Tragedy Might Have Been Avoided

Everett Lautin, M.D.

215 East 95th Street (Apt. 20J)

New York, NY 10128-4084

(212) 369-2895

September 11, 2001

Letters to the Editor

The New York Times

229 West 43rd Street

New York, N.Y. 10036-3959

To the Editor:

Terrorism: Prevention before retribution.

Terrorism.  Why?  Cowardice.  Desperation.  False retribution.  Kill the innocent.  Make them know that you can.  Make them suffer.  Make them feel your pain.  Make them hate as much as you do.

How?  You don’t have fighter jets or bombers.  You don’t have a large army.  Just a few dedicated patriots.  Patriots?  Yes, in their own eyes, but to most of the world—terrorists and fanatics.

Terrorism.  Fanaticism.  They exist, always have existed and always will exist.  And live with them we must, for live with them we will.

Were these most recent terrorist acts a surprise?  Were all reasonable and prudent methods taken to avoid this tragedy?  No!

It only took me a few minutes to realize that the first plane that hit the World Trade Center was probably an act of terrorism.  How long did it take you, seconds?  Not a big surprise.

As everyone knows this is not even the first time that the World Trade Center was the object of a terrorist bombing.  It was a tempting target, the symbol of U.S. capitalism and power and The Pentagon as a target, obvious.

So what to do, or what should have been done?  Is this hindsight?  I don’t think so.  Quoting Reuters, “An Arab journalist with access to bin Laden told Reuters in London the renegade Saudi had warned three weeks ago of an ''unprecedented attack'' on U.S. interests.”  This was common knowledge.  How many of us as we waited in line at “airport security” have felt that it was not worth the wait?  Airport security was a new oxymoron.  Seven dollars an hour for the security guards.  Seven dollars an hour against hijacking.  Investigative reporters showing over and over again how easily it could be breached and not incidentally providing guidance for the terrorists.  Four planes hijacked within a few hours gave proof to the oxymoron.

A three-week warning was given.  Was it ignored?  Could something have been done?  Should something have been done?  Yes!  Was something done?  No!  Was security increased at airports?  No.  Did the “powers that be” our protectors, our “leaders” consider which acts of terrorism could occur and how they might be dealt with or hopefully prevented?  I would assume so.  Clearly they were not successful.  Not successful at all.

Did our government have the best minds looking for and finding solutions?  Did they find solutions?  Did the government listen to them?

From the time the first plane was hijacked and was then off course and not responding to air traffic control it was many minutes before the act of terrorism was completed.  The plane headed towards Manhattan.  What were the air traffic controls thinking?  What should they have been trained to do?  It was eighteen minutes before the second plane hit the World Trade Center.  Eighteen minutes!  And more time passed before the third plane crashed into the Pentagon.  Was anybody at the wheel?  Why were Air Force jets not sent up to prevent the second hijacked plane from hitting its target?  Why not the third plane?  Indeed, why was a plan not in place to stop the first?  Not until the fourth plane was clearly hijacked were F-16s on the scene and the degree of tragedy controlled.

Just a few thoughts on how the most recent acts of terrorism could have been and should have been prevented.  While this can be done anytime it certainly should have been done during this period of heightened risk: Have F-16s and F-14s on alert to scramble as they finally did on the fourth hijacked plane.  Have carefully supervised ground to air missiles placed at strategic locations to prevent this type of kamikaze attacks?

The “victory” goes to the terrorists—for now.  Justice can be dispensed.  Vengeance can be taken.  Preventive measures against this type of terrorism will be taken.  I hope.  Why must tragedy occur before action is taken?