August 2004


The 9/11 Report

(I will respond to Chris’s comments later, but… I wrote this while on the biz-trip.)

So, as I was on my way to Stuttgart, I had an hour to kill in one of the train stations- ironically the Weimar main train station. I managed to order myself twei Berliner and a cup of Kaffee- grosser. (I hadn’t realized that there were two sizes until I was asked what size I want.)

This excitement left me with a whopping half hour before my train, so I decided to kill the extra time by wandering into the newsstand. Based upon my previous visitations, I knew, already, that there wasn’t much of interest to me there-most of the material is in German and, therefore, is not really understandable for me.

I grabbed a copy of the International Herald Tribune figuring it would keep me occupied for some of the trip to Frankfurt. Then, for some reason unknown to me, I decided to wander through the store looking at the covers of the magazines and books. Somehow I found the one section of the store with English language books. I had not noticed it before. Nicely enough they were stocking –The 9/11 Commission Report– for 7,00€. It had a German introduction, but the report was in English, and the report lasted me not only the entire train ride from Weimar to Stuttgart, but two additional hours-and that included a lot of skimming and the outright skipping of the last two chapters.

What an engaging piece of literary work it is-the only other person I know who read it was MT, and as I recall, she didn’t tell me much because it was just before I was going to leave for Europe on a plane: not that it bugs me that much-I doubt another hijacking like this will ever take place again. The report literally sucked me in and kept me from looking out the window or noticing my neighbors for most of the trip- the only people I really noticed on my trip were the drunk louts who got noisy 20 minutes outside of Stuttgart.

On the plus side, the report gave a really engaging and interesting description of events on September 11th. Being the kind of dork that I am, I really found chapter 9 to be exceptionally interesting. I found it interesting the parallel discussion of the New York Police Department (NYPD), New York Fire Department (NYFD), and Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) response to the crisis, including the realization that in the 17 minutes from the AA plane to the UA plane crash the three had started the largest rescue operation in the history of the city-before the second plane hit. Incredibly interesting.

Also interesting is that officials in the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) in less than two minutes had activated emergency operations plans, and that Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was called sometime within those 17 minutes to provide at least five urban search and rescue teams-all of this before the second plane hit.

In many ways this speaks to the incredibly professional and instinctual responses these professionals had to the situation. It also speaks volumes about the people who wrote the report: they knew how to write and it was impressive.

However, not all is rosy with the picture. First of all, the basic thing I found most frustrating about the report was the endnotes. Chapter 1 has 241 of them-In total there are 106 pages of endnotes in the book. To paraphrase Al Franken (See Lies and Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right), end notes suck! As I wore a trail between the front of the book and the back of the book reading endnotes, I really wish they had chosen footnotes so that we could reference the source material without having to flip back and forth. Additionally, a lot of the footnotes were really fascinating reads-it seems such a waste to me that many of the footnotes will go unread by the people who bought the book, just because one gets tired of flipping back and forth.

Secondly, I think the commissioners were playing too nice with the Bush Administration. We never really find out why Condoleezza Rice took from January 25th until September 4th to hold a “Principals Committee” meeting on al Qaeda, although the committee had met to talk about -the Middle East peace process, Russia, and the Persian Gulf.- (Page 201 in the edition I read.)

I could say more- but I don’t want this entry to last forever….

1 comment to The 9/11 Report

  • MT

    So, I am not the lone nerd among my friends. 😉 I am thinking about using a chapter out of this report when I teach Org Theory again — and talk about the joys of Bureaucracy… But then again, I am also going to use a chapter from Fast Food Nation, so what do I know?