Sunday, November 12, 2006

5 Years from Flight 587

It was five years ago that American Airlines Flight 587 crashed in New York City shortly after taking off from Kennedy Airport for a flight to the Dominican Republic. We know now, at least according to the National Transportation Safety Board that a "crucial part of the tail fell off the Airbus A300, and the agency blamed pilot error, inadequate pilot training and overly sensitive rudder controls." We certainly didn't know that on the morning of November 12th, 2001.

Jennifer Peltz from the Associated Press writes,
The crash on Nov. 12, 2001, in the quiet neighborhood of Belle Harbor further rattled a city still shaken by the attacks on the World Trade Center just two months earlier.
I have news for her; some of us miles away from the City were "further rattled." I was on watch in the Coast Guard's Atlantic Area Command Center and Rescue Coordination Center Norfolk when the crash occurred; I'd been recalled for six weeks or so, following the attacks of 9/11, and was sitting at the watch desk when we saw the news on CNN. We had no idea what the cause of the crash was, but all of us assumed the worst. I directed the launch of a Dolphin from Atlantic City, and sent the ready Jayhawk from Elizabeth City to Atlantic City. I also sent up the Herc from E-City with direction to fly north, loiter, and await further instructions. I don't know what we could have had them do if it actually was a terrorist attack, but I knew it was better to have resources close than far away. Today, I think all the Coast Guard pilots have had training in air intercept, so we'd probably do better than just loitering...

Anyway, I'm struck by how different the world is today than it was before September 11th, 2001. Before 9/11, any watchstander would have watched the news with a detached sort of attitude. Today, every watchstander watches the news with a pessimistic view. In many respects, the terrorists have won: we are, by definition, terrified. I hate to admit this, but they have changed our behaviors and our thinking; they have made us look over our shoulders and queue up for searches; they've encouraged us to ignore our Constitution and our values. They have won. And, I'm not sure that we can win by military force. We must find another way to combat them, for without taking them on other fronts, they will have continued to win, no matter what tactical, military victories we have.

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