Showing posts with label 9/11. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 9/11. Show all posts

Sunday, September 22, 2013

THE BLACKEST OF FRIDAYS


The number of dead in the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya, is now up to 68, and according to sources in CNN, three of the terrorists responsible are from the United States, linked to the terrorist group al-Shabab.

Is anyone surprised? They shouldn’t be.

Back in 2005 and 2006, I said that it was only a matter of time before we would see things like this in our own country. Not if, but when, and by whom?

The spectacular type of attack such as 9/11 is no longer needed to have a severe and negative impact on our psyche and our economy.

Imagine how black “Black Friday” would be, if on America’s biggest shopping day of the year, the day after Thanksgiving, al-Qaeda affiliated groups, entered three or four malls like Westgate, around the country at the same time, and carried out the same sort of attack?

It could have devastating consequences.

Al-Qaeda’s links and growing influence here in America has grown substantially, and it’s only a matter of time, before something like this happens.

The attack in Nairobi, is an example of their ability, and a reminder as to why we have got to remain pre-emptive and pro-active in doing everything we can to secure our critical infrastructure, and insure our intelligence community is at the top of their game.

According to reports, the group that carried out this operation is estimated to have several thousand fighters, including a few hundred foreign fighters - some from the Middle East with experience in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, and others are from Somali communities in the United States and Europe.

Let’s hope that we find them, before they find us.

Today it’s a mall in Nairobi, Kenya… but as the say in the major motion picture industry, “Coming to a theater near you.”

Let’s hope not.


Saturday, September 7, 2013

REFLECTIONS OF 9/11/2001

September 11, 2001 began like most mornings. It was around 6 a.m. that I gave my wife Hala and 11 month old daughter Celine a kiss before walking out the door of our apartment. Given it was New York City’s primary election day for the mayoral candidates, Hala and I had plans to watch the election results with the Mayor at The Dylan Hotel, on East 41st Street, that evening. I confirmed our plans and told her I’d see her later. Little did I know no one would be voting that day.

I was in sweats, ready for my daily work out in the gym in the back to the Commissioner’s office at NYPD headquarters. The drive from my apartment took about 40 minutes. By the time I arrived, I had read through the crime stats from the night before and had been briefed by the detectives in my car. Nothing, that I recall, was out the ordinary. If we all were lucky, it would be a peaceful day with the election going smoothly.

I went to my office, put a few things on my desk, and then started running on the treadmill while watching the news. It was a blue sky day, the kind you’d want for any election. I finished my workout about 0745 and then went over some paperwork in my office. When I finished, I went to take a shower and was standing in my bathroom shaving when John Picciano, my chief of staff, and Detective Hector Santiago started banging on my outer door. When I opened it, I still had shaving cream all over my face and a white towel around my waist. “A plane has just hit Tower One,” they said, almost in unison. I looked up at the TV over my treadmill and saw the news coverage. I walked quickly through my office to my conference room to look at the Towers...a clear shot from my windows. I was horrified by what I saw.

The devastation to the North Tower, 1 World Trade Center (WTC), was mind-boggling. I wondered how a small plane could have done so much damage. The news began reporting that it was a jet airliner. A jetliner?

Within minutes I was there, standing on West Broadway on the north side of the building, right next to 7 World Trade which housed the Mayor's Office of Emergency Management. The front of it had been damaged by the explosion of the airplane hitting the building. There was no way to get into the building or to the Office of Emergency Management. There was debris falling from the top of the North Tower. People were running out buildings, screaming and crying. A police sergeant ran towards me and my men, screaming for us to get back. "Back up, back up!" he yelled, "They're jumping!"

As most Americans watched their television in horror as men and women jumped to their deaths from the 95th floor of the building, I witnessed their last moments alive. One by one, then two and three at a time, they jumped and fell to the ground. I felt completely helpless. There was no way to stop them...or to help them. They were escaping the towering inferno in the only way they could.

About 15-20 feet to my right, just off the curb, was a hot dog vendor who too realized what he was seeing. He began screaming at the top of his lungs, “Oh my God! Oh my God!” He moved closer to me, gesturing and grimacing wildly. Then, he simply stood still, still screaming but not moving. He was so loud I couldn’t hear what my people were shouting to me. I yelled for them to get him back and out of the way. They moved him behind me and north of Barclay, and, luckily they did because had he stood there much longer, he would have died instantly from more falling debris.

