Four 9/11 Moms Battle Bush
The Investigation
by Gail Sheehy

This is a section from Gail Sheehy's Four 9/11 Moms Battle Bush
which first appeared in the 2003-08-25 edition of The New York Observer.

Kristen was somewhat better-informed than the others. The tall, blond former surfer girl had graduated from Seton Hall law school, practiced all of three days, hated it and elected to be a full-time mom. Her first line of defense against despair at the shattering of her life dreams was to revert to thinking like a lawyer.

Lorie was the network's designated researcher, since she had in her basement what looked like a NASA command module; her husband had been an amateur designer. Kristen had told her to focus on the timeline: Who knew what, when did they know it, and what did they do about it?

Once Lorie began surfing the Web, she couldn't stop. She found a video of President Bush's reaction on the morning of Sept. 11. According to the official timeline provided by his press secretary, the President arrived at an elementary school in Sarasota, Fla., at 9 a.m. and was told in the hallway of the school that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. This was 14 minutes after the first attack. The President went into a private room and spoke by phone with his National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, and glanced at a TV in the room. "That's some bad pilot," the President said. Bush then proceeded to a classroom, where he drew up a little stool to listen to second graders read. At 9:04 a.m., his chief of staff, Andrew Card, whispered in his ear that a second plane had struck the towers. "We are under attack," Mr. Card informed the President.

"Bush's sunny countenance went grim," said the White House account. "After Card's whisper, Bush looked distracted and somber but continued to listen to the second graders read and soon was smiling again. He joked that they read so well, they must be sixth graders."

Lorie checked the Web site of the Federal Aviation Authority. The F.A.A. and the Secret Service, which had an open phone connection, both knew at 8:20 a.m. that two planes had been hijacked in the New York area and had their transponders turned off. How could they have thought it was an accident when the first plane slammed into the first tower 26 minutes later? How could the President have dismissed this as merely an accident by a "bad pilot"? And how, after he had been specifically told by his chief of staff that "We are under attack," could the Commander in Chief continue sitting with second graders and make a joke? Lorie ran the video over and over.

"I couldn't stop watching the President sitting there, listening to second graders, while my husband was burning in a building," she said.

Mindy pieced together the actions of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. He had been in his Washington office engaged in his "usual intelligence briefing." After being informed of the two attacks on the World Trade Center, he proceeded with his briefing until the third hijacked plane struck the Pentagon. Mindy relayed the information to Kristen:

"Can you believe this? Two planes hitting the Twin Towers in New York City did not rise to the level of Rumsfeld's leaving his office and going to the war room to check out just what the hell went wrong." Mindy sounded scared. "This is my President. This is my Secretary of Defense. You mean to tell me Rumsfeld had to get up from his desk and look out his window at the burning Pentagon before he knew anything was wrong? How can that be?"

"It can't be," said Kristen ominously. Their network being a continuous loop, Kristen immediately passed on the news to Lorie, who became even more agitated.

Lorie checked out the North American Aerospace Defense Command, whose specific mission includes a response to any form of an air attack on America. It was created to provide a defense of critical command-and-control targets. At 8:40 a.m. on 9/11, the F.A.A. notified NORAD that Flight No. 11 had been hijacked. Three minutes later, the F.A.A. notified NORAD that Flight No. 175 was also hijacked. By 9:02 a.m., both planes had crashed into the World Trade Center, but there had been no action by NORAD. Both agencies also knew there were two other hijacked planes in the air that had been violently diverted from their flight pattern. All other air traffic had been ordered grounded. NORAD operates out of Andrews Air Force Base, which is within sight of the Pentagon. Why didn't NORAD scramble planes in time to intercept the two other hijacked jetliners headed for command-and-control centers in Washington? Lorie wanted to know. Where was the leadership?

"I can't look at these timelines anymore," Lorie confessed to Kristen. "When you pull it apart, it just doesn't reconcile with the official storyline." She hunched down in her husband's swivel chair and began to tremble, thinking, There's no way this could be. Somebody is not telling us the whole story.

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