30 Nov 2023

9/11: Being there — 12/23: Being here


Twenty-two years ago your scribe was in Washington, DC. On a beautiful Tuesday morning, standing curbside outside the Independent Petroleum Association HQ with my fellow Government Affairs practitioners, we were hailing taxis to the Hill. Just before 9am, IPAA’s Ben Dillon walked toward us waving us back into the office, “You’ve got to see this!” he said grimly.

We walked back into his office and there on the TV was the North Tower of the World Trade Center billowing smoke. Then, just after 9, another plane came into view slamming into the South Tower. About 30 minutes later a third hijacked craft slams into the Pentagon just across the river from our location. We learned another was still in the air and appeared to be headed toward DC. Then, just an hour after we first saw the TV coverage, the fourth plane crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The entire world changed in less than one hour. By that time Capitol Hill was emptying with a sea of people streaming up 15th Street outside the office and the television showing the mass of humanity on Constitution and Independence avenues. Air space had been shut down, cellphones were inoperative and the President had departed Florida on Air Force One for a destination to be determined.

Blinking back tears of grief and shock, my associate Neal Stanley and I could only come up with one action plan — head to a bar and watch events unfold. Replays of the twin towers collapse dominated network coverage as did the emergency response to the Pentagon attack and the crash site near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The morning of 9/12 found Washington, DC with totally empty streets with the exception of squad cars with red lights revolving parked in every intersection. There was nary a soul in sight. It had the eerie feel of a B movie scene after the population vanishes. It was the beginning of a great geopolitical hurricane and upheaval not experienced since the previous hostage crisis some 30+ years previous. National will was tested mightily and national will prevailed.

# # #

Fast forward to the waning days of 2023…the here and now. The world witnessed another especially heinous assault as Israel suffered a murderous invasion by Hamas from Gaza. As this is written, Hezbollah threatens Israel from its stronghold in Lebanon to the north. The savagery of the onslaught, the ritual taking of hostages dehumanizes victim and perpetrator alike. The slaughter of innocents does not stop in Israel, the World Trade Center nor in the Ukraine. Mayhem and brutality are every day global menu items.

The pandemic of evil envelopes the U.S. southern border, North Korea, Iran, the Boko Haram in Nigeria, China’s oppression of the Falun Gong and Uyghurs, and drug purveyors around the world bent on rotting western civilization via governments’ indulgent and laissez faire drug policies.

The rational among us are shaken and in wonder at the streaming of criminals, drugs and political enemies across the southern border, the pandering to Iran, monstrous debt and radicalization of our institutions of higher learning are met with blase’ indifference by government. Instead the electorate is hectored and hammered on imagined white supremacy threats, gender sensitivity, climate change, the need to forgive student debt and sins (real or imagined) by the previous administration. The President and his VP have everything under control…uh huh…

That palpable unease across the home of the brave is compounded by the prospect of a replay in 2024 of the 2020 Presidential election featuring two of the most distrusted and disliked candidates in history. The D side of the electorate believes the leading R candidate is little more than an insect. The R side mirrors that sentiment when it comes to the President. The undecided are stuck with, “OH NO, NOT AGAIN!!”

These are today’s realities. For readers of Edgar Allan Poe, his short story “A Descent into the Maelstrom” provides many parallels. The whirlpool in Descent equates to the chaos of world events and the destruction that accelerates as the evil intensifies. The storyteller describes it as “the most terrible hurricane that ever came out of the heavens.” Indeed a striking parallel to today’s moral, financial and political dissaray and mayhem.

While Poe’s maelstrom is the demise of ships, the narrator’s brothers and other mortal souls, the storyteller survives during a temporary lull in the storm when he’s rescued by some fishermen. He says to the narrator, “You suppose me a very old man, but I am not. It took less than a single day to change these hairs from a jetty black to white, to weaken my limbs and to unstring my nerves.”

The current malaise is neither our first rodeo, nor maelstrom, fair reader. We’ve ridden them out before. The old saw is that history may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme. These are uneasy times, the challenges daunting. Our past is prelude — two world wars, a great depression, a Civil War, assassinations and each time U.S. will and fortitude prevailed.

Russia, China, Iran and several bit players are on the same path Japan followed prior to World War II. They would do well to recall the words of General Yamamoto following the bombing of Pearl harbor, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with terrible resolve.” Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein ignored this and paid the price. The Murderers Row, Xi, Putin and Khameni, may also experience the the rhyme of history.

3 Responses to 9/11: Being there — 12/23: Being here
  1. The man has a memorable history, for sure………..comments and Poe imagery are all too apt, alas………and this is a telling needed, I know, and I welcome it…………but the reality is that there is nothing a little person like me can do about it………on the other hand, the sky is a sharp blue as usual here in AZ, and I am about to go out and have a good stroll. I guess I am just a schlub.Comment *

    • Schlub? Hardly! Not long before we join you in AZ sun! Let’s hope the maelstrom peters out, the pendulum cannot swing much farther to the left!

  2. II fear a “Black Swan” moment is coming, but we need to focus on pronouns. 😜


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