Lost about a day getting to and from Deep Ten for an overdue talk with its elusive Director. In that time, as we glided in over Neo York City, and I looked at the Twin Towers from space, I realized that we were coming up on a peculiar anniversary.
(No, not Freddie. That was a few days before. If only some people would live forever.)
But how do you celebrate a terrorist attack that wasn't, especially not so long before we mourn the worst terrorist attack on American soil that was?
Ten years ago today was September 11th, 2001. If certain plans by a now-marginal terrorist group had come to fruition, a small but very determined band of Islamic radicals would have hijacked four passenger planes and crashed them into buildings.
They'd planned to do the Twin Towers (then still next to each other), the Pentagon, and the Capitol. The death toll would have been in the thousands, and societal and political chaos inflicted could have been total.
They had it all planned out, perfectly, but then things just kind of fell apart. Wrong person went to the wrong place. Word slipped out and the wrong people overheard. Things collapsed around their shoes like they'd been gutted standing up.
So only the planes bound for the Twin Towers took off. The other two were grounded and the terrorists nabbed before they even got on board. And when the ones in the air got to Neo York City, the defensive grid grabbed them in midair and put them down on the ground.
At the time, it was called a sign of how well we, as the American intelligence community, worked together. The NSA had its ears open, the Bureau was on the ground, the Company saw them before they even got here. And then it was just a matter of grabbing them before they got too far.
Heck, we even got most of the passengers off the two compromised planes alive, along with enough hijackers to grill. How's that for teamwork? "America, !@#$ Yeah!"
Of course, that was total and complete bull!@#$. We didn't connect all the dots until those two planes were in the air, and just barely caught the other two groups. If it hadn't been for the city's unique abilities, which that sorry little band of cave-dwelling filth had apparently not been informed of, it would have been a terrible day indeed.
But we lucked out. The President hustled away from reading "My Pet Goat" to grade schoolers so he could get to a press conference and congratulate the victors. Speeches were made, backs got slapped, and medals got passed around like cheap Cognac at my favorite Vietnamese place.
And they gave me permission to slip into Afghanistan and have a few sharp words with the slimy little !@#$ who'd masterminded the whole thing. What's left of him is on the wall of heads in my penthouse, third down the line from that one guy who looks like someone you know.
(I didn't even bother to label it. !@#$ him.)
When you !@#$ up, mistakes are counted and heads roll. Anyone who's still got a skull and a job by the end of the day gets to learn from those mistakes. And hopefully they will learn from them.
But when you succeed, even if it's by the skin of your teeth, no one learns a !@#$ thing. Which is why we didn't look at the mistakes we were made leading up to the sorry abortion of a terrorist attack on September 11th, 2001. We just moved on to the next crisis, and the next, and the next.
And that's probably why, a little under two months later, the Computer Hell Virus took us by complete surprise. We hadn't learned to work together. We hadn't learned to share intel. We hadn't been paying attention to actionable alerts or assembling the pieces of the greater puzzle.
We were all looking every which way but together, and then it was too late to look away.
In two months, the 11/9 industry will crank up again, just like it does every November. Only this time ten times more than usual for the tenth anniversary of that black, November day.
They'll be celebrating police officers and firefighters and rescue workers, which is good. They'll be selling t-shirts and hats and useless gee-gaws, which isn't so good. There will be ceremonies and memorials and speeches at graveyards. There will be tears and red faces and eyes screwed shut from crying.
The televisions will be filled with talking heads telling us how they feel, and how we ought to feel. There will be politicians trying to curry favor and candidates trying to get votes. There will be anger and recrimination, sadness and sympathy. Widespread calls for revenge and quiet voices asking for understanding.
And there will be the horrible pictures and films we wish we'd never seen, but will never be allowed to not see, ever again.
Ten years on. Ten years of war and threats of war. Ten years of wondering if we went too far with post-disaster security. Ten years of realizing we definitely !@#$ up a few times. Ten years of people asking uncomfortable questions (some ridiculous, some right on the money).
Ten years of hating the wrong people and protesting at the wrong buildings.
Every November 9th I wall myself in, bury myself in work, and make !@#$ sure that nothing is escaping my sight. But every September 11th I remind myself why I have to do that.
Because I looked away and smiled, glad we were so !@#$ lucky that their plan went wrong, instead of asking what our mistakes were.
Never again. Not on my !@#$ watch.
No matter how much I get !@#$ed up and down and over, forwards backwards and sideways, I only have to ever hear the words "We're under attack" and I'm up on my feet and sober again. But I also have to be in control of what goes on before the attack, too. I have to learn from my mistakes before they happen all over again.
Otherwise, what the !@#$ am I doing?
In a related note, I have promised hizzonner not to light any 11/9 "souvenir" carts on fire with my penis this year. I don't know if that counts as a mistake or not, but I guess we all do our part to help the city mourn with a degree of dignity.
(SPYGOD is listening to Running Up That Hill (Kate Bush, by way of Placebo) and having some Weybacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale)