Third Party & Independents Archives

A Day of Reflection

Tomorrow is a holy day in my opinion. While this is a political blog and I possess my own opinions of 9/11 and the last 5 years since the tragedy occurred, I choose to not be political on this post. In fact, I implore everyone to treat tomorrow with reverance and stand down from pollitical gamesmanship.

I fully expect our politicians in Washington and elsewhere to ignore this plea. I expect the "blame game" to be in full swing with people from every political stripe trying to score points or to cause damage to their opponents. They should not.

I would suggest to them all, treat tomorrow with care and honor. There are 364 other days of the year where we can snipe and snark at each other politically. Tomorrow should be a national day of reflection, remembering those who perished in the tragedy and their loved ones who survive them.

I remember vividly what I was doing that morning. I'm sure the rest of you do as well. I'd like to hear your story, mine follows below.

I was holding a project team meeting on the 51st floor of the 2nd tallest building in Houston on the morning of 9/11/01. Our client, a large energy trader (no not Enron) who had hired my firm to do a risk assessment on their IT systems. Our project team's work area was next to the Risk Management room where live news feeds were showing what I thought was a bizarre picture of a plane flying into a building. One of the company's risk managers came running out of the bull pen area and shouted that a plane had just flown into the World Trade Center building.

Everyone gathered around the televisions to see the early news reports and we saw a plane hitting the other tower. We immediately looked outside, and as it was a clear morning in Houston, we could see probably 30 or 40 planes circling the Houston area. About 20 minutes later, after everyone begin to understand the magnitude of what had just happened, the building claxons sounded and we were instructed to evacuate the building. We had to walk down 51 floors of stairs to get to the lobby of the building and were instructed to leave the downtown area. It wasn't until I got to my hotel and called my wife did the reality of the situation become clear. We had been attacked. Our people on our land had been attacked. I had no idea how many people had died. My firm has several contracts with the Army and people I knew were working at the Pentagon. I heard a plane had crashed in to the Pentagon and I feared for my colleagues. The rest of the day was spent trying to contact friends and colleagues working in New York and in Washington. One of my firm's employees died in the attack on the Pentagon.

Posted by Dennis at September 10, 2006 12:09 PM
Comment #180388

Tuesday 11 September 2001 started for me, like most Americans, as a typical work day. I got up at 05:00, did the chores, ate breakfast, then went to the factory where I hand a 09:30 meeting with a supplier that I was considering switching to.
At around 09:50 my wife called and told me that someone had flown planes into the World Trade Center. I turned on the TV in the break room and sure enough all the channels were carrying it. Then they said that a plane had hit a Pentagon.
Given the fact that it was obvious that our Country was under attack, and a couple of my employees had kin in New York, I sent everyone home and canceled the second shift so my employees could be with their families.
I spent the rest of the day with my wife and a couple of my daughters that came over. My son dropped by for a while and we talked about the possibility of his having to go to war.
Fortunately neither of my employees lost their kin on 911. One has a daughter the worked in the World Trade Center but she was out of town on business that day. As soon as she heard of the attack she called her parents to let them know she was OK.

Posted by: Ron Brown at September 10, 2006 9:19 PM
Comment #180426

Dennis, I saw Clark Ervin on C-Span yesterday in a May book fair discussion. He is a former inspector general of both the Department of Homeland Security and State Department and is a conservative Republican. He explains why he thinks Americans are vulnerable to terrrorist attacks despite changes in homeland security since 9/11.

His book, Open Target: Where America Is Vulnerable to Attack, discusses how our government, both White House and Congress are failing the whole homeland security issue. He accuses the White House of covering up our vulnerability by PR’ing the steps taken, while withholding the facts about how vulnerable we are still. He explains that the TSA testing right after 2001, the benchmark for how good our airline security is, has been repeated twice since 2001, and the score has remained almost exactly the same in 2003 and 2005. We are little more secure today than on 9/11 in our airlines, our ports, railways, and borders.

So, the 30 billion a year we are spending on Homeland Security is wasted taxdollars. He says the FBI and CIA have reinstated their pipestacks, don’t share information even with the Homeland Security agency folks in a timely fashion which preempts coordinatation of an effective response.

One cannot honor the fallen on 9/11 and support a government that 5 years later has talked a good game, but, whose effectiveness in defending our homeland is almost entirely overseas based where 10 times the Homeland Security budget is spent. It appears our government is myopically focused on fighting terrorism overseas while turning a blind eye toward defense against terrorism here in the U.S. and crossing their fingers hoping eavesdropping on communications will suffice.

He is careful to point out that improvements have been made for the some of the money spent, but, that a 60% effectiveness rating in perceiving and intervening in terrorist activity is woefully inadequate, since, it only takes one successful attack to repeat 9/11. Also, that that there is no centralized Finance oversight nor a contract review process centered in the Homeland Defense department. Each agency within the department has its own contracting agents and finance review, resulting in attrocious waste, fraud and abuse of the taxpayer’s dollars.

