9/11 Anniversary: Ten Years Passed

September 10, 2011

Ten years passed. Who can believe it? Almost all people around the world can remember 9/11. It shocked all people around the world. I can remember that in the first hours and the first days after the attack, many Iranians were shocked and could not believe it. “It was like a Hollywood film; the scene of the people who were jumping out of the windows; the scene of second airplane’s approach, etc all were like a film”, many Iranians said in those days. They were shocked, like many others around the world. Almost all people around the world remember September 11th, and the first days after it. But Iranians have some special memories of those days. “The Mullahs had been frightened to death. For about 4 weeks after the attack, they stopped chanting anti-US slogans. It was very very funny. For more than 20 years, each week they had chanted anti-US slogans at their stupid Friday Pray, but for about 4 weeks after 9/11, they shut their dirty mouth and did not say any anti-US thing ! It was very funny, and Iranians laughed at the coward Mullahs. We knew that the Mullahs had no role in 9/11 , because if they had any role, then either 9/11 attack would have failed ! or all Iranians would have known about the Mullah role. The Mullahs can not do any terrorist operation without leak. Some hours after each Mullah terrorist attack, all Iranians will know the whole secret story, and after that the whole world will know it ! In the first days after 9/11 attack, many Iranians thought that the Japanese terrorists or the American secret agents or groups are the main responsible for 9/11. They thought that the Arab terrorists are too stupid to be able to do a great attack like 9/11 attack”, some Iranians say. 9/11 was a great tragedy that changed the world. 9/11 changed many life, and many fates. 9/11 was the first great tragedy of 21st century, and will be remembered in the future centuries. In these days, many articles have published about 9/11. John Carlin’s article in the Independent was one of the good articles in the recent days. Here are excerpts of his article:

“At 8.45am New York time on 11 September 2001, Stephen Mulderry, a young American, was at his office on the 88th floor of the World Trade Centre’s South Tower. Saudi acolytes of Osama bin Laden, were in their seats aboard American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757. And John O’Neill, the World Trade Center’s new head of security, who had quit only two weeks earlier as head of the FBI’s al-Qa’ida squad, was at his desk on the 34th floor of the North Tower, where the first aircraft struck at 8.46am. One blunder, one failure of communication between the CIA and the FBI, one vital clue they failed to share, opened the way for the terrorists . If the CIA had passed on critical information that they had collected early in 2000 regarding the two hijackers to John O’Neill’s al-Qa’ida squad, known internally as I-49, the mother of Stephen Mulderry and all the other mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, children, grandchildren, relatives and friends of the thousands upon thousands of people who have lost their lives as a consequence of the 11 September attacks might not have had cause to grieve. Three former members of the FBI told me in interviews that there was good reason to believe that hadthe CIA not declined to share with them what they knew about the al-Qa’ida duo, the 11 September conspiracy would have been foiled at root. Most vehement of the three, but also the best informed as to the details of the alleged blunder, was Mark Rossini, right-hand man and close friend of John O’Neill, for five years America’s number-one al-Qa’ida pursuer. “I shall go to my grave convinced that it could have been avoided,” Rossini said.”

“As everybody who was in New York then recalls, the sky was especially bright and clear that morning, the haze that envelops the city in summer having magically lifted. Anne Mulderry, now 75 years old, woke up early and left her home to go to yoga class struck by “the amazing light”, unaware how soon blackest night would descend on her life. Her son Stephen was her joy. Big and tall and athletic, a fanatical basketball player, exuberant and optimistic, Stephen was living the ‘American Dream’, making it big in the world’s toughest town. He started out as a milk delivery boy, moved on to a job as a long-distance telephone salesman and was now a financial broker making big money from his mighty perch near the top of the World Trade Centre . After yoga, just before 9am, Anne went to the post office, where a woman told her that an aircraft had just hit the World Trade Centre’s North Tower. “The stricken look on my face told her everything,” Anne said, “yet… yet… it was just the one plane, and it was not the South Tower, where Stephen worked.” But between the post office and her return home, at 9.03am, the second aircraft struck, and this time it was the South Tower. What Anne did not then know was that the aircraft had crashed into the building between floors 77 and 85, meaning her son was three floors above the point of impact. She got home and found a message from Stephen on her answering machine. He had said, in his confusion: “A building went into my plane.” But he also said: “I will be all right and you will too, and I’ll call you.” But he did not call again. Instead, Anne’s daughter Amy did. This was an enormous relief. Amy’s office was right next to the World Trade Centre. She had got out safely – covered in ash and dust, and stumbling through broken glass and cement, but alive and unhurt. Swept along in a river of people marching north away from the scene of the holocaust, the two towers having already collapsed, she had been scouring the grey faces for her brother and screaming, over and over, to the dazed passers-by, “Is anybody here from the World Trade Centre?” Nobody was. Amy did not mention these details to her mother, who was simply overjoyed to learn she was alive. Then Anne asked her if she had seen Stephen. The line went silent for a moment. Amy knew what floor of the building Stephen worked on and she knew his tower had been the first to fall. She told her mother she could not say where Stephen was. “I knew. That instant, I knew,” Anne said, tears falling at the recollection of her life’s most painful and wrenching moment. “Amy went quiet again and I let out a scream, a horrible scream, primal sounds, guttural. And I kept screaming and screaming.” Anne, who at no moment that day dared to turn on the television (nor did she for weeks afterwards), found out later that Stephen had got through to another of her sons, his brother Peter. Stephen told him only one of his fellow office workers’ mobile phones was working and 18 of them on his floor were sharing it, making their last calls, for they saw no way out and no way down. “I’m not out of the building… People are jumping out of the windows,” Stephen said. “You should leave,” Peter replied. “I love you, brother,” Stephen said