Unanswerable questions

The city's response was in motion and, as bad as it seemed at that moment, it was about to get severely worse, not only for New York City, but the entire nation. As I turned around to give an order to one of my men, an enormous explosion and fireball blew out of the north side of the South Tower around the 85th floor. As I looked straight up, I was confused at first. What the hell just happened? Then I heard a member of the NYPD aviation unit on the radio say that a second jet airliner had just hit the South Tower on the south side, opposite of where I was standing. In that instant, I knew we were at war. An enemy was attacking us. I yelled for John Picciano, my chief of staff, to get me air support and close down the airspace.

How many planes did they have? Were they also on the ground? Where would they strike next? Would they try to kill the mayor? Me? My mind was racing with unanswerable questions.

We ran for cover as debris from the plane and building showered down on top of us. A two foot chunk of metal from the plane struck one of my detectives in the back of the leg, nearly knocking him to the ground.

I told my staff to call the mayor's car and divert him. Have him meet me at West Broadway and Barclay. Forget meeting at 7 WTC; it was too dangerous. About three minutes later, the mayor arrived, jumped out of his truck and ran up to where I was standing. Joe Lhota, his deputy mayor, was there too. I began telling them about the second plane hitting Tower Two just minutes before, just as I was standing there. We were looking up at the buildings and saw the rainstorm of white papers, chunks of metal, and….people. Suddenly the mayor realized that people were jumping to their deaths to escape the raging fire. He looked at me, stunned. It was obvious that we were likely to lose everyone and everything above the impact area of where the planes had hit. We realized this was like nothing we had ever been through before.

The mayor grabbed my arm and said, "We're in unchartered territory." I assumed at the time that he was referring to the damage and devastation to the Towers and at the size of the response to come. However, in the days that followed the attack, and realizing an enemy had succeeded in the unimaginable—a catastrophic attack in the heart of our country's financial district—those words had a whole new meaning.

There were no warning signs of the attack, but New York City's first responders in the FDNY, NYPD, EMS and Port Authority Police could not have accomplished more than they did that morning given the circumstances. With strength, determination, valor and grace, they executed plans and protocols that had been developed over the years, resulting in the evacuation of more than 100,000 people from lower Manhattan and the impact zone, the rescue and evacuation of thousands from the two buildings, and the establishment of one of the largest crime scenes in U.S. history, all in the face of death that, by day's end, claimed nearly 400 of their comrades.

‘We’ve got this, Boss’

The mayor and I wanted to see the damage to the other side of the buildings so we walked to the fire department’s temporary command center. We met with the Fire Department's First Deputy Commissioner, Chief of Department, and Chief of Operations, three of the most experienced fire fighters in the country with well over 100 years of combined experience. Also there were Father Mychal Judge, the Fire Department's Chaplain, and Sergeant John Coughlin from the NYPD Emergency Services Unit (ESU). They briefed us on their assessment of the damage and the response. As the mayor spoke to Father Judge, I spoke to Sergeant Coughlin. Despite the death and devastation around them, they were all examples of grace under pressure. John briefed me on the ESU teams on site; you would have thought he was briefing me on a minor water main leak. He was confident, courageous, and defiant. "We’ve got this, Boss," he said, and he knew I believed in him. Just 10 months earlier, he had helped save my baby daughter's life when she was choking. I already knew Coughlin was a hero. They all were. As we walked away, heading back north on West Street, I told him to stay safe. Father Judge blessed us all. It was the last time I would see any of them alive.

One of my detectives had commandeered a small office on the corner of Barclay Street and West Broadway for use as a temporary command post. We walked from West Street back to that office. The mayor called the White House from a hard-line phone. He wanted to ask for military support. After finally getting through, he was told that the Vice President would come on the line momentarily. All of the sudden, the mayor abruptly hung up the phone, looked at me and said, "That's not good. They said they're evacuating the White House and they think the Pentagon has just been hit."

Before I could get my mind around his words, the building we were standing in began to tremble as if a freight train were coming through the side of it. Joe Esposito, the NYPD Chief of Department, burst through the door and yelled, "It's coming down!" Someone yelled, “Hit the deck!” A bunch of the mayor’s staff dove onto the floor. Some crawled under desks or tables. The building was rattling. No one screamed or yelled, but I could see the fright in their faces. I was standing, holding onto the wall and a file cabinet. None of us knew what was really going on. From where I was standing, I could see the windows in the corridor that led into the office. All at once, they were exploding. Something was happening outside…everything was shaking.

The South Tower of the World Trade Center complex, one of the biggest buildings in the world, crashed to the ground. We didn’t see it, but we heard it. Almost instantly the office was filled with smoke, dust, and a gassy smell.