The 60% figure above comes from TSA’s ability to spot bomb ingredients, guns, and other weapons passing through transportation terminals. He points out that radioactive materials were smuggled across our northern and southern borders by testers with fake Nuclear Regulatory Commission ID’s.

I took from his comments that it is not a matter of if we will be hit again, but, when and how bad. That to me, is a sad testimonial to those who died on 9/11. For they would tell us their greatest hope is that we would not allow 9/11 to happen to any other Americans in the future. Yet, we appear to be shoring up the Public Relations of Homeland Security rather than effectively beefing up Homeland Security.

And that is a gratuitous disrespect for those that died on 9/11 and who would hope their deaths were not in vain. Words are cheap. Actions speak far louder than words, and for all the speeches this 9/11, 2006, it seems clear our government is not able to honor the victims as the victims would desire to be honored, by a safe America where 9/11’s can no longer occur.

Posted by: David R. Remer at September 11, 2006 3:52 AM
Comment #180445

I was at work (at an office of about 200-300 people), sitting in my cubicle coding databases, when the person across the cube wall from me got a phone call telling her about the first plane. We all jumped online, trying to find more information, but the major news sites were already flooded. I got onto, which somehow managed to stay up during the whole thing, and started feeding info to the office.

After the second plane hit, me and the desktop support guy went to the large training room and hooked up the projector to a TV tuner. Pretty soon everyone in the building was in that training room watching the coverage. Management told us all that we could go home if we needed to, but most of us stayed.

What I remember most is feeling so much different than everyone else around me. People were scared, angry, and hurt. But me… it didn’t affect me. I didn’t know anyone in New York or Washington, nor had I ever been to either city. I was as detached from it as if it had happened in South Africa or the Ukraine.

Later that day, though, a couple of my co-workers started talking about what countries we should bomb in retaliation, and that’s when the real fear set in. I wasn’t afraid of the terrorists, though. I was afraid of what MY COUNTRY would do in retaliation, out of some desperate need to do SOMETHING. I was afraid of the inevitable knee-jerk that was to come.

It was then that I finally understood what FDR meant… “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” It’s not the actual fear — it’s what the fear makes us do. It’s what we do BECAUSE we’re afraid.

I had never really though of terrorism as that big of a problem before. I mean, if it’s just the murder of a few dozen or even a few thousand people, then it’s not really worthy of international attention. More people are killed by car accidents, or economic sanctions, or drug overdoses than by terrorists. By themselves, terrorists can’t really change the world.

But on 9/11, I realized the true danger of terrorism. It’s not what the TERRORISTS do — it’s what OTHER PEOPLE do in response. Terorists don’t have the power to change the world, but they can scare the hell out of those who do have that power, and by doing so force them to use it.

Posted by: Rob Cottrell at September 11, 2006 10:50 AM
Comment #180474

I was online when a friend told me that there was a fire at the World Trade Center. I turned on CNN and saw the second plane hit.

I called my husband’s work to get a number to reach him (he was on a job in Japan), told them and then called my husband. I woke him up, and was on the phone with him when I saw the news about the pentagon and watched the towers fall. I was frightened and angry, and worried because my husband was an american overseas.

I will never forget.

Posted by: womanmarine at September 11, 2006 2:26 PM
Comment #180492

Rob, great comments which reflect my own thinking on the potential power of terrorism. If one can strike fear into the hearts of one’s enemies, one can manipulate them using that fear. One can even potentially make one’s enemy abandon notions like freedom from government intrusion, and freedom of movement, and privacy, and defendant rights which give a terrorist’s enemy moral high ground.

Terrorism also contains the power to turn a people against its government, if that government fails to respond appropriately. No doubt, al-Queda is pleased to hear our government is surveilling Americans, creating databases of what Americans read, watch, who they talk to, and even infiltrate American groups like Quakers and anti-Iraq war senior citizen groups, all of which work to turn the people’s anger toward their governing officials as much as toward the terrorists.

The terrorists, with the exuberant compliance of our government politicians, even erected barriers between US citizens and their government. Visible physical barricades as well as psychological and emotional barriers. Can a democracy survive with such barriers between a free people and its government? I have serious doubts.

Fear brings out the foundation’s of one’s character and tests one’s principles. Fear does the same for nations. Al-Queda has won some important battles on this front in America’s homeland. But it remains to be seen if Americans will overcome their fear and reclaim their moral high ground and truly win the war against terrorism, which can only be won by refusing to live in ways that reflect that fear.