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“Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, 26 and 25 at the time of their deaths, were brothers of sorts, too. Saudis both, they had fought for the Muslim cause in the Bosnian war, they had been trained at the al-Qa’ida camps in Afghanistan and had been hand-picked by Bin Laden, to take part in the organization’s most ambitious terrorist action yet. The two flew to Kuala Lumpur on 5 January 2000, where they held what US intelligence officials later described as an “al-Qa’ida planning summit”. With the help of Malaysian intelligence, the CIA kept track of their movements. The National Security Agency (NSA), America’s giant global eavesdropping mechanism, had been monitoring for more than a year a telephone number in Yemen to which Bin Laden himself would call in from Afghanistan, according to Mark Rossini. After the Malaysia meeting, the NSA discovered that both Mihdhar and Hazmi had US visas in their passports, issued in Jedda, Saudi Arabia . They gave this astonishing piece of information to the CIA. “Once they knew these two guys had US visas, it was screamingly obvious that they had to pass this information on to the FBI,” said Rossini, quivering with indignation as he spoke. For the CIA, which has stayed silent on the matter, deliberately did not pass on the information. His anger and frustration were directed in part at himself, too. For Rossini, had been temporarily detailed to the CIA during the time of the Malaysia summit as the liaison man between the two organizations. But liaison with severe legal restrictions. On pain of breaking the law, he was sworn not to pass classified CIA intelligence to his FBI employers, unless expressly given permission to do so. “I saw the information on Malaysia and the visas these guys had and I immediately wrote up a report to send on to the FBI, to my friend John O’Neill,” Rossini said. “But I was blocked by the CIA from ever passing it on. They said this was not an FBI case. I complained to the person responsible at the CIA but the reply was, ‘It is a CIA matter and you will not tell the FBI.’ I was enraged but helpless to do anything about it.” Why didn’t he break the rules? It is a question, he says, that will dog him for the rest of his days. “I could see this was highly, highly significant and important for the FBI to know about. The judgment I made, and which I shall always regret, is that it was not quite important enough for me to risk losing my job, facing the law and going to jail.””

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“The world DeLillo describes, in his intensely evocative 11 September novel, Falling Man, is a world that Hassan Raza beheld rolling ever closer towards him in all its ashen darkness, engulfing him, soon to seep vengefully into the lives of his Muslim brethren in Little Pakistan, Brooklyn, where he lived, before billowing out across the seas to Muslims around the world, but especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, from where it spilt over to the real, big Pakistan where he had been born and which he had left to come to America, only a year earlier, aged 40, after winning a working visa through the US immigration services’ lottery system. “I was at home preparing to leave for work when I saw on TV the first building in flames and I thought, this is a film. Then the second plane came and it hit and I thought, it’s not a film,” Hassan said. But his job as a clerk at a New York hospital was precious to him so he rushed to catch the subway train, which drew to a halt just before the Brooklyn Bridge. He got out and looked across the East River to Lower Manhattan and saw a vast cloud of black and white smoke billowing up and across the sky. “Oh my God! Where is the World Trade Centre?” And crossing the bridge above the river was another river, a river of people, heading home to Brooklyn or just fleeing Manhattan, where who knew where the next attack might strike. “Thousands and thousands of people covered in filth and dust and bleeding from the nose, some running towards where I stood, some stopping and hugging, some crying, some dumbstruck and dazed.” Hassan never made it to work that day but when he showed up the next day, and for weeks after that, none of his fellow workers would address a word to him . He would lose his job, but he was lucky: many Muslims in his neighborhood would lose their freedom in the coming days and months. “The hunting of Muslims began. The immigration agency and the police and the FBI were all over Little Pakistan, descending on homes in the middle of the night, taking hundreds of people away in handcuffs. Some tried to hide, many left New York and fled to Canada. In many cases the father was arrested and the mother, who had no English and no job, was left alone to fend for herself.” Hassan reverted to the job he had before leaving Pakistan, as a social worker, in this case with an NGO created to assist Muslims in his community to respond to the 9/11 backlash. Of the many hundreds of people Hassan tried to assist, one stood out. Abdul Qayyum, who scraped a living selling ice cream on the streets, was arrested at a mosque two months after the attacks and kept for seven months without charges, two weeks in solitary confinement. An attorney found out about his case and Hassan’s organisation collected the $5,000 bail money to get him out. “He came out bad in the head, mumbling nonsense much of the time, refusing suggestions we made that he return home to Pakistan. He had no family, no prospect of a job and lived on the streets. We all felt sorry for him. He was always dirty but he grew fat on people’s charity, becoming a well-known, sad and pathetic figure on Coney Island Avenue. He’d obviously done nothing wrong, otherwise they would have deported him. He died alone, because of high blood pressure and diabetes, we think. He was about 55. That was how the ‘American Dream’ ended for him.”

