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The sky is falling!

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Tuesday, September 11th, 2007
New Orleans, Louisiana


THE SKY IS FALLING!



For many years, I have kept a daily dairy about special events.? On this week, commemorating the 6th anniversary of the attack on America, I want to share with you my diary entry of the tragic day.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

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I have watched through a window a world that has fallen.[1]

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? W. H. Auden

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Six years ago, on, 9/11, this date turned into the frantic dialing of 911. A surreal feeling of shock and helplessness enveloped me as I watched the day�s events unfold. A family friend
? called at home a little after 8:00 a.m. central time to tell me about the first plane�s crashing into the World Trade Center. Like millions of Americans, I turned on my television just in time to see the second plane hit the second tower.

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I was home alone, so I immediately felt the need to call the people closest to me. I was able to reach my mother
, my brother Jack, and my daughters Gentry? and Meredith; I told them all to turn on their TV sets. I reached my son James? on his portable phone as he was entering the LSU Lab School. But, what about my oldest daughter Campbell? I knew she had flown back to Washington late last night from California, where she was doing a story for NBC news on the retirement of the president�s plane, a former Air Force One. Perhaps she was still home. I called her apartment but got no answer. Then the third plane hit the Pentagon in Washington. Thoughts raced through my head. Was there a fourth plane�or more? Wasn�t the White House a likely target? Was my oldest daughter sitting in her NBC office in the White House?

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Her portable phone didn�t answer. I called the White House switchboard, which is noted for being efficient. There was a brief recording saying to hold on for an operator; then the line went dead. For a moment I feared the worst: a plane crashing into the White House, my daughter inside. Then I heard Matt Lauer
? on the �Today Show� say, �Now let�s go to Campbell? Brown for an update across the street from the White House.� Campbell told a national audience that the White House had been evacuated and she was broadcasting from a nearby hotel. She gave hourly reports throughout the day and late into the evening.

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After staying glued to the TV all day, Gladys
? and I kept a long-standing dinner date with friends at Chris�s steakhouse. Halfway through dinner, around 9:00 o�clock, my portable phone rang. It was James. �Dad, I�m still watching everything on television,� he said. �I just need to do something. Do we have an American flag here at home?� I told him we had one stored in our �flag box,� where we keep banners for the various seasons, as well as holiday flags for Christmas, Halloween, and Easter. When Gladys? and I drove into our driveway that night, a large American flag was hanging from the front porch, waving in the wind.


Wednesday, September 12, 2001
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

 It’s still not possible to reach offices and homes in New York City by phone, but I was able to reach several friends on their portable phones. Many of them work in the Wall Street district, and we have often gathered at the top of the World Trade Center for lunch during insurance meetings.

The news is not good concerning my friend Neil Levin
, who until recently was New York‘s insurance commissioner. Several months ago, he took a new job as executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which is the landlord for the World Trade Center complex. His new office was on the 53 floor of the North Tower, the first tower to be hit. Neil is missing, and there is little hope that he will be found.? (Neil’s body was never found in the wreckage. A lengthy obituary, which paid tribute to his many accomplishments, appeared in the New York Times on September 22, 2001.)

 When I talked to friends in New York, we speculated about the insurance costs that were incurred. Hurricane Andrew, who hit the Gulf Coast in 1992, cost insurance companies more than fifteen billion dollars. We all agree that the catastrophe at the World Trade Center will cost significantly more than this, perhaps approaching twenty-five billion.

 I called key staff members in my office and suggested they contact the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. A task force should be formed immediately of key insurance regulators throughout the country to anticipate the wide range of problems that must be dealt with. Who has the responsibility to pay? Are there exclusions that will be asserted by insurance companies because the president has called this disaster an act of war? Are such clauses legal? Issues like these have never been faced in our country.

 Is there liability on the part of the airlines? Should they have done more to protect against this type of terrorist activity? Does the United States government have that responsibility? What about the businesses in nearby buildings whose operations have been shut down? Do they have business loss claims? Numerous issues need to be addressed, and key commissioners should start gathering vital information as soon as possible. I also suggested that Louisiana should be made part of any such task force.

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Since I was first elected commissioner in 1991, Louisiana has always participated in task forces and committees dealing with the national and international insurance problems. We are one of seven states that are part of the International Holocaust Commission
, and we are one of several key states that worked out solvency problems affecting Lloyds of London and other giant insurance companies. In fact, it was on such task forces that Neil Levin? and I first started working together, and we became good friends. My department has always been part of finding solutions to these major problems, and I want Louisiana to be part of the solution to this overwhelming crisis.

Heavy criticism has been directed at the FBI for its failure to anticipate the acts of these terrorists. National newscasters have interviewed experts on international terrorism who question how these terrorists could so easily make their way in to the United States, use American schools to learn how to fly, and create such destruction and terror.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune was particularly critical of the FBI. Their slash and burn columnist, James Gill, didn’t hold back:


“But the FBI? is supposed to keep tabs on terrorists.  If they can be caught entirely unawares by a foreign plot that obviously required meticulous planning and constant radio and telephone contact, then we are entitled to ask what they are good for.


‘The FBI has been more or less a laughing stock in recent years.


“Not long after planes hit both towers of the World Trade Center, viewers might have been startled by news that the FBI‘s counter-terrorist hotshots were stranded in California, where they were apparently studying what to do in the event that a bunch of zealots should decide, say, to blow up buildings in New York and Washington.


We may never know whether it was just coincidence that these attacks came when the terrorism specialists were on the other side of the country. All we know for sure is that the terrorists could not have known less about American intelligence than American intelligence knew about the terrorists. Nobody was talking about the efficiency or the sophistication of the FBI yesterday.”

Several friends have asked if I relish the criticism being directed at the FBI, but I find no solace or satisfaction in it. No, they were not at all fair with me. Yes, significant internal housecleaning is being called for, and rightly so. But we need an organization like the FBI to effectively protect all of us from similar future catastrophes. I hope Congress will scrutinize these numerous past mistakes and see that the proper safeguards are put into place.

 In the meantime, we have a lot of questions to ask, and a lot of consoling to do. How can it be possible that there is such intense hatred for our country? Who is our enemy, and how do we do battle with them? Just a few days ago, life was so normal and ordinary. Now, for many of us, life will never be the same.


Peace and Justice.

Jim Brown




 

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1 Response
  1. j b landry

    nice comments Jim. Where has civility gone in politics? When elected repesentatives treat a General like congress did this week it is time to reevaluate what is the purpose of the legislative branch of government

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