When the rumbling stopped, my security team rushed the mayor, the others, and me to the back of the office. There was a door that entered into the hallway. One of my men was yelling into his portable radio, "Code Black!" the distress signal if the mayor or police commissioner was in trouble. The hallway connected to a maze of hallways, each with a door at the end. One by one each door was checked. Locked. We couldn't breathe. We were suffocating. I pulled my shirt up over my nose and mouth. I remember thinking: "All the shit I've been involved in... burning buildings, gun battles, drugs busts…and I'm going to die in an office!"

We couldn’t stay there

I didn’t know how much time we had. No one could rescue us because no one knew where we were. I doubted the “Code Black” was even transmitted due to all the crap in the air and whatever else was going on outside. I thought of my wife and baby. Little did I know, Hala was watching the news coverage, and they were reporting the mayor and I were missing.

We were surrounded by locked doors. The smoke and dust in the air were getting thicker. Breathing was becoming more difficult. I thought we were going to die there. Then, to our utter amazement, we heard keys jangling. Someone was opening one of the doors. We rushed in that direction and when the door opened, two maintenance men were about as stunned to see us as we were them... especially for them to see the mayor and me. We all took deep breaths of clean air. But we knew we couldn’t stay there. I asked them where the other doors went and if there was a back way out of the building. They said yes and we all headed for the far door that they opened with a set of keys. We all moved quickly down this new hallway, went through another door, and found ourselves in the lobby of 100 Church Street.

We were now four blocks away from the Towers, and as I looked out of the windows in the lobby of the building, my first thought was that we had suffered a nuclear blast. Everything outside was white. Ash covered the streets, cars, and buildings. There was nearly an inch of dust on the ground. As we walked outside, what struck me perhaps more than anything was that there was no sound. None. It was almost as if we had been placed in a soundproof room. The silence was beyond eerie…it was frightening. What had really happened? We didn’t know. People were walking around in a daze. Some looked like plaster statues. Some were crying. I heard someone mumble, "It's down...the Tower's down....it's completely down."

Many of the mayor's staff wanted him to return to City Hall, but I thought otherwise. I didn't know how many more planes there were or what the next targets could be. I wondered if ground attacks were planned. I told the mayor, "You cannot go back to City Hall. It is too dangerous for you there. You have got to get out of here."

I needed to keep him alive. Continuity of government is critical at a time like this. I don't think he was thinking of it that way, but for me, it was no different than the U.S. Secret Service keeping the president airborne and out of Washington, D.C. until they could determine further threats.

We began walking north. We had to set up a command center, but where? It was still difficult to breathe but not as bad as when we were stuck in that office. Then came that noise again. People behind us and around us began running and screaming. "It's coming down," and within seconds, the North Tower collapsed. Another blizzard of ash, dust and soot. Again, it was difficult to breathe.

First we went into a hotel and then a fire station. I ultimately recommended that we use the New York City Police Academy as a command center. It was nondescript and out of the way. When I spoke with the press and media, I told them to them to keep the location secret. If there were enemy on the ground, I did not want them to know the whereabouts of the mayor, governor or the command center.

Greatest rescue mission

By 12:30 p.m., the mayor, fire commissioner, nearly every city agency head and I met at the academy to begin managing the crisis. Governor George Pataki and his senior staff responded. The mayor and I later went to Saint Vincent's Hospital to check on casualties. Doctors and nurses were standing and sitting outside, waiting for those who might need medical attention. Few arrived. Little did I know then, that was a good sign for all of us. It meant the first responders had done a better job than anyone could have imagined. More than 100,000 people had been rescued or evacuated from those buildings and the surrounding area. This was one of the greatest rescue missions in U.S. history, and the men and women of the New York City Fire and Police Departments, EMS and the Port Authority Police were responsible.

I returned to police headquarters late that afternoon. Joe Dunne, my first deputy, came into my office to tell me the families of the 23 missing police officers from the NYPD were assembled in the auditorium, waiting for me. Meeting the families was one of the most difficult moments of that day, but it was also one of the most inspirational. Fearing the worst, I tried to remain hopeful and optimistic. I shared their pain, but I also had great pride in our department...its heritage, its camaraderie and its ability to take care of its own. The family members were an inspiration to all of us. I often think that they were a greater inspiration to me than I may have been to them.

Late that night, the mayor left the academy for home, and I left for my office. Before going to headquarters, I returned to what became known as "Ground Zero." I needed to see it again. I walked through the smoke and debris and saw a small group of people walking toward me. It was the mayor and his staff. We met for a moment. We barely spoke. We stood there looking at the damage and devastation. For me, it was like looking into the gates of hell, the smoke and fires and the smell. It was hard to breathe. I thought of those we were missing. I thought of the men and women who were there working. How could this happen and why? All in one day, I had witnessed the worst and the best in humanity...the evil that had attacked us and the courageous men and women, working tirelessly around the clock in an attempt to rescue any possible survivors.

