Monday, September 10, 2001 was, for many people, just another beginning of the work week. For this reporter, I had just returned to Washington on September 9 from a previous week’s speaking engagement in Helsinki. I vividly recall that just after my flight took off from JFK Airport in New York, the plane flew just south of the southern tip of Manhattan. I had a picture postcard view of the World Trade Center towers, which were brilliantly reflecting the setting sunlight from the west. I recall thinking to myself that those two buildings represented one of the greatest marvels of modern construction. Little did I realize that in less than 48 hours, those gleaming buildings would be replaced by a gigantic heap of rubble, office furniture, and, most grotesquely of all, human remains.
Only a few people on the planet would know that Monday, September 10, 2001, would be the last “normal” day in their lives. There were warning signs, however, that all was not right with the world. On September 9, as I was boarding my flight in Helsinki, the leader of the anti-Taliban Afghan Northern Alliance, Ahmad Shah Massoud, was assassinated in Takhar Province in northeastern Afghanistan. Two Tunisians, traveling on fake Belgian passports, claimed they were with a television network and wanted to conduct an interview with Massoud. The Tunisians were, in fact, Al Qaeda suicide bombers, who detonated bombs hidden inside their camera and battery pack. Massoud died while being transported to neighboring Tajikistan for medical care.
The assassination of Massoud, who was supported by the Central Intelligence Agency but rejected by the U.S. State Department, provided a clear warning sign that various clandestine forces working on behalf of outside players in the Afghan civil war, were on the march. At the Voice of America, Spozhmai Maiwandi, the radio service’s Pashto language broadcaster and Afghan expatriate, was considered so favorable to the Taliban she was nicknamed “Kandahar Rose” by other VOA personnel. When Maiwandi—who had become chief of the South Asia division and had the first interview with Taliban leader Mullah Omar following 9/11—died last November, then-Afghan president and former U.S. citizen and World Bank official Ashraf Ghani praised her “contributions to journalism and Afghanistan.”
In Kabul, eight foreigners—four Germans, two Americans, and two Australians—were on trial before Taliban Chief Justice Mullah Noor Muhammad Saqib on charges of “preaching Christianity.” A U.S. consular official assigned to Pakistan, David Donahue, had been dispatched to Kabul to look after the interests of the two charged Americans, Heather Mercer and Dayna Curry. The eight foreigners charged under sharia law with blasphemy worked for the German charity Shelter Now.
On 9/11 eve in Washington, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, who a majority of Americans rejected in the 2000 election but who, nevertheless, ascended to the White House as a result of a 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court, saw their favorability ratings fall each day. On May 24, 2001, Senator Jim Jeffords (R-VT) made a decision that would cost the Republicans control over a 50-50 split Senate, with Vice President Cheney casting the controlling deciding vote. Jeffords’ decision to become an Independent gave the Democrats control of the Senate.
Cheney and Bush were eyeing oil drilling in some of America’s most pristine national parks and nature preserves and forests, including Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and in the Rocky Mountains. After Tuesday, September 11, their focus would shift to another prize: Iraq. The Bush White House had circled the wagons in refusing to disclose to Congress the nature of Mr. Cheney’s secret energy task force.
On Monday, September 10, 2001, Bush was increasingly seen as a lame duck president only eight months into his term. The “R” word—recession—was on the lips of Washington’s punditocracy. As usual, the Republicans were talking corporate tax cuts to boost a sputtering economy. And, as also usual, certain Democrats were in the tax-cutting camp of the GOP. Texas Republican Senator Phil Gramm of Texas had announced the previous week that he would not seek another Senate term in 2002. Gramm’s wife, Wendy Gramm, served on the board of a company that would soon be in the headlines: Enron. Phil Gramm was still smarting over his losing the chairmanship of the powerful Senate Banking Committee after Jeffords switched sides in May.
On September 10, the pundits were all talking about who would replace Gramm. Some Republicans wanted Gramm to step down before his term expired so that Governor Rick Perry, who had succeeded Bush as governor in December 2000, could appoint a Republican to Gramm’s seat, an indication that the GOP was worried about holding on to the Senate seat in President Bush’s home state.
The right-wing in the GOP was anxious for something to rally Bush’s flagging poll numbers. At 8:46 am Eastern Daylight Time on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, they would get their wish.
On September 10, 2001, New York Democrats were preparing for their mayoral primary the next day. The four major candidates hoping to replace the two term-limited Republican Rudolph Giuliani were Mark Green, Fernando Ferrer, Alan Hevesi, and Peter Vallone, Sr.
Giuliani had been popular during the “Wall Street dot.com bubble,” but that was history and rising unemployment and demands for pay raises by cops, firefighters, and teachers wiped the luster off the Giuliani administration.
Fernando Ferrer, The Bronx borough president, had received the endorsement of Reverend Al Sharpton, who, in 2001, was not the sainted figure MSNBC has turned him into today, but a street provocateur with his bullhorn always at the ready. During the September 9 televised mayoral debate, Vallone, the City Council president, criticized Ferrer for racial division. Green, the city’s public advocate, had been making inroads with black voters, however, Sharpton’s endorsement of Ferrer stymied Green’s black support. Ferrer did not make any inroads with the city’s Jewish voters. With only 6 percent of Jewish support, Ferrer trailed far behind Green and City Comptroller Hevesi in support from one of New York’s most critical voting blocs.
