The four planes of 9/11

President Bush thought the first airplane may have been an accident. With the second he knew we were under attack. The third he interpreted as a declaration of war. This according to a recent National Geographic interview of the 43rd president.

To say we didn’t see September 11th coming is the understatement of the young century. In the three years prior, Islamic terrorists had destroyed U.S. interests in Tanzania, Kenya, and Yemen. While unwelcome, we accepted those events as somewhat expected in the distant wildness of African and Middle Eastern unknown.

Then, like cardiac arrest, the unconventional enemy struck the heart of our economic and governing systems. Nothing felt safe afterward. No trip to the mall. No sporting event. Each of us kept an eye over her shoulder.

What made 9/11 different than other “you’ll-always-remember-where-you-were” days is that we all were the target. Our very way of life was in the cross hairs. The enemy would have eradicated all of us infidels if it could have.

On that day, the president was whisked by a protective Secret Service from Florida to Louisiana to Nebraska. By mid-afternoon, he had had enough. He “damn sure wasn’t going to address the nation from a bunker in Nebraska,” Bush said in the National Geographic interview.

The enemy would not have the “psychological victory” of driving the nation’s president from its capital. That night he spoke comfortingly to a shell-shocked nation from the comfort of the White House.

No one ever accused Bush of being overly articulate. But he had heart and conviction and a wild west inclining. Once the enemy came into focus, he was the right man to fight it. I can’t imagine Al Gore offering the same laser-sighted, zero-tolerance pursuit.

Methodically and over many months, Bush took the fight to America’s enemies, first in Afghanistan, then in Iraq. Both missions had Congressional and United Nations support, you’ll recall.

Three years after 9/11, our nation toyed with, and ultimately rejected, an Al Gore sound-alike in John Kerry. The terrain was still rugged and we knew it. We still wanted – and needed – a cowboy in the White House. Despite cries from the left, we voted to stay the course.

Bush’s success in protecting the homeland allowed for non-defense matters to dominate the debate in 2008. What a blessing to be able to worry about your family’s financial, not physical, security. How remarkable that the economy could return as voters’ primary concern just seven years after the day the world stopped turning.  

Smoking disorganized terrorists out of holes is tiresome work. Success comes with high costs. Community organizing sounds smoother, safer. We elected a community organizer with limited qualifications as commander in chief or chief economist.

Fortunately, President Obama has thus far deferred to ground commanders on military matters. He has bin Laden’s head to show for it.

In contrast, his handling of fiscal matters is another, budget-busting, government-expanding story. He grabbed a crisis by the reins and hammered home a liberal domestic agenda. Our economy sputters along.

Regardless, the tenth anniversary of the events of September 11th is a time for solemn celebration. From the innocent businesswoman in a skyscraper, to the firefighter who climbed to his death, to the private detonated by a roadside bomb, the last decade is a story of shared sacrifice, a tale of an empire struck and striking back.

President Bush didn’t say exactly what he thought about the fourth airplane, the one that plummeted to the Pennsylvania field, the one driven to the ground by raw heroism. To me, it represents a mighty nation’s first counterattack in a new kind of war.

3 Responses to “The four planes of 9/11”


  1. 1 Sherry September 13, 2011 at 10:23

    That was terrific and well said. I’m so proud of you!!

  2. 3 Bennye Waskom September 14, 2011 at 00:00

    Obviously we need another cowboy and no more community organizers…


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