From “Courting Disaster:”
It is the morning of September 11, 2006. President Bush wakes up at 5:00 a.m., and after breakfast with the First Lady, he walks down the colonnade past the Rose Garden to the Oval Office. There, he receives his morning briefing from the Director of National Intelligence, and then calls in his speechwriters to make final edits on his televised address that night marking the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
At 8:46 a.m.—the moment the first plane struck the North Tower—the President walks out to the South Lawn with Mrs. Bush, Vice President Cheney, and Mrs. Cheney to observe a moment of silence. The networks cover the event live, and then cut back to New York City where the families of the fallen are gathered at Ground Zero for memorial ceremonies. As bagpipes play in the background, a morning show anchor interviews former Mayor Rudy Giuliani about his recollections of the day.
Suddenly, the coverage is interrupted by a breaking news bulletin: Networks are receiving reports that air traffic controllers have lost contact with United Airlines Flight 931, bound for San Francisco from London’s Heathrow Airport. The plane suddenly fell off the radar screen as it crossed the Atlantic Ocean.
Reporters scramble to figure out what has happened, when a second report comes in: Air traffic controllers have lost contact with another plane—United Flight 959 bound for Chicago, also departing from Heathrow.
Moments later, another report: Air Canada Flight 849 bound for Toronto has gone missing.
Then another: Air Canada Flight 865 bound for Montreal has disappeared.
Then another: American Airlines flight 131 bound for New York has disappeared.
Then another: United Flight 925 bound for Washington has disappeared.
Then another: American Airlines Flight 91 bound for Chicago has disappeared.
As the reports roll in, it becomes clear that the unimaginable has happened: al Qaeda terrorists have hijacked seven planes carrying at least 1,500 passengers, and blown them up as they crossed the Atlantic.
It is the second deadliest terrorist attack in history, surpassed only by the 9/11 attack itself.
The following day, as images of debris floating in the ocean fill our TV screens, the terrorists’ martyrdom videos are delivered to al Jazeera and broadcast to the world.
One of the hijackers sputters: “We will rain upon you such terror and destruction that you will never know peace. There will be floods of martyrdom operations and bombs falling through your lands.”
The ringleader of the plot, a terrorist named Abdulla Ahmed Ali, pokes his finger at the camera and declares: “Sheikh Osama warned you. … now the time has come for you to be destroyed.”
Five years after striking the Pentagon and World Trade Towers, al Qaeda has launched another mass casualty attack to rival the destruction of September 11, 2001.