Ferrer, with a majority of black support and with his fellow Hispanics having his political back, was seen as the best candidate to reverse Giuliani’s policy of only favoring New York’s wealthy elites, who included those like Donald Trump. Ferrer claimed that he represented the “Other New York,” not the limousine class that helped to put Giuliani and his Republican successor, Michael Bloomberg, into office.
As New York voters went to the polls on Tuesday morning, fate would result in the primary being delayed for two weeks. When New Yorkers finally went to the polls, Ferrer failed to achieve the 50 percent threshold to avoid a run-off. Winning only 35.5 percent to Green’s 30.9 percent, Ferrer was forced to face Green in a two-way race that Green won with 51.1 percent to Ferrer’s 48.9 percent. The November general election would not give New Yorkers, reeling from the 9/11 attack, much solace. Giuliani, as ever much the scheming and contemptible jabroni we all now know him to be, proposed extending his mayoral term indefinitely because of the 9/11 “emergency.” Giuliani even suggested he would make an end-run around New York’s mayoral two-term limit law and run again for a third term as mayor.
Bloomberg had been endorsed by Giuliani in the GOP primary. Bloomberg’s only GOP primary challenger was former U.S. Representative Herman Badillo, who called the billionaire media mogul during their televised debate, “unfit to lead” the city. Badillo also brought up some former Bloomberg employees, who had proffered some damaging information on Bloomberg’s management style. In what would later sound as a familiar retort when it comes to wealthy Republicans from New York, Bloomberg reminded New Yorkers that the former employees in question had all signed non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), which he intended to enforce. Trump would similarly use NDAs to silence former staffers of the White House. Bloomberg would eventually succeed in scrapping the mayoral term limit law while serving as mayor in his second term.
Green, the Democratic general election candidate, endorsed a three-month term extension for Giuliani, as did Bloomberg. Ferrer was the only major candidate who said no to Giuliani’s Mussolini-like political designs. Cui bono from the 9/11 attack? Most certainly it was Giuliani and Bloomberg. Another New Yorker who would benefit from 9/11 was Donald Trump, who, as the rubble of the Trade Center was still smoldering on 9/11/01, bragged and lied during a phone call to WWOR-AM about one of his buildings in Lower Manhattan. Trump said, “Forty Wall Street actually was the second-tallest building in downtown Manhattan. Now it’s the tallest.” Trump displayed the same boorish white trash mentality on September 11, 2001, that he is for the 20th anniversary of that tragic day. On September 11, 2021, Trump and his son, Donald Trump, Jr., are hosting a pay-for-view boxing match at a casino in Hollywood, Florida.
Across the Hudson River from the World Trade Center, Hudson County Democrats were still reeling from the sudden resignation the previous Thursday of County Executive Robert Janiszewski, who had served in his position since 1988. Janiszewski’s said his resignation was for “personal reasons.” In fact, he had been moved out of New Jersey by the FBI because he was a cooperating witness in a federal corruption probe. Despite his cooperation with the Justice Department and October 2002 guilty plea, the trial judge gave Janiszewksi the maximum prison sentence: 41 months. The U.S. Attorney in charge of Janiszewski’s prosecution was Republican Chris Christie.
On the morning of September 10, Delta Airlines was advertising one-way fares from New York to Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, and Tampa for $55; Los Angeles and San Francisco for $149; and Istanbul for $272. Anyone booking these flights for the following morning would be in for the most unforgettable flights of their entire lives.
Allianz Group ran a full-page ad in the September 10, 2011, New York Times offering life insurance policies, because, as the ad stated, “Life both precious and fragile needs to be protected.”
The previous week, there had been a mass sell-off of stocks in the high-tech industry. The sharpest drops in stock value were experienced by Exodus Communications, Inktomi, Micromuse, Palm, and Ericsson. The previous Thursday saw the Justice Department scrapping its plan to break up Microsoft.
The previous week saw an 8.9 percent drop on the New York Stock Exchange shares of Amdocs, an Israeli communications software company that would later be implicated in a Mossad espionage on key U.S. military, government, and private residences of government officials in the months prior to 9/11.
The top rated shows on TV were ABC’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” which aired on Tuesday and Thursday evenings; CBS’s “Everybody Loves Raymond;” and NBC’s “Law and Order” and “Friends.”
The top three grossing movies on the weekend prior to 9/11 were “The Musketeer,” “Two Can Play That Game,” and “Rock Star.”
On the night of September 10, 2001, the New York Giants faced off against the Denver Broncos in the Monday Night Football televised match, the first official NFL game played at Denver’s new Invesco Field at Mile High. The Broncos beat the Giants 31-20. A few employees who worked at the World Trade Center stayed up too late watching the game, owing to the time difference between New York and Denver. The few who overslept on Tuesday morning escaped near-certain death by not showing up at work on time.
In baseball’s National League, Atlanta, Houston, and Arizona led their respective divisions, and in the American League, the Yankees and Cleveland led in their divisions. Seattle had already clinched the title for the American League West.
Believe it or not, two of the stage performances on Broadway were “Puppetry of the Penis” and “Urinetown.”
Most Americans went to bed on the evening of September 10 thinking that the following day would be business as usual. They would be in for one of the most dramatic shocks of their lives.
Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.
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Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist, author and nationally-distributed columnist. A member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the National Press Club. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).