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- More from Chuck Goudie
By threatening to burn some books, an idiot who "ministers" to about 19 people in Florida has ended up getting more attention than the 19 terrorists who actually crashed airplanes and changed the world.
That is what the passage of time does.
Even though it had been only nine years, what actually happened on Sept. 11, 2001 seemed to be just a blip on the weekend radar of most Americans. So much news time last week leading up to the anniversary was consumed by the Rev. Terry "Mustache" Jones and his wacky plan to torch Qurans that you would have thought 9/11 was some kind of religious holiday.
I didn't really care about Sept. 11, 2010. Any more than I will care about Sept. 11, 2011 - the 10th anniversary of the attack.
What matters to me is what occurs every year between Jan. 1 and Sept. 10th and between Sept. 12 and Dec. 31. In other words, what happens on all the other days of the year.
On Sept. 11 itself, it is easy to remember what happened on one distant 9/11. And then it is just as easy to put away the feelings most of us had and forget about them until next year.
A few years ago, Dan Zanoza asked a few Chicago reporters to write up their recollections of what happened that terrible day in 2001. He posts them every year on his Fair Media website.
I had forgotten about the few paragraphs that I wrote for Dan, but happened to see them over the weekend. The feelings of that day and the 24 hours that followed came rushing back.
"The American flags did it for me. There were hundreds of them hung from expressway overpasses, gas stations, truck windows and car antennas within hours of the attack. It was reflex for so many people after their turf was attacked. Hang the red white and blue.
Producer Ann Pistone, cameraman Steve Erwin and I lost count of how many flags we saw on the interstate between Chicago and Manhattan that devastating day. We had left the Loop a few hours after the assault, realizing there would be no flights to get us there. We drove all day and night watching the flags fly by. Some were strung up, others were in the hands of people who must have felt compelled to do something to express their heartache, dismay and helplessness.
Except for necessities we never stopped that day, aiming at ground zero as if it was the end of a tunnel. The corridor of flags gave me personal comfort and certainty that day, that despite the darkness, there was light and strength. Even while standing at ground zero a few hours later, breathing the remains of the world trade center, the American flags that guided our way to lower Manhattan made it clear that we as a nation would survive.
Five years later, it seems most of the flags have been packed away... until the next time.
It has now been nine years. There hasn't been a next time yet.
But even President Barack Obama believes there will be a next time. That is why last week he extended for another year the National Emergencies Act that President George W. Bush enacted in 2001.
As the Southwest Airlines ads remind us, we "are now free to move about the country."
And we do so 364 days a year.
As if nothing happened on that other day.
It is important to remember exactly what happened.
On that day four commercial jetliners were commandeered and crashed by al-Qaida terrorists.
When convicted 9/11 planner Zacarias Moussaoui was sentenced in 2006, a transcript of the cockpit voice recorder from United Airlines flight 93 was released.
During the half-hour before the plane crashed into a Pennsylvania field, as the cockpit crew members begged for their lives, terrorists are heard ordering them to shut up and sit down.
And there is something else the terrorists are heard repeating, over and over and over in Arabic. This is the exact translation, taken directly from the federal transcript, citing one theme that terrorists chanted in those 30-minutes after they burst into the United cockpit and drove the plane to ground:
"In the name of Allah, the most merciful, the most compassionate."
"In the name of Allah. In the name of Allah. I bear witness that there is no other God but Allah."
"Let's go, guys. Allah is greatest. Allah is greatest. Oh guys. Allah is greatest."
"Oh Allah. Oh Allah. Oh the most gracious."
"Trust in Allah, and in him."
"Oh Allah. Oh Allah. Oh gracious."
"Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest."
And then in the final minute: "Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest."
By the end of that day, Sept. 11, 2001, there were 2,996 Americans dead ... murdered by al-Qaida terrorists who were waging a "jihad" or Holy War against America.
That is what we should be remembering - and not just one day a year.
• Chuck Goudie, whose column appears each Monday, is the chief investigative reporter at ABC 7 News in Chicago. The views in this column are his own and not those of WLS-TV. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and followed at twitter.com/ChuckGoudie.