I slept in my office that night. I woke to the sound of fighter jets patrolling our skies. New York City was a war zone. I cried and I prayed to God for strength.

Completely gone

Every day I witnessed great heroism and experienced great loss, as did all of America. Any of us who were at Ground Zero for any period of time saw things that would haunt the strongest of men. I clearly remember the day I got the news that they found two of my cops. I went to Ground Zero immediately. Every worker at the site came to a standstill as I walked toward my First Deputy Joe Dunne and the Chief of Department Joe Esposito. There were hundreds of workers, but it was still and silent. When I got to Dunne and Esposito, I said, "Who is it?" They told me the names of the two cops. I then asked, “Where are they?”

They both pointed towards two orange Home Depot buckets, 10 to 15 feet away from where I was standing. I slowly walked toward the buckets, looked around and saw nothing. When I got up to the buckets and looked inside, each contained an exploded gun, a magazine, and, I believe, a set of keys and handcuffs. There was no body, vest, boots, uniform or belts...there was nothing else. These men were completely gone. Dunne had tears running down his face. He said, "There's nothing else."

To this day, I hate the sight of orange buckets.

The initial shock of finds like this was overwhelming to all of us. Some people took it harder than others, and some never recovered. The psychological impact of war can be devastating, and this was the first battleground in this war with our new-found enemy. The men and women serving on that battlefield we call “Ground Zero,” including many volunteers from across the country, somehow found the strength to work through these circumstances, through the death and devastation. The emergency responders deserve so much more credit than people have given them, not to mention the inference by many that they do not deserve the medical attention they have asked for. Anyone who refuses or questions medical support for the men and women who worked on those piles for days, weeks, and months at a time has absolutely no conception of what they went through.

In the three and a half months that followed, we were not perfect, but did the best we could. As I have watched other crises around the world in the 10 years since, I stand even more proud today of our first responders. Their successes and sacrifices have been unprecedented, and I believe there are none better.

Prior to September 11, 2001, I had already decided and announced I would leave office on December 31, 2001, with Mayor Giuliani, even though Mayor-elect Michael Bloomberg had asked me to stay on as his police commissioner. Crime was down to a five year low, the morale of cops was up, community relations were stronger, and in just 13 months, we had reduced the response times nearly 50 percent for the first time in more than 10 years. I was proud of my accomplishments as police commissioner, but not as proud as I was of the men and women who worked under my command.

Day in and day out, they put their lives on the line for the people of the City of New York, but it was not until 9/11 that the entire world got to see them at their best. They never cowered, and they did not flinch. In the face of death, their strength, dignity, valor and grace were unparalleled, just as with their brothers and sisters in the FDNY and Port Authority Police.

May God bless those who were there, those we have lost since, and the families they left behind.

And may God continue to bless the United States of America.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

It is Time to Move Forward…

On December 3, 2004, after three decades of dedicated service to the City of New York and to our country, President George W. Bush nominated me to become the second Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

It was a privilege and an honor, and I accepted the president’s nomination with a strong belief that my experience and success as a public servant would make this country safer in the wake of a newfound enemy as we continued to defend ourselves in the war against terror.

A week after my nomination, I withdrew my name from consideration because the confirmation process was quickly deteriorating into a tabloid nightmare which threatened to make a mockery of everything I had ever accomplished. What began with failing to pay the payroll tax of my children's nanny -- which has plagued more than a dozen presidential cabinet nominees, past and present -- became a five and a half year nightmare of local, state, and federal investigations that resulted in a fifteen count criminal indictment against me.

For nearly three years, I prepared to go to trial to defend myself against substantially the same charges I had already faced in New York State Court. Then, just days before the federal trial was to begin, my bail was revoked and I was imprisoned. The judge threatened to disqualify my legal team, which both he and the government prosecutors had already done twice before and would have sent me back to square one for the third time with my savings now exhausted.

On November 5th, 2009, I was being held in pre-trial detention and financially helpless.  I faced the prospect of remaining behind bars awaiting trial for what could have been more than a year while new court appointed lawyers prepared for my defense. As a result, I decided to accept a plea agreement offered by the government prosecutors.  I pled guilty to eight counts in exchange for a sentence of 27 to 33 months, which many legal observers have opined as severe considering the allegations made against me in the case, especially considering my otherwise unblemished record of service to this country dating back more than 30 years to my days as a young GI in Korea.

