By Nicholas Stix
September 12, 2001
Toogood Reports/A Different Drummer
I’d been up all night working, and got up at ten. On the radio, an announcer intoned, “The World Trade Center is under attack.” Nah. Can’t be. But it’s not April Fool’s Day. Maybe it’s a test. Yeah, it’s a test of our response to a terrorist attack.
I turn on the TV, but it doesn’t work. The stations I rely on, NBC, Fox, ABC, are all out. Nothing but snow. Ditto for the WB, UPN, and PBS. Only CBS’ Channel 2 works. Just after I tune in, the voice-over announces that one World Trade Center tower has collapsed. I still can’t believe it. Smoke billows out of the lone remaining tower. Then, just like that, the second tower is gone, in a cloud of dust. The eyesore that had for 25 years marred the Manhattan skyline is gone, leaving only the Empire State Building on the horizon.
Now, I believe it.
You know the rest. Four separate, commercial flights, hijacked by four separate teams of suicide bombers working with knives, stabbing flight attendants, and herding passengers in the back of planes, passengers that had no idea that this was to be a hijacking like none they had ever heard of. Two groups were butchered against the two World Trade Center towers, one was turned into cannon fodder and shot into the Pentagon, and a fourth group went to earth in Pennsylvania. Thousands are dead; thousands more are wounded.
An Irish garbage man who lives in my house reports that the local Roman Catholic parish was full of people praying for 25 missing neighbors -- cops, firemen, and office workers. An old girlfriend of mine works for a Big Six accounting firm there. Everybody knows someone who works down there. Make that, “worked.”
TV reporters and anchors stumble over their words. They fight off tears, confess to having wept in private, or stand on the street, with wet, red eyes, like CBS’ Pablo Guzman. His colleague Michael O’Looney says, “We can’t seem to get our arms around this story.” A grizzled, gray-mustachioed fireman at the scene laments, “I just want to cry.” Another veteran reports, “There was tons of companies giving May Days. We lost tons of guys.” Fire chief William Hoff cooly tells reporter Byron Pitts, “It’s personal, now.”
At a press conference, fire commissioner Tom Van Essen, who has gone from fireman to union head to commissioner, can barely speak. He has lost 300 men (in addition to 300 wounded firemen), including his chief and assistant chief, old heads on whom he relied, who could have retired years ago. Whenever Van Essen tries to answer questions about how many of his men are missing, his voice trails off, inaudible. “... uh, uh, unable to pull them out... How do I feel? We lost people who have given forty years.... I can’t find ANYBODY from Rescue 5.... The Fire Department will recover, but I don’t know how.”
Most of the missing firemen were trying to save people inside the towers, when the towers collapsed. (The 47-story World Trade Center 7, sandwiched between the two towers, burned out of control, until at 5 p.m., it collapsed.) Reportedly, many of those people were still in the towers, due to a misleading P.A. announcement telling them that the fire was under control, and that they should return to work.
I try to be strong, so that our baby won’t be upset, but I can’t fool him. On any other day, whenever I hold him on my lap, he will fight to get on the floor, and usually win. But today, he is in no hurry to get off my lap.
By the evening, the stench of the dust is in my Queens neighborhood, miles away, across the water from Manhattan.
Dan Rather, of all people, announces, “America is at war.” But against whom? In Pearl Harbor, at least we knew who the enemy was. Most observers see Osama Bin Laden’s fingerprints all over this attack.
Do we have the grit to find out who did it, and to do what must be done? George Bush talks about winning “the war against terrorism.” Sounds like “the war against drugs.” I don’t like that sound. The President and his secretary of state talk of bringing the terrorists “to justice.” Do they plan on making arrests, and prosecuting these characters “to the full extent of the law”? Just imagine, if we had told the Kaiser and Hitler and Il Duce and Tojo, “We are going to bring you to justice!” I’m sure they would have surrendered right then and there.
You don’t “bring terrorists to justice”; you kill them.
On WCBS-AM (880) this morning, a “terrorism expert” talked of how he had hoped that the juries trying Bin Laden’s men who had blown up our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, killing over 200 people, would NOT sentence them to death. That would have turned the bombers into “martyrs,” and made their compatriots mad. Well, the mass murderers only got life. Such terrorism “experts” have helped turn America into an international laughingstock.
On the West Bank, Arabs who live on the American dole celebrate the attacks, while Yasser Arafat pronounces himself “shocked.”
A motley crew of left and rightwing anti-Semites have long fantasized, that if only we let the terrorists have their way with Israel, we could have a “twofer” of dead Jews and cheap oil.
At 1 a.m., Dan Rather observes skeptically of the Taliban’s insistence that we have “overestimated” Osama bin Laden, and that he “couldn’t” be behind these attacks, “This is their story, this is their song, they haven’t changed it.”
We have to take out Bin Laden, in any event. Because even if it wasn’t him this time, it will be next time. He has already bombed the World Trade Center in 1993, two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998, and the USS Cole earlier this year, murdering hundreds.
And we have to take out other terrorists, too. But terrorists won’t be taken out by the air strikes that have become the signature of our dainty, feminized military. Air cover, yes; but the killing will be done in fields and mountains and deserts by men in specialized forces, for whom “humanitarian mission” is a foreign phrase.
We have to consort with anyone who can help us, do whatever is necessary, and shower contempt on the “international law” and “international standards” crowd, which has used such myths, often in the service of terrorists, in order to undermine American resolve. Terrorists are psychopaths, and psychopaths live through fear. Sensing fear, they become stronger; sensing fearlessness, they become fearful. America must hunt down terrorists, make their lives “nasty, brutish, and short,” and thereby teach them to fear US.
I wonder what Colin Powell would suggest, if he were alive. Hopefully, the President’s threat to treat those who harbor terrorists the same as terrorists, was more than rhetorical posturing. The best thing the President has going for him is his personal intelligence advisor, the President, aka “41.” But George W. Bush still must know that he may not only say, but must DO the right and necessary thing.
A CBS reporter noted, “The phrase you heard over and over was, ‘It seemed just like a movie.’ Dan Rather responded, succinctly, “No movie.”