Friday, September 9, 2011

“They’re Crashing Airplanes Into Buildings, What Can We Do”

As with most pivotal events in our lives, we can always remember with clarity what we were doing and what happened simultaneously with that event. With the ten-year anniversary of 9/11 on Sunday, many people are remembering what they were doing and what took place. I thought you might be interested in what was happening at the Police Department and how we responded. Before anyone gets concerned that I will be giving away tactical information, have no fear because nothing I am going to say will reveal any tactical information on a possible future event.

For me, I was on my way to work. It was a clear September sunny day and it was a pleasure to have the heat of the summer gone, much like it is now. My wife, who was home for some unknown reason from work that day, called to tell me that a jet airliner had crashed into the World Trade Center Building in New York. Because I am a pilot, my first thought was that it was weather-related, but still, how could such a colossal accident occur. By the time I got to the Police station, the second aircraft had struck the second tower. What was happening became crystal clear – our Country was under attack.

I summoned the Command Staff to Headquarters to begin reviewing what options we had and what we knew. And like everyone, we were glued to CNN. When the third aircraft crashed in the field in Pennsylvania, the scope of what was occurring took on a new definition and it was at this time that we were fully aware that we were under a terrorist attack of historic proportions. Shortly after, John Nachbar, the City Manager at the time, phoned my office and asked “They’re crashing airplanes into buildings, what can we do?” I had to tell him that while we had significant capabilities in many areas, we were defenseless as a City against aerial attack of this nature. The good news was then, for us, that we did not have any large skyscraper-type buildings to make us a target. What I told him we would do was to respond in a way and to maintain calm in a population that was afraid and panicked by what they saw happening and it was my opinion then, as it is now, that our major response was to make people feel as safe as possible and to keep control. Consequently we ordered all available officers to return to duty and we put out as many police cars as we possibly could knowing full well that the best they could do was to establish their presence and create a reassuring effort for the public. This seemed to work. I can still recall looking out my office window at the significant number of donut-shaped contrails from aircraft circling to land under orders from the FAA to ground all aircraft. It was surreal to say the least.

A lot has happened since that day in September 2001. I am now on the Joint Terrorism Task Force for the Kansas City area. I have a top-secret clearance and I am briefed over potential threats such as the one we are currently aware of. We have members who work full-time on the anti-terrorism effort on several task forces. The good news is that your Police Department has actively participated in investigations which have stopped terrorist activities from happening, albeit happening somewhere else in the Country. Are we better prepared than we were ten years ago – yes. Are we free from attack – obviously no. But I cannot help but sum this up by thinking about Seal Team 6 and their efforts against Osama Bin Laden. While it did not close the book on terrorism in this Country, I believe it will go down in history as a pivotal point on the war against terrorism.

9/11 was a terrible day and a tragedy for all of America. Our enemies should know that we have not crumbled, we have not stumbled and we will not fade away from this earth because of their hate and intolerance. God Bless America.