Ignoring the signed plea agreement and recommendations made by the prosecutors, as well as the recommendation of the U.S. Department of Probation and my highly decorated service to the American people, the judge sentenced me to 48 months in federal prison – 15 months over the recommended and agreed upon sentence.

Words cannot express my disappointment in the prosecutors and the judge’s behavior, and his sentence that followed.  I have repeatedly expressed remorse for what I may have done, however, unlike many, I can’t remain silent in the face of what I believe has been a gross injustice, which I pray will be remedied by an appellate court.

As I prepare to serve my sentence, I have had to likewise prepare Angelina and Celine, my seven and ten year old daughters for what is next to come and had to teach them that there are times when we are put in situations which are beyond our control and that no matter how undeserved, unsought, or unwanted, we must find the strength, courage, and perseverance to carry on and move forward.

I sat with them and watched the movie Rocky Balboa, for the sole purpose of having them watch one scene where Rocky speaks to his son and says, “The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place and I don't care how tough you are….it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward!”

When Sly Stallone wrote those words, he was talking about the challenges in real life and the principles of courage, strength, and perseverance.

In my life, I have been confronted with extraordinary challenges, from the age of three when I was abandoned by my own mother who was later murdered, to gun battles on the streets of New York City, through the aftermath of 9/11, to my work rebuilding a shattered Iraq, these are the principles by which I have lived.

My friends say that because I have persevered in the face of great challenge, I became a convenient target of personal and political attacks, most of which were waged by people that have never met me and know nothing about me other than the media headlines that they have read.  As I have listened to my critics, I have often wondered, how they would have fared under the same circumstances and the same scrutiny.

I have been blessed with tremendous support, friendships, and loyalties that I will never forget, and mean more to me than anyone will ever know. To those that have been in my corner and have spoken up for me, written letters of support and that have prayed for me, I offer my heartfelt thanks. It is a humbling thing to have such support, and I will forever cherish it and try to remain worthy of it.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross once said, “People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”  I’m not exactly a stained-glass window, I don’t think I’ve sparkled or shined, and I certainly don’t claim to be beautiful, but I do think there is a light within me! 

That light is my love for my wife, my children, and my country.  It is a light that they ignited; they sustain, and will guide me through the dark times ahead.

And now, as I have told Celine and Angelina, “It is time to move forward,” and end this nightmare. 

I pray for God to watch over my wife, my two little girls, and my family in my absence. I also pray that he brings us together again much sooner rather than later.

I pray for our country, its leadership, and the men and women who like my son, are on the front lines and in harm’s way everyday, protecting us from evil and defending the very freedoms by which we live.

Finally, I can only hope that history will judge me based on my 30 years of public service to our great nation, and not by tabloid headlines, my imperfections, or the mistakes that I may have made.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Nine Years Later, We Still Don't Get It

Thank God for street vendors, the cop on the beat and an airline passenger that was willing to pounce on a would-be suicidal bomber with his underwear on fire, or we'd be in serious trouble right now. And just to be clear... The system did not work!

Could our national security credibility or economic stability survive such attacks if they were carried out? Sure, we would bounce back just as we did after 9/11, but had an airliner been blown out of the sky, and a bomb detonated in Time Square, we would have suffered a major hit in both areas.

We have got to give credit to the men and woman in our local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and we also have to be quite thankful that the recent terrorists were without question, incompetent.

For the critics that attacked the FBI for losing the Time Square bomber during a surveillance, let’s just say it's not as easy as it looks. The objective behind a surveillance is to follow the target without being spotted, and often there are things that could happen outside of your control, that will cause you to lose the target. I've done more surveillances than any of the present day leadership that I have heard speak on the topic, and can honestly say that losing a suspect, although regrettable, is completely understandable. 

However, what is also regrettable and yet not understandable, is why it has been nearly nine years since the attacks of September 11, 2001, and we still do not have the technology in place to assist in these investigations or to prevent attacks from happening; Why aren’t there legislation, laws and standards in place that outlines how terror suspects will be arrested, detained and prosecuted; and an intelligence system that works? And should I even address immigration?

Isn't anyone else as concerned as I am, that we are still debating if you should or should not Mirandize a terror suspect? Or, that had it not been for a U.S. Customs or Border Control Agent physically reviewing a flight manifest, a wanted terrorist would have escaped this country? Why doesn't Time Square have the cameras it needs and intelligent video solutions in place that would have alerted on a vehicle placed somewhere it should not have been, or because it's emergency flashers on?

