In a few days, TV viewers will be reminded of American’s great disaster, a day remembered best by two numbers, 9 and 11 – the 11th day of the 9th month – when 19 young jihadi warriors joined in rebellious suicidal cause hijacked four large commercial aircraft and ended the lives of 2,996 people in one cataclysmic New York air raid. They believed, as do most people fighting a war, their cause was just.
It was an event recorded on live television and viewed with hypnotic fascination by multi-millions as three huge jetliners held steady courses to their targets. One struck the heart of the USA military – the Pentagon – leaving 125 dead in the wreckage. The other two were locked firmly on course – one for the South Tower of the World Trade Centre, the other for the North Tower in the business heart of the city.
A fourth hijacked airliner, believed to be headed for the White House or the Presidential Retreat known as Camp David, crashed with the loss of seven crew and 33 passengers in a meadow near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. A group of passengers had fought the hijackers until final impact. The crash site is now a state memorial park – a place set aside for peaceful meditation.
All four aircraft had been carefully selected as routine transcontinental flights loaded with high octane aviation fuel … in effect, huge flying bombs. Both towers were ablaze as they collapsed. Among the close to 3,000 dead were 343 firemen and paramedics, 23 New York City police officers and 37 NY Port Authority police and rescue workers.
Amid the more dramatic shots in the late afternoon was the moving image of New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, covered in thick dust from the still collapsing towers. He was walking through the wreckage, calm and confident, a reassuring example for the men and women putting their lives on the line in the ever-shifting mountain of concrete and twisted steel.
World leaders viewing the scene were as impressed by Mayor Giuliani’s calm, with his head high in the face of disaster, as were his fellow countrymen. England’s Queen Elizabeth II gave him an honorary knighthood. On home soil, he was awarded the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award created by the former president and regarded by many as one the highest awards the USA can offer a private citizen. Other countries offered similar tributes.
For a while, Mayor Giuliani stayed high profile until his term as mayor ended. He regained the spotlight briefly when he dabbled with the idea of running for president but discovered that 9/11 adulation did not extend to the White House.
So, he faded from high profile until the arrival of one Donald Trump, the man who would be king. Giuliani became a member of the Trump team of conspiracy freaks and an active participant in imaginary plots and fertile fabrications.
He was happy to be back on television again but had become as vain as the man whose banner he now carried, whose lies he endorsed. And those who had once admired watched in dismay as one of greatest shames of the USA was on full display – an out-of-control mob storming the home of government with death threats and violence, and Giuliano, a slack-jawed caricature of man once praised for his calm confidence, now urging the mob to carry on. If the government wanted a fight, “let’s give them one.”
As we remember 9/11, let us also remember we sometimes anoint our heroes too soon.