9-11: More Questions than Answers

Was it just a coincidence that the terrorist attack on America took place on 9-11 – the phone number we dial in an emergency? Or was it only a coincidence that the attack took place on the first day of celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year? Again, maybe the perpetrators just wanted to ruin the International Day of Peace, held annually on Sept. 21, for everyone. Or maybe there was no significance at all to the date.

Trade Center attackedAt least four passenger jets were hijacked on Tuesday. Two made kamikaze runs into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, each of which later collapsed, as did a nearby building later in the day. A third plane smacked into one side of the Pentagon. The fourth, for reasons still unknown, crashed in rural Pennsylvania. I suspect we can thank the crew of that plane for managing to martyr themselves without letting the terrorists take out their fourth target.

Many news sites on the Web were inaccessible Tuesday morning, but radio stations and television networks provided excellent coverage of the ongoing disaster. Many of us saw the second jet crash into the second tower and explode into flames, then watched in disbelief as one tower after the other collapsed. These scenes replayed all day long, and we also watched from a distance as the dust slowly settled over New York City.

It was a brilliantly orchestrated piece of terrorism (in an evil genius kind of way) that caught the intelligence community unprepared. A powerful symbol of capitalism was destroyed. The building that represents American military might was attacked. It was nothing less than an act of war, although unlike most acts of war, we don’t know who was behind it.

But terrorism is about a lot more than blowing things up. Every act of terrorism has great symbolic power that goes well beyond the obvious. The World Trade Center and Pentagon were not chosen at random, but because of the impact these attacks would have on the American psyche. It was an attack on capitalism, on world trade, and on the military industry. It was an attack on our feelings of safety. It was an attack on America.

The attacks shocked us with disbelief – how could such a thing happen in our land of freedom? Yet it had, and we had no idea who had done it or why. Rumors that radical Palestinians, drug cartels, and Islamic militants were behind it made the rounds. But nobody stepped forward to tell us who had done it or why; we may have to figure that out for ourselves.

As I write this, Osama bin Laden appears the most likely suspect. He has the money, the militant Islamic following, and the hatred of the United States to do it. Bin Laden is widely believe to be behind some of the worst acts of terrorism against Americans: the 1993 truck bomb attack on the World Trade Center, the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies, and last year’s bombing of the USS Cole.

Whoever did it planned it well. Each team of hijackers had to have at least one pilot who would be able to fly the plane into its intended target – I can’t imagine any pilot would do that at the hijacker’s insistence, even with a gun held to his head. Whoever was behind this had the money to train pilots and figure out how to get weapons past airport security.

Don't Tread on MeBecause of the nature of the attack, it may be difficult to determine just who executed that attack, let alone the power behind it. Even if the black boxes from the jets along with passenger manifests and airport surveillance videos can help identify those who hijacked the planes, tracing things back from there will be a real challenge.

That won’t stop us from trying, from dedicating our best investigators to the job of determining who was behind the kamikaze terrorists. And when we do, whether it’s a nation or militant group, we will declare war and bring them to justice.

Although they have attempted to sow fear and chaos, the terrorists have also shown us the resolve and compassion of New Yorkers. These horrendous acts have united the American nation just like the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

But even then, the damage has been done. Americans will no longer feel safe at home. The terrorists have succeeded in terrorizing us.

Keywords: #911 #sept11 #september11

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