After The Rebuilding and Defending of America in the September 12 Era

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Format: Paperback
Pub. Date: 2003-09-02
Publisher(s): Simon & Schuster
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The critics unanimously agree that brilliant, award-winning reporter and bestselling author Steven Brill has written a powerful and sweeping narrative of the country in the first year of the September 12 era. As "the pages flutter" -- marvels one critic -- "in a race to learn the rest of the story we thought we knew so well," Brill takes us from the White House Situation Room to the living rooms of victims' families, from courtrooms to boardrooms, from border crossings to airport tarmacs.We watch as a Customs inspector struggles to protect New York harbor from a dirty bomb; a storekeeper at Ground Zero rebuilds his shoe repair shop; a Silicon Valley entrepreneur lobbies to get his baggage screening systems into every airport; Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge battles the bureaucratic minefields of Washington; a New Jersey widow struggles to help her three children cope with the loss of their father; and John Ashcroft seizes the moment to become the most powerful and controversial attorney general in a generation, while the head of the ACLU tries to block him.The result is a gritty narrative -- and trailblazing journalism -- that inspires us all as it tells the real story of how Americans moved to defend and rebuild their lives and their country.

Author Biography

Steven Brill, who has won multiple National Magazine Awards, is the founder of Court TV, The American Lawyer, and Brill's Content, and author of The Teamsters. He is currently a Newsweek columnist and a consultant to NBC on all issues related to the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. He lives in Manhattan and Katonah, New York.


From After: How America Confronted The September 12 Era

The Main Characters

John Ashcroft:United States Attorney General

James Brosnahan:Lead defense lawyer for John Walker Lindh

Michael Cartier:Business information systems manager at cable television company in New York; co-founder, Give Your Voice; brother of September 11 victim James Cartier, an electrician working in the North Tower

Larry Cox:President and CEO, Memphis­Shelby County Airport Authority

Kenneth Feinberg:Special Master, Victim Compensation Fund

Bernadine Healy:President and CEO, American Red Cross

Salvatore Iacono:Proprietor, Continental Shoe Repair (two blocks from Ground Zero)

Robert Lindemann:Senior Border Patrol Agent, U.S. Border Patrol (Detroit)

Brian Lyons:Recovery Supervisor, Ground Zero, and brother of September 11 victim Michael Lyons, member of New York City Fire Department, Rescue Squad 41

Sergio Magistri:President and CEO, InVision Technologies (Silicon Valley)

Kevin McCabe:Chief Inspector, Contraband Enforcement Team, United States Customs Service, Port of New York (based in Elizabeth, New Jersey)

Dean O'Hare:Chairman and CEO, Chubb Corporation

Tom Ridge:Director, White House Office of Homeland Security, and Secretary, Department of Homeland Security

Anthony Romero:Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union

Gale Rossides:Associate Undersecretary for Training and Quality Performance, U.S. Transportation Security Administration, Department of Transportation

Charles Schumer:Senior senator from New York, and husband of Iris Weinshall

Larry Silverstein:President and CEO, Silverstein Properties, real estate developer (New York City)

Eileen Simon:Harrington Park, New Jersey, widow of September 11 victim Michael Simon, an energy trader at Cantor Fitzgerald

Iris Weinshall:Commissioner, New York City Department of Transportation, and wife of Charles Schumer

Edmund Woollen:Vice President, Raytheon Company (Virginia)

Other Key Figures

Hollie Bart:Sal Iacono's pro bono lawyer

Joshua Bolten:Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff, the White House

Robert Bonner:Commissioner, U.S. Customs Service

Michael Byrne:Senior Director of Response and Recovery, White House Office of Homeland Security

Andrew Card, Jr.:Chief of Staff, the White House

Michael Chertoff:Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice

David Crane:Senior Policy Advisor to Senator Trent Lott, and then a lobbyist representing real estate interests

Mitchell Daniels, Jr.:Director, Office of Management and Budget, the White House

Mary Delaquis:Area Service Port Director, U.S. Customs Service (based in Pembina, North Dakota)

Ali Erikenoglu:Electrical engineer (Paterson, New Jersey)

