying death everywhere?
Mr. Bush has remained visibly in charge since the first night, to the apparent satisfaction of most Americans. Initially, pollsters reported that 85 percent approved of his handling of the crisis and 70 percent support military retaliation.
One of many canceled events across the nation was the planned announcement by a press consortium of results of its statewide recount of the presidential election in Florida, a project that went far beyond what Democratic nominee Al Gore sought in courts.
The recount was begun months ago amid claims that Mr. Bush's legitimacy as president was suspect, an argument not heard recently.

Echo of Gulf war
Mr. Bush's personal high point during one of the gravest crises to face any president came when he visited hardhats moving rubble by bucket brigade at the World Trade Center site. Standing on a crushed fire truck, he bantered with the workers, who yelled back that they couldn't hear him.
Pulling the bullhorn close to his lips, Mr. Bush shouted: "The people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon."
"USA, USA," the workers chanted in response.
Mr. Bush is listening to some of the same advisers who in 1990 guided another president, his father, through two deliberate buildups over more than five months before the first shot was fired. Among them: Mr. Cheney (then secretary of defense), Secretary of State Colin L. Powell (then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice (then staff director of the National Security Council) and Chief of Staff Andrew Card (then deputy chief of staff).
Five days after the Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, Operation Desert Shield dispatched 82nd Airborne paratroopers, the 24th Mechanized Infantry and fleets of warplanes. That buildup to 240,000 troops was doubled before Desert Shield became Desert Storm and bombs began falling the evening of Jan. 16, 1991.
After a five-week air assault, allied troops moved in and routed the Iraqis. But they were called off 100 hours later, on Feb. 27, without pursuing the Iraqi army to its headquarters or removing Saddam Hussein from power.
This time, the first regular troops were dispatched after seven days. The initial call-up Sept. 14 of 35,500 reservists and 9,000 National Guard troops for homeland defense was supplemented Thursday by 5,131 from Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard units for combat duty.
The administration dubbed it Operation Infinite Justice, but quickly second-guessed that name out of sensitivity to Muslims, whose faith teaches that only Allah dispenses "infinite justice." Such sensitivity also reflects concern about scattered violence against Muslims and those mistaken for Muslims. Federal officers were investigating 55 cases, including three killings.
Rep. John Cooksey, Louisiana Republican, apologized for blunt remarks he made on the radio. Describing how police should profile Arab suspects, he said: "If I see someone come in and he's got a diaper on his head and a fan belt around that diaper on his head, that guy needs to be pulled over and checked."

Blending in
Truth is, the 19 Islamic extremists identified by the FBI as the hijackers didn't wear the distinctive cotton ghutra headdress common in the Arab world, and they didn't all observe Islam's ban on alcohol. They generally were young men who affected an ordinariness that fit frighteningly well into the culture they plotted against.
Virtually all looked trim and kept short-term memberships at neighborhood gyms. It was a pattern investigators tracked in hopes of finding confederates who remain burrowed as "sleepers" for another act of terror, or who intended to hijack additional planes Sept. 11 but were thwarted.
The five who hijacked Flight 77 out of Dulles and crashed it into the Pentagon joined Gold's Gym in Greenbelt and took flying lessons in Bowie. Those who made homes in Florida towns, some with families, for years worked out and took lessons in hand-to-hand combat at U.S. 1 Fitness in Dania, Gold's Gym in Hollywood, World Gyms in Delray Beach and L.A. Fitness in Coral Springs.
FBI agents sought registers of computer users at libraries in Fairfax County, Va., and Delray Beach, Fla. Reference desk librarian Kathleen Hensman in Delray Beach said three Middle Eastern men were online there in recent weeks. The FBI lists one, Waleed Alshehri, among the five hijackers of Flight 11.
A Florida newspaper reported that Mohamed Atta, believed to be at that plane's controls when it hit the north tower, used computers at a public library in Hollywood in Broward County.
Mr. Bush publicly let it be known he would be satisfied with bin Laden's capture whether "dead or alive." The government of Saudi Arabia reportedly offered Afghanistan's extremist Islamic regime, the Taliban, a huge cash bounty to turn over the Saudi exile, whom it has called a "welcome guest." The longtime fugitive already was on the FBI's "10 Most Wanted" list for other atrocities.
"They will hand over the terrorists, or they will share in their fate," Mr. Bush said Thursday night of the Taliban or other regimes that harbor the suspected architects of the attacks that shook the world.
Besides staunch ally Great Britain whose Prime Minister Tony Blair was in the House chamber and was hailed Thursday night by Mr. Bush among those quick to pledge military backing was Australia. So many Australians were lost in the New York inferno that it ranks as their worst disaster after Cyclone Tracy, which hit Darwin on Christmas Eve 1974.
"We are one of those quite unabashed allies of the United States," said Sandi Logan, public affairs counselor at the Australian Embassy.
It may take the president months to organize other nations into a working coalition for the war on terror, Mr. Rumsfeld indicated in a CNN interview. And, the defense secretary said, the job is much larger than bin Laden, dead or alive.
"The president has not narrowed this down to a man or a country," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "What you will see evolve over the next six, eight, 10, 12 months, probably over a period of years, is a coalition that will not be exactly the same with respect to every activity that the United States or another country might undertake [against] terrorism."
"We will not tire, we will not falter and we will not fail," Mr. Bush told the nation Thursday night.

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