I've been talking about the failures in our immigration system for years. You mean to tell me that we have not yet figured out how to flag or alert on someone like the Time Square bomber who according to reports has traveled to Pakistan eight times over the past few years. If you want to become a United States citizen, wouldn't you want your family living here as well? I would think so. How was this guy naturalized and why? There are so many loopholes in the system that it's pathetic. Here are just a few examples: http://thepillarofstrength.com/?p=236

Much of the political infighting over these issues and others are preventing us from doing what has to be done to secure this country and unfortunately, there will come a time when the street vendor and Good Samaritan aren't around.

Today, 16 months into the president’s term, the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) has no administrator and that is the doing of our legislators, and no one else. 

Erroll Southers, a 30 year law enforcement professional who worked and won respect for his work with the FBI, Santa Monica police, L.A. airport police and in academia was nominated for the job and slaughtered because of a mistake he made 22 years ago. Since that mistake, which he admitted to, he went on to become a highly qualified and respected law enforcement executive with close to an impeccable background that should have gained him the position he was nominated for, and yet it did not. 

That man should have gotten the job and he didn't because of nothing more than partisan politics and that is wrong.

It was and is our loss.

Our system and our leadership is failing. With everyday that goes by, our enemy is learning and preparing for their next attack. 

We need to act, before it is to late.

***Please click here: http://newsmax.com/Ruddy/times-square-al-qaida/2010/05/05/id/357998 and see what Al-Qaeda has learned by this most recent event.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

THE WTC FLAG THAT WENT TO HEAVEN


Over the past several years, many people have asked about the photo below and the story behind the American flag sitting on my desk. In order to answer those questions, the following is the journey of that flag - from the devastation of the World Trade Center site, to the heavenly skies on the Space Shuttle Endeavor and back to the people of the City of New York.

At 5:30AM on the morning of September 12, 2001, New York City Police Sergeant Gerald Kane and Detective Peter Friscia from my office, were assisting rescue teams at the heart of the World Trade Center site, at “Ground Zero.”

Sergeant Kane noticed a group of flagpoles on Church Street near Chamber Street, amidst the devastation that were still standing. The flags from the states of New Jersey and New York were still affixed to the poles, but one pole was bare. He then noticed an American flag had been blown off of the flagpole and was tangled upside down on a streetlight several yards away. Noting that the upside down position of the American flag was the universal sign for distress, Sergeant Kane was concerned that if the press or media published a photograph of the flag in that condition, it would be seen as an added victory memento for terrorists around the world.

The two men recruited a number of soldiers and firefighters in the area who hoisted a ladder to the top of the streetlight. Detective Friscia climbed the rungs of the ladder to the top, untangled and retrieved the flag and brought it down to the ground.

Four of the soldiers and their Lieutenant folded the torn, tattered and ash covered flag.

Not wanting to leave the flag in their vehicle which was parked several blocks away, they decided to bring it back to my office. Upon their arrival, they told my personal assistant, Janet Fitzpatrick, that they wanted to secure the flag in my personal office and she recommended that they write a note and leave it with the flag so I would know where it came from upon my return - and they did just that.

That day, I had spent that morning with Mayor Rudy Giuliani at the temporary command center in the New York City Police Academy. We then visited various hospitals and went on to Ground Zero, after which I returned to my office.

As I walked into the room, there was an extremely strong stench of smoke, like that of a burning building. I saw the flag sitting on the corner of my desk and as I got closer to look at it, I realized that the overwhelming smell was coming from the ash covered flag. There was a hand written note sticking out of one of the creases of the flag.


As I read the note, I stood at my desk and cried.

“Boss…
This is the flag that flew in front of the WTC at Church Street. It was blown off the pole and was tangled on a streetlight. We as well as some firefighters and soldiers recovered it. The soldiers folded it. In Israel you said that we can’t back down to terrorism. You are right. You lead and we will follow.”

Just as I finished reading the note and was looking at the flag, Tom Antenen, my Deputy Commissioner for Public Information walked into the office and without saying a word, leaned over and smelled the flag I held in my hands. I handed him the note.


That flag remained in my office for the next several weeks and with the help and assistance of Mr. Richard Cooper, the Program Manager of NASA's “Flags for Heroes and Families Program,” on October 10, 2001, me and Mayor Giuliani met with NASA Administrator Dan Goldin, at which time it was agreed that the flag would be transported onboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor (STS-108) as part of its December 5-17, 2001 mission to the International Space Station.

