Every year, I ask you to relate your memories of September 11, 2001. Like me, I'm sure that the memories are seared into your memory, much like that of a cattle brand. However, today, as we watch the moving ceremonies being held in New York, D.C., and Shanksville, PA, I have a different request.
Ten years. Ten years. Can you believe it? It seems like last year; not yesterday, because on September 12th, and for days after, we were numb and in a state of shock. Disbelief. Today, the horror is still there but being dealt with in a different way. Yet, we are reminded that our safety is still in jeopardy with the heightened alerts, caused by "credible but unconfirmed" rumors of an imminent attack. Lawd. Lawd.
The networks broadcast an awesome array of documentaries commemorating that awful day. I listened to the reminisces of politicians, family members, first responders, etc., relating their thoughts and feelings as they learned of the attacks, the loss of their loved ones. But it was MSNBC's documentary on the 9/11 Commission, "On Native Ground," which caught my attention.
I confess that I paid scant attention when the commission convened, the hearings, or its' conclusion when the findings were issued. However, the question "What if?" was raised throughout this presentation as I listened to the testimony, recordings, and reflections. "What if" the airline had not wasted 23 minutes or more, when the flight attendant, Ms. Og (sp?), called in from the first plane shortly after takeoff at 8 a.m., to let her employer know that they could not access the cockpit. "What is your name?" "What seat are you in?" "What is your name?" And the information was not acted upon.
"What if" the controllers had not lost track of the second plane or the third one? "What if" the call from the passenger from the second plane, to his parents, had been relayed to the airline? And his parents watched as his plane crashed into the second tower. "What if" the correct information had been relayed to the fighter jets based in Langley, VA, sending them to the west of D.C., rather than over the Atlantic? "What if" the FAA employee, when asked if military force was needed (three planes unaccounted for), had replied in the affirmative rather than "God, I don't know." "What if" the fighter jets based in MA, ready to scramble, had been given the go-ahead, rather than being told to wait?
"What if" the advanced intelligence warning of the use of planes had been heeded? Condoleeza stated in her testimony that it wasn't regarded as credible because no specific data was included. Now is not the time to point fingers. We are all human and make terrible mistakes. But, just think...What if? So many mistakes.And we'll never know if some of the devastation could have been prevented or if the outcome would have been different. What if?
America has been at war for ten years, seeking retribution for those despicable acts on September 11th and attempting to keep us safe. Bin Laden has been dispatched to whatever hell he deserved. Thousands of lives lost; thousands more maimed. Lives disrupted, changed forever.
So on this crisp September morning, reminiscent of the one ten years ago, I ask: What If....?
God Bless the U.S.A. Be safe. Be Blessed.