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“Mihdhar and Hazmi entered the US at Los Angeles airport on 15 January 2000, as easily as any other visiting tourist would have done. On 11 September they hijacked American Airlines Flight 77, crashing the Boeing 757 into the Pentagon, killing all 64 passengers aboard and 125 people in the building. (The fourth aircraft did not make it to its intended target, believed to have been either the White House or the Capitol in Washington, crashing instead into a Pennsylvania field, also killing all aboard.) What would have happened if the FBI had known? Mark Chidichimo said, “We’d have had them closely surveilled, we’d have got their hotel to say who they called and who they met, we’d have had security re-screens at the airports and found the box cutters and knives. When the FBI are focused, they are great.” Rossini said John O’Neill would have sent a team immediately to Malaysia and he would have blitzed the FBI’s foreign friends for information. “John O’Neill would have scoured the world and, obviously, we’d have tracked every move those two guys made inside the US. You can imagine how many alarm bells would have gone off once we’d discovered they were taking flying lessons! But John was blinded. He led the hunt for al-Qa’ida and Bin Laden, no one in the entire US government apparatus was more informed or more obsessed or more aware of the threat they represented than he was, yet they deliberately blinded him.” Why? In the view of Rossini, among the FBI agents who flew to East Africa to investigate the embassy bombings, the problem was entirely personal. “The CIA hated John O’Neill and they disliked the FBI and they protected their little turf and put their little ego-ridden bullshit ahead of the national interest. They disliked John because he was charismatic, because he wore black designer suits, because he drank and enjoyed women and because they knew he was a man who worked harder than anybody, who got the job done, better than all of them put together. And they disliked me, too, because I was John’s buddy and I too wore designer suits and liked the good life. That is the story of why they didn’t pass us the information and that is also why John eventually quit the FBI.”

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“No children experienced the events of 11 September more intimately than the 600, aged four to 11, who attended the PS 234 primary school, 250 metres north of the World Trade Centre. Anna Switzer, the school principal, is still haunted by the recollection of that morning, still rearing in fright at the sound of a jet aircraft or an alarm going off. “It was an absolutely gorgeous day and we were out in the yard. It was the first day of kindergarten for the school year and I was lingering with some of the parents when we heard this low-flying plane. I thought, why is that plane going so low? And then we saw it go into the first tower, slicing softly and discreetly, it seemed, into the side of the building.” The second aircraft hit and the two towers were on fire and people – at least 200 people, by the end of it -were jumping off the sides . The little children had a view of it all no one watching on television around the world could match in its vivid, up-close horror. The teachers took the children inside, as ordered by the frantic New York school authorities on the phone, and closed the classroom blinds. Anna Switzer chose to ignore the order and march the children out of the school. Holding hands, escorted by the teachers they joined the ghostly procession heading north, away from the belching smoke and reeking air -charred building material and charred flesh; “Buchenwald plus chemicals,” one New Yorker called it -that would linger in Manhattan for many days more. The children at the school, classroom-homeless, unable to return to their building for five months, all underwent psychological tests afterwards. “Some wanted to talk about what happened all the time; some never said a word about it again. But it all came up in the weeks and months ahead in their essays, their drawings.” All over the city, compounding the sense of grief and confusion and despair the adults were unable to stop transmitting to the children, improvised posters went up with the photographs of missing people, as relatives clamoured to believe the unbelievable, that their loved ones who had been inside the World Trade Centre between 8.46am and 9.02am, when the second aircraft struck, might still be alive somewhere one, two, three, four days, a week after the fact. Some reacted, as some of Anna Switzer’s schoolchildren did, by retreating into gloomy introspection; in others the spirit of “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die” ruled.”