Accompanying the WTC flag on the Shuttle flight were:
  • A USMC flag recovered from the Pentagon attacks;
  • An American flag that flew over the State Capital in Harrisburg, PA on the day of Sept. 11th;
  • The shields of the fallen NYPD officers
  • Patches, posters and an emblem from the FDNY
  • Patches from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
  • 6,000 small American flags to honor those lost and those that served in the response and recovery efforts for 9/11.
In November 2001, I asked Detective Michael Jermyn from my personal security detail to represent me and deliver the flag and the 23 shields (police badges) of the New York City Police Officers that made the supreme sacrifice on 9/11 to NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Upon his arrival at his hotel, he requested that no hotel staff have access to his room, including the cleaning staff, during his two day stay. Upon hearing his request, a hotel manager and security officer appraoched him and asked if there was a problem and if they could be of assistance. Detective Jermyn informed the two men that he had custody of the United States flag that flew at the World Trade Center on 9/11 and for security purposes, he would feel better if no one was allowed access to his room during his stay.

Overwhelmed with emotion upon seeing the flag, the hotel manager upgraded the Detective's room to a two room suite and escorted him to the room where the flag was placed in the center of the bed in the second bedroom, almost as if the flag was "lying in state," pending delivery to NASA Headquarters.
In a moving ceremony the next day, the flag was turned over to NASA, from where it was later transported to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida where Detective Michael Jermyn represented me and the NYPD to witness the launch and this historic event - from Ground Zero, to heaven.



On Flag Day, June 14, 2002, the American flag that once flew at the World Trade Center and the other items of memorabilia were returned to the people of the City of New York by Mr. O’Keefe and Commander Dom Gorie and the crew members of the Space Shuttle Endeavor (STS-108), in a ceremony at the Rose Center at the American Museum of Natural History.

Today, this flag is secured and maintained by Mr. Brian Andersson, New York City Commissioner of Records and is used during the annual 9/11 ceremony at Ground Zero. He is seen here with David Webb, and actor Gary Sinise, a staunch supporter of our military, and 9/11 heroes.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Radical Islam's War Against the West


As we enter the sixth year without a terrorist attack on United States soil, the pain and devastation of 9/11 remains unforgettable.  But despite our memory of that day, there is danger that our success in thwarting additional attacks may eventually cause us to let our guard down.  That’s just what the enemy is counting on.

Who is the enemy?  We know them by various names; al Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, Ansar al-Islam, Hezbollah, Hamas and many others.  Occasionally, we see pictures of these groups in the press or media, mixed in with the other news of the day. But to really know and understand them is to realize that the threat to our country remains great.

In a documentary titled, “Obsession-Radical Islam’s War Against the West,” the threat to the United States and the rest of western civilization is depicted in a jarring, disturbing reality.  And although there is a cost for the one hour documentary, the trailer on the web site (www.obsessionthemovie.com) is enough to tell a very chilling story.

            

The documentary shows a culture of terror that is being taught to a generation of Muslim youth.  At the heart of this culture is the proposition that America is the great Satan and must be destroyed.  It is the basis for the indoctrination of ten-year old Muslim youth to a life dedicated to terror.  And it is being taught to these children as matter-of-factly as our children learn the alphabet.


If you watch the documentary, you must ask yourself where these children will be in five, ten or fifteen years from now.  What is being done to protect our country now and in the future? It is na├»ve to believe that the threat from radical fundamentalists is going away anytime soon.  And that makes it imperative that the protections against terror implemented since 9/11 remain in the forefront of our political debates.   

            

But with the passage of time, the lack of a 9/11 repeat, a new Congress and a new presidential debate heating up, I am afraid that our attention is easily turning to other matters.  No one should be lulled into thinking that the terrorists have given up on their intention to strike America again.  We learned from 9/11 that the fanatical jihadists are not disillusioned by failure and can take years to plan what Usama bin Laden would call a “spectacular event”. In fact, the 9/11 Commission Report points out that plans to attack the World Trade Center a second time began as early as 1995.  
            
And for every successful strike, such as the bombings in London, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Madrid, or for every failed plot, such as the plans to flood lower Manhattan by bombing the Holland tunnel, planning begins anew.  We all remember the bombing of the USS Cole in October, 2000, but few remember that this bombing was preceded by a failed attempt ten months earlier against the destroyer, USS The Sullivans in the same Yemen port where the Cole docked later that year.  The January attempt failed when the terrorist’s bomb-laden craft sunk before reaching its target.   But after the Cole attack, the ranks of al Qaeda swelled as fanatical Muslims flocked to bin Laden and his cause and today nearly seven years later, those like him are still out there, still recruiting, and still plotting. So, whether you watch the Obsession documentary, follow daily news reports or study our history, you must realize that the threat against the west by radical Islamic fundamentalists is today more aggressive as ever. And unlike World War I or II, Korea or Viet Nam… this is an unconventional enemy that you can’t see or touch, that wants to die for their cause and prays everyday that they get to do so. It is an enemy with a hatred for America and the west that we have yet to understand. Most importantly, let us not forget that they are not only at war with America, but also with western culture and civilization. They are also at war with their own… other Muslims with which they differ in belief.


