THE DAYS AFTER THE UNTHINKABLE HAPPENED
(A serial book excerpt)
In previous installments – After Flight 93 crashes into the White House on 9/11/2001 killing President Bush as was originally planned, Dick Cheney, the Vice President, is made the leader of the country. He begins immediately to make changes.
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The first grim duty of the new President was to tour the site of the ex Twin Towers. It would be triple hard for Cheney. He had to fit himself into this new, unexpected role he did not want. He had more power and freedom working behind the scenes. Stepping into the Presidential role was actually limiting. Plus he was in the spotlight now. He would have to smile when he didn’t want to, be nice when he didn’t want to, meet a public he didn’t care for, and say things that his mouth normally wouldn’t.
The ugliness of the unpleasant task was the easiest of it. Yet no one could not be moved by this destruction. The dust alone repelled one. It offended the lungs, the skin, the eyes. One was filthy just by entering the area. A heavy feeling embedded the scene. A shock of emotions and mind lingered, a sadness, a horror.
The debris was overwhelming. It seemed impossible to ever clean up. Twisted metal stuck tentacled out of the broken mortar and concrete. A black ash covered everything. An occasional bent paper was a mute reminder of the normality of the business world that transacted there just a few catastrophic days before.
It was a grim scene; the stark remainders of a one way battle that caught an entire nation unprepared. A shock had radiated out from this place and touched the entire land. A collective breath was held, the expiration had yet to come.
Cheney’s mind was at a loss for what to think. He could not think of what to say. He knew he was supposed to have compassion for those who had died. He knew he would have to have something to say for the nation to hear. An obscure anger filled his mind that someone had done this. But he could not focus it. Why would anyone cause this destruction? He understood power and the grasping for it, but an attack like this? This destruction? Without purpose? What good did it do anyone?
Memories of his days as the Secretary of State came back to him, of the times he sent missions out that caused major destruction on a foreign land to a foreign people. He knew of some of the dirty tricks, the secret missions and the political control measures used against the Arabic oil nations and their neighbors. He could see now first hand what it was like to be the recipient of such destruction. But that would be a secret he would have to keep to himself. We, the Americans, would have to be portrayed as being the innocent receivers of violence and he would have to use the American people’s anger for purposes of control and retribution.
Somehow he could not feel the same strength of feeling he had had in Washington. The White House plane almost took him personally out; that would always remain largest in his mind. Having been the Secretary of Defense he had remorse and revulsion for what had happened at the Pentagon. That also would cling to him personally. But here, of course the destruction of people and property set off a disgust in him, but it was different somehow. These were regular people who had been killed. A few administrators and perhaps a couple CEO’s, but what were they to him? One could feel sorry reading in the paper about an old woman getting run over in the parking lot of a supermarket in Lubbock Texas too, but it could only bother you so much. The harder emotion to deal with was that he in some way would have to deal with this mess.
Something would be expected of him. Something big. An attack on whoever did it. A big show would have to be made. And it they couldn’t figure out who it was soon enough, then someone would have to be chosen to be their enemy. There would be war, and it would not be pretty. The old Wyoming redneck cowboy reaction woke up within him. An eye for an eye. Hit those who hit you. It was the only reserve of an answer that his non military trained mind would conjure up. It would have to do.
The first speech as President would probably also be his hardest ever. No only did he have to turn a new face to the public that he now ruled, but it was at the time of the worst attack on American soil since the War of 1812. His wife, sensing the importance and difficulty of it, gave him full backing and support and helped to temper the speech he was to give. She gave him clues for the emotions to show, for the way in which to say things for more dramatic effect. She knew that if she did not stand with him she would fall with him.
It was decided to have the first Presidential address in front of the still smoldering wreckage of the White House. He couldn’t ask for a better backdrop. It would give him an easy channel into the hearts of Americans and make them see him as their source for strength. Bush’s advisers now adjusted to their new boss and armored him with the rhetoric and tones he would need to keep them on his side. The American people were scared now. Nothing like this had ever happened before. Their illusions of life and their country had been shattered. They had lived for decades thinking that the wars and the illnesses and the turbulence that existed in the world in large would not penetrate through to the core of their lives. That myth was now shattered and strewn across the ground like so much confetti after a parade, like so many ashes from the Twin Towers.
“My fellow countrymen…” the words seemed strange to Cheney, coming from his lips, “I have become President on the eave of this holocaust that has caused this great nation to stumble. I have become leader at a time when we are being tested as a people. The gauntlet has been thrown, we have been slapped by the black glove of infamy and now must choose to strike or run. I say we choose to fight!” the speech makers had chosen his ideas carefully. They knew the American temperament and were certain that it would chose war out of the pride that had been instilled in them since childhood.
“We will, upon this day forth, seek out our enemies wherever they will hide, and destroy them.” Cheney had already learned the value of a slow, hushed speech with significant pauses when dealing with something tragic and emotional. He knew too, like all ambitious politicians learn, the importance of portraying themselves in league with the ones being speeched to and to see them in the light of being innocent lambs wronged upon and that they were basically a good, virtuous folk who had done nothing to deserve this grievous occurrence. “We will not flag in our quest, and will put the entire might of the American military, the American Intelligence community and the resources of our entire government to this end. That of being the finding and bringing to justice those involved in this atrocity.”
The crowd went wild with cheering. The entire field before him was full of waving hands and hurrays. He knew he had won his greatest battle. The American people believed him and stood with him.
TO BE CONTINUED
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The complete book of 9/12/2001 is available from lulu.com under that exact title for $9.00 plus shipping.