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“In a case of life imitating a thousand Hollywood movies, O’Neill was the classic bold, brilliant and handsome hero thwarted by what Rossini calls “grey, by-the-manual, institution” men. O’Neill clashed with them personally but, because of his independent-mindedness and brashness, he also gave them the ammunition to strike back at him. He broke rules. Once, when his car broke down, he borrowed an FBI car to take a girlfriend home. Innocuous enough, but sufficient to get him a rap over the knuckles and a warning. Of various such incidents, the gravest was one in which O’Neill unwittingly lost, if only temporarily and with no one else seeing it, a top-secret FBI file. An internal investigation was under way when, in July 2001, O’Neill and Rossini flew to Spain to liaise with the Spanish Guardia Civil and to take a few days’ holiday. “We were sipping coffee one morning in a villa in Marbella that belonged to a friend when on my computer I saw a story in The New York Times concerning John. Someone, some creepy little enemy of his somewhere, had leaked the story of the missing file to the newspaper. I printed out the story, John read it and his face changed. He went silent and he said, over and over, ‘Why? For what? Why?’ I couldn’t believe it. The best guy the US had fighting al-Qa’ida and they do this to him. John stayed silent most of the day, thinking hard, and next morning he announced his decision. ‘KMA, man! KMA!’ KMA means ‘kiss my ass’. It’s what we say in the Bureau when we’ve had enough, we’re quitting. ‘I’m done,’ he said. ‘I’m free. I don’t need these little minions commenting on my suits any more.’ He loved the FBI. It was in his blood. He loved the power he had to do the right thing. And he was an enormous asset to the country. But the envious minions had driven him out.” He remained in his post at the FBI until the end of August before taking up his new job, on 9 September, as head of security at the World Trade Centre. After learning of the attack on the car radio on his way to work at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, he phoned the FBI’s New York office, where they told him O’Neill had called in to say he had got out of the building. “I phoned John’s many friends around the world to tell them he was all right. Later, the news changed. They’d found him in the rubble, decapitated; they identified him by his suit and university graduation ring.” Rossini’s eyes watered up at the memory. “He died a hero. He died taking command, as he had always done. ‘I’m the boss. I’m in charge.’ There was a crisis and he had to resolve it. So he went back inside.””

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“The one piece of posthumous luck that O’Neill had was that his body was identified. Still today, no sign has been found of more than 1,100 of the victims . Stephen Mulderry’s remains were found on 9 November, two months after he died. This was the pattern for all those who were positively identified as dead. Teams of people scoured the rubble for bits of human bodies and sent them to a medical centre where DNA tests were conducted. Many relatives received calls four, five, six times over a period of months informing them that a hand, a toe, a piece of muscle, a strand of hair, had been found. In Stephen Mulderry’s case it was initially part of his jawbone, another piece of bone and some soft tissue. “At the funeral we put his little remains in a baby casket and buried him,” said Anne, his mother. More pieces of his body kept on appearing over the next two years, at the end of which they had gathered a piece of bone from each of his once-agile basketball-player limbs, cremated them and scattered the ashes over a lake in upstate New York. The burial of John O’Neill took place on 28 September 2001. It was an enormous ceremony, attended by more than 1,000 people, to the accompaniment of Irish bagpipers and in the presence of top brass from every
law-enforcement agency in New York state. At the funeral a letter was read out that he had written for his grandson, born just two months earlier, in which he urged him always to remember he was born in the greatest country in the world. At his graveside wept four women -one of them his estranged wife- none of whom had hitherto known of each other’s existence or importance in O’Neill’s life. They might never have found out about each other, John O’Neill might never have left the FBI, the World Trade Centre might still be standing. “I regret every day not breaking the rules and telling John or anyone in the FBI about the meeting in Malaysia. It’s as simple as that,” Mark Rossini said. “My mind races every day wondering ‘Why?’ and ‘What if?’, knowing that John would have marshalled the forces of the FBI to know everything about the subjects at the meeting in Malaysia. Yes, the 9/11 attacks would have been prevented. I am convinced of that.” The rules today have changed. The Patriot Act, passed by Congress after 9/11, would render it impossible for information of such vital national importance to remain within the jurisdiction of one agency. It could not be kept solely within the CIA; it would have to be shared. “What is so hard to come to terms with is that if those rules had applied back then, if the FBI had been informed back in January 2000, we, the intelligence community, working together, could have learnt so much about the hijackers and their masters,” Rossini said. “