It was a beautiful Tuesday morning in Washington, DC. The sky was blue; the air was crisp; and millions of Americans were making their way to their jobs just like they did on any other day. But this was no ordinary day. In fact it was a day that would change my life and change the course of American history. On this day, September 11, 2001, I rode with the top down in my friend’s convertible along the highway toward the Pentagon. As I listened in disbelief to the radio reports of terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, I was snapped back into reality by the roar of jet engines only a couple hundred feet above my head. Flight 77 then crashed in front of my eyes in a fiery explosion into the Pentagon.
I sat stunned in the car as we pulled to the side of the freeway. I looked around only to see more stunned looks — some eyes wide with shock, others streaming with tears. Earlier, when President Bush received word of the second World Trade Center attack, he sat for seven minutes taking in what had just happened and fulfilling his obligation to the Florida students to whom he was reading. I sat in shock, and the president calmly sat and contemplated his next move. We now know, however, that had John Kerry been president, he would have acted — and he would have done so immediately.
Speaking at the Unity Conference, a quadrennial gathering of the four largest minority journalism associations, Sen. Kerry told the audience, “First of all, had I been reading to children, and had my top aide whispered in my ear, ‘America is under attack,’ I would have told those kids very politely and nicely that the president of the United States had business that he needed to attend to, and I would have attended to it.”
Although plenty has been said regarding President Bush and his efforts in the war on terror, until Kerry’s comment, no political figure, neither Republican nor Democrat, has criticized President Bush’s actions on that terrible day. Now, with either the benefit of divine hindsight or a complete lack of understanding of the fog of the day, Kerry claims he could have done things better. He would have “attended to business.”
Just what would Kerry have done upon hearing the news? How could things have run more smoothly under President Kerry from the time he was whispered the information until the time he left the classroom? In those seven minutes could we have saved an additional life? Could we have gotten a jump start on attacking al Qaeda?
In Kerry’s zeal for the White House, he has shown in one sentence that playing politics with the memory of 9/11 is not beyond his limits of decency. It is impossible to say what we would have or could have done during 9/11. It is only possible to say what each one of us did do as the events unfolded on that fateful day.
I sat stunned until the realization hit us that we needed to call loved ones to let them know what was happening. President Bush was charting a course of action while remaining calm in a classroom of children.
Despite what Kerry says he would have done on 9/11, upon hearing the news of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center, Kerry told CNN’s Larry King that he and fellow senators “watched the second plane come in to the building.”
“And we shortly thereafter sat down at the table and then we just realized nobody could think,” Kerry continued to King.
Kerry said he was shaken out of his non-thinking state by seeing the “cloud of explosion at the Pentagon.” From the time between the second World Trade Center attack and the attack on the Pentagon, forty minutes had elapsed. That’s forty minutes of the Democrats’ presidential nominee being unable to think. Yet despite the fact that as senator, Kerry was unable to think for forty minutes, the American public is supposed to believe that President Bush was wrong to continue reading for seven minutes and that as president, Kerry would have acted immediately.
This notion would be ridiculous if it weren’t so tragic. No one, except Kerry it seems, can honestly say how they would have acted had they been in a different role on September 11, 2001. If you were a firefighter, with a wife and children at home and you were standing at the doors of one of the World Trade Center towers, would you have rushed in? If the situation arose, and as a fighter pilot you were ordered to kill innocent American civilians on a passenger airliner, could you have done it? These are unknown questions and will always remain unknown. Tragedies such as 9/11 make heroes out of normal people, and turn novice officeholders into leaders. Kerry, to his shame, claims a course of action that can never be known.
This campaign for president of the United States will surely have its share of attack ads, accusations, and counter accusations. As it unfolds, I can only hope that Sen. Kerry will remember 9/11 for what it was — a terrible day for America, a day that ended the lives of some and changed the lives of all. In the mean time, if given the choice between a man who sat calmly for seven minutes in order to process unspeakable terrorist attacks and a man who sat for forty minutes unable to think, I’ll take the former any day of the week.