One of the things I respect about Israel and her people is that they no longer live as if they are targets. They live just the opposite. Against opponents who would terrorize them, they move their homes and towns into the terrorist’s midst. That response may not bring a quick end to the hostilities, but, it sure as hell takes the muscle out of terrorist’s tactics and strategies, insuring they will never, ever, be victorious against such a brave and courageous people who will never return to cowering to power.

Posted by: David R. Remer at September 11, 2006 4:14 PM
Comment #180666

David, very good posts.

This is a hard day. I still can’t talk about it easily, so I won’t.
I must say though, I envy other people for their emotional distance from 9/11. It’s a tragedy, and deeply felt, but if it didn’t touch you personally, I imagine it would be a lot like it is for me to watch the old footage of the ships in Pearl Harbor burning. There are probably people out there who can’t watch that footage either, because there is someone they loved in one of those ships being burned alive as they watch.
It’s like an open wound that doesn’t heal — and it’s terrible that the imagery is now a ubiquitous American image, because it is shoved in our faces so often.
It is hardest on those whose family members were in those buildings or on those planes. So much harder, I can’t even begin to tell you.

The anger that is felt when the event and the footage it is used as a political ploy (often) is deep, though not nearly as deep as the pain of the loss.

I love my friend and I miss him. His son just graduated from highschool. He’d have been so proud of him — deans list.

Posted by: Adrienne at September 12, 2006 12:48 AM
Comment #180723

Rob, I exactly had (and unfortunatly still have) the same exact fear about America next moves will make in fearfull and retaliation mode. I instantly fear she will take out guns and fire at sight in a pure (and tragic) muscular reflex.

And that nightmare eventually comes true since, sadly.

To win against terror, don’t act while terrorized, for a start.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at September 12, 2006 9:10 AM
Comment #180760

I suspect the terrorists are also overjoyed at the state of our deficit, and the state of our military.

These things should worry us all.

Posted by: womanmarine at September 12, 2006 11:54 AM
Comment #180807

Fear brings out the foundation’s of one’s character and tests one’s principles. Fear does the same for nations. Al-Queda has won some important battles on this front in America’s homeland. But it remains to be seen if Americans will overcome their fear and reclaim their moral high ground and truly win the war against terrorism, which can only be won by refusing to live in ways that reflect that fear.
David, I’m optimistic about our country and our people. We’ve been through a rough patch, but we always see examples of Lincoln’s “Better Angels of our Nature”. The American people’s outpouring of sympathy and shared grief on 9/11 (we were all New Yorkers) and then again the people’s response to the tragedy in New Orleans keep my faith alive. The governments that we elected failed us, but the general population gave of their hearts, time and pocketbooks in both cases. This is a good and decent country at its core. We’ll have some who will want to profit off of fear and use it for their own purposes, but by and large we are still that shining city on a hill.

I have great hope for our people, especially when I listen to our youth. I believe they have watched us and learned considerably from our mistakes.

Posted by: Dennis at September 12, 2006 1:40 PM
Comment #180971

Dennis, you just touched on one of the reasons the polls show the people so far apart from politicians on so many issues. Perhaps out of a sense of guilt for their failure to prevent 9/11 in the first place, our government finds itself headlong in this pursuit to prevent any other kind of attack without first thinking, deliberating, and rationally asking how that best can be done. The American people are a brave people when disaster strikes. But, a great many are also succumbing to these false protections afforded by law, and enforced upon them by law, without asking whether such measures are effective, worthwhile, or even tolerable for a free people?

Before 9/11, would warrantless eavesdropping on Americans have had a remote chance of passing Congressional approval. Of course not. Are we brave as a people, if we pass it now, undermining the 4th Amendment of our Constitution which protects us from the evil that sometimes gets elected to offices of power?

FISA was set up precisely because evil intentions were elected to offices of power and which gratuitously abused the power of office against fellow Americans. Richard Nixon’s wiretaps and breakins of the Democratic Party and other Americans having committed no crime, were some of the more well known examples.

But there are bills now being prepared by Cheney and Wilson which will make FISA an acronym without meaning, and which establish a power in the occupant of the White House which will have no Congressional NOR judicial oversight or restraint.

These bills are being promoted and sold on the back of the fear the terrorists hoped to forge in the hearts of Americans. Cheney said if we don’t let the President have the power he asks, we will be suffer at the hands of the terrorists again.

I say, if we allow these bills to pass, we will have handed another victory to the terrorists in their hope of sending our democracy into disarray, and showing the world that Americans talk about checks and balances to others, but don’t preserve and exercise them for themselves.

Nothing would sell better for al-Queda than for them to demonstrate that America is virtually a one man government patriarchal society of authority exactly like the society al-Queda wishes to establish for itself. For without congressional and judicial oversight and restraint on the office of the presidency, al-Queda will be speaking the truth about America.

Posted by: David R. Remer at September 13, 2006 12:39 AM
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