Within hours after the Shuttle Columbia disaster President Bush appeared before Americans and fervently vowed to investigate the failures that led to the death of eight crew members.
As I watched the President speak, I remembered how in the days after September 11, 2001 Vice-president Dick Cheney spoke privately with then Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and requested he not pursue an investigation into the failures that led to the deaths of 3,000 individuals in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D. C..
First, the Anthrax attacks on the Democratic leadership seemed to interfere somewhat with their investigatory will, and then in the 2002 mid-term elections a combination of fear, apathy and the maligning of war veteran Sen. Max Cleland by Republicans helped to sweep away the slim Democratic majority. For a time, it looked as though Mr. Cheney would get his wish.
It's been almost two years and I can now look at images of the Twin Towers' destruction without being overwhelmed by pity and anguish. Today, watching video of the collapse I recalled the first thoughts I had before emotion and then numbness took over on that morning: Something had gone terribly wrong in our country. Events were unfolding in a way that they should not have.
Of course, I'm not the only one who thinks something wasn't quite right about that day. Despite the dearth of stories from an intimidated and too often complicit American press, there are those numbers of us who have a long list of questions. Many who lost family members on Sept. 11 are certain in their perception that the facts don't jibe with what our government tells us about that day. And some of them have done the sort of investigating, questioning and evaluating that all good reporters once engaged in before so many of them regressed into kingmakers, courtiers and cowards with their eyes on the bottom line.
In fact, were it not for the efforts of four mothers who were widowed on Sept. 11, known as "The Jersey Girls," we wouldn't have an investigation into 9/11 at all - hobbled and constrained as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be by the Bush/Cheney administration.
The women; Lorie van Auken, Kristen Breitweiser, Mindy Kleinberg and Patty Casazza continue to find a lack of official cooperation as well as a great deal that doesn't add up. They wonder why NORAD - North American Aerospace Defense Command - didn't act as they should in the case of any air attack. And if it's true the administration did not know specifics prior to 9/11, then why is it Attorney General John Ashcroft refused to fly commercial airlines in the weeks before 9/11? Why did Bush sit in a classroom joking with second-graders after he was told the attack on America was underway, while, as Mrs. van Auken puts it, "...my husband was burning in a building."
For obvious reasons, it's best not to argue that an investigation such as this is pursued merely to gain political benefit. Aside from insulting widows, that argument only reminds us that a sinking Bush presidency itself gained a number of benefits from 9/11. Let's remember the PNAC, Project for the New American Century and its "Pearl Harbor" statement which said a domestic disaster would be helpful in implementing plans to invade Iraq and sweep the Middle East. Let's remember that George Bush himself said 9/11 was part of his having "hit the trifecta." That's our Mr. Bush, the man who really knows how to put the "con" in "compassionate conservatism."
The group has not found any satisfactory answers to their many questions, nor do they see any proof that we're safer now than prior to 9/11. A subsequent lack of spectacular, multiple attacks within our shores does not prove much more than that a disaster of Sept. 11 proportions would never have happened had our government been doing its job. So then, why didn't it? When we know the answer to that, then we might begin to safeguard ourselves.
We can never forget those who perished from the Earth on that September day. We remember them in prayer, we light candles as we recall their spirits and how they once lit our world, we read words of remembrance by those they loved and left behind on that painful day. And in their names, we seek out the truth. So then it behooves us to remember also the names of those who would hide the truth of September 11. With a peaceful vote well cast we can then let them pass into dark history. Whensoever we stand up to those who with stealth and brazenness tread upon the birthright of our democracy, we stand in remembrance of all those who have died. We honor their memory by not relinquishing our freedom to fear, confusion, or sorrow.
I look at footage of the collapsing towers listing and sinking like a ship into an ocean of poison smoke and human vapor, a scarred and scorched Pennsylvania field, a seared and shattered Pentagon, and I still see something terribly wrong. I still see things that should not have happened. And still there are no answers.