That is the enemy… that is the threat. As they continue to plan and plot against us, I have to wonder… do we have the courage, the patience or the resolve to fight the fight that must be fought in the years to come.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

We Just Don't Get It!

Two vehicles loaded with fuel, propane tanks and nails, much like the vehicle-born IEDs in Iraq today, are found in London’s Piccadilly Circus, our equivalent to Times Square. Then two Islamic radicals slam a car loaded with the same into the Glasgow Airport in Scotland, while the US Department of Homeland Security is reporting that the Al-Qaeda chatter indicates their desire to commit an act of terror against the west that is a “spectacular event”, much like the September 11th attacks. The investigation in the UK has moved quickly and has resulted so far in eight arrests, most of who appear to be Muslim medical doctors.

In the last several days, the press and media, but more so the general public appears to be shocked by the recent events and the “spectacular” chatter. Many political leaders have expressed shock that most of the participants arrested in the UK terror plot were educated doctors.

What I don’t understand and what concerns me is, why the shock and disbelief?

The fact that the alleged participants in the UK plot are educated men shouldn’t surprise anyone at all. Don’t forget…Osama bin Laden was highly educated with an engineering degree, as is Ayman al Zawahiri his chief deputy in Al-Qaeda who studied behavior, psychology, and pharmacology at Cairo University graduating in 1974 and earning a Masters degree in surgery in 1978. Mohamed Atta and the other 18 men that banded together for the attacks on 9/11 were all studious, educated and well traveled, much like the suspects recently arrested and being detained by the British authorities.

Six years after 9/11, and after many attacks against the west and the many attempts that have been prevented since that day, we still have people in this country, including many political leaders, who refuse to acknowledge the continuing threat that we face from radical Islamists.  Where have these people been?

Perhaps they missed Osama bin Laden’s threats prior to 9/11 or even his statements in its immediate aftermath. But surely they’ve heard at least one of Zawahiri’s twenty or so messages over the past five years, or Abu Musab al Zarqawi’s in Iraq before he was killed by the coalition, or Adam Yehiye Gadahn who recently threatened an attack that would make us forget all about 9/11.

So, is it that we are not listening or is it that we just don’t get it? My fear is the latter… and here’s why. Spectacular these days, do not mean jumbo jets flying into skyscrapers or oil refineries or the White House. It no longer has to be a nuclear device or dirty bomb. The FBI, the U. S. Department of Justice and Homeland Security have foiled some major events in the past five years and are getting better everyday. But what if one of these groups took another approach as they attempted to do in the UK? Coordinated attacks designed to create carnage and mayhem, but done so in four or five different cities around the country, like New York, Los Angles, Orlando, Chicago and maybe Miami. In a tourist site or God forbid a school like they’ve done in Beslan? Maybe they kill fifty to three hundred innocents’… men, women and children. Would that be spectacular? More than you can imagine. The economic impact on tourism, the airline industry, the stock market and every other financial indicator in this country would mirror, if not surpass, the impact of the attacks of September 11.

We as a people need to wake up and realize that we are truly at war with an enemy that is on the attack. It’s not a poverty stricken enemy as some would have you believe and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that they could be living amongst us already as we’ve just witnessed at Fort Dix, New Jersey and in the United Kingdom.

Muslims are not our enemy… radical Islamic fundamentalists are. If we don’t understand it, then learn more about it. The western world needs to help promote the real Muslim clerics that teach true Islam and hold those clerics accountable that promote jihad and the killing of innocent people, Muslims, Christians and Jews alike.

We are at war with an enemy that wants us dead because our religious, economic or moral beliefs differ from theirs and they want to martyr or kill themselves in this battle to prove their point. They have no rules, laws, guidelines or Geneva Convention, making everything including children fair game. If our will to fight this enemy is the problem, then our political leaders need to stop fighting each other long enough to fix it. If they do not and they’re more concerned about their political positions than they are fighting this war, then show them the door.

Beirut, 9/11, the USS Cole, our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Amman, Madrid, London, Glasgow, Ft. Dix, JFK and even Saudi Arabia. There is a war against us. When exactly are we going to get it?