Richard Falkenrath:Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of Policy and Plans, White House Office of Homeland Security

Jennie Farrell:Co-founder, Give Your Voice, and sister of Michael Cartier and September 11 victim James Cartier, an electrician working in the North Tower

Joshua Gotbaum:CEO, September 11th Fund

Mark Hall:Senior Border Patrol Agent, U.S. Border Patrol (Detroit)

Kip Hawley:Director, go teams, Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation

Mark Isakowitz:Washington lobbyist for private airline security companies, and then for the insurance industry

Michael Jackson:Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation

Syed Jaffri:Pakistani immigrant, detained in September after dispute with Bronx landlord

Lee Kreindler:Plaintiffs lawyer specializing in representing victims of air disasters

General Bruce Lawlor:Senior Director of Protection and Prevention, White House Office of Homeland Security

Elaine Lyons:Westchester, New York, widow of September 11 victim Michael Lyons, member of New York City Fire Department, Rescue Squad 41

David McLaughlin:Chairman, American Red Cross

Norman Mineta:Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation

Sohail Mohammed:Attorney and Muslim community leader, Paterson, New Jersey (represented Ali Erikenoglu)

Barry Ostrager:Lead lawyer representing Swiss Reinsurance Company in suit against Larry Silverstein

Hugo Poza:Vice President, Homeland Security, Raytheon Company (Virginia)

Eliot Spitzer:New York State Attorney General

Herbert Wachtell:Lead lawyer representing Larry Silverstein

Copyright © 2003 by Steven Brill

From After: How America Confronted The September 12 Era

Prologue: September 11, 2001

Kevin McCabe's office in Elizabeth, New Jersey, was drab, even by government standards. Except for the view. It had a heart-stopping vista of the New York skyline. McCabe ran the squad of seventy U.S. Customs Service inspectors who checked all the cargo that comes into the port of New York, which includes piers in Elizabeth in New Jersey and Staten Island and Brooklyn in New York. From his window in Elizabeth, it looked as if he could throw a football across to lower Manhattan.

September 11 was McCabe's first day as the chief inspector of the Contraband Enforcement Team. He'd been acting chief for a year, and his official promotion had come through late in the afternoon the day before.

McCabe, a stocky, perennially cheerful forty-two-year-old veteran of the endless Customs war on drugs, got to the office at about 8:00 and sheepishly took the congratulatory handshakes from the staff for his long-awaited change in title. He was sipping coffee and talking on the phone at 8:46 when he saw the first plane hit the World Trade Center. Because he had seen how big the plane was, he thought it might be an attack. He flipped on the television, then called the Customs office in New York, which was at the Trade Center, to find out what was going on. Eighteen minutes later, while still on the phone, he heard a CNN reporter say another plane had hit. He whirled around in his chair, looked out the window, and saw the second tower on fire. Now he knew for sure.

McCabe got up and looked out not only at the two towers engulfed in black smoke, but at the acres of piers and staging areas right below him. There were perhaps a thousand cars just shipped in from Japan and Korea, ready to be trucked out. There were 7,000 or more trailer-truck-sized cargo containers -- holding everything from furniture to fabric to computers to lemons and limes -- that had arrived from all over the world in just the last twenty-four hours.

"I figured," McCabe remembers, "that we were under attack, probably from some group in the Middle East, and I had no way of knowing for sure what was in any of those containers."

McCabe and everyone else at Customs quickly sealed the port. Nothing was allowed in or out. All land entrances were patrolled. The Coast Guard was called in to close off the water entrances.

Then McCabe and his troops began their own exercise in racial profiling. Every one of those forty-foot-long containers that had originated in or stopped at ports in the Middle East or North Africa was identified and moved to one side of the port -- some 600 containers in all, each destined to be hoisted onto a tractor trailer truck and dispersed across the East Coast. Over the next week, each container would get the treatment that Customs usually reserved for only a fraction of the cargo coming in from the drug-exporting countries of South America. They'd be scanned by a giant X-ray-like machine and, if need be, searched by hand after that.

It was, McCabe would readily admit, "as much an emotional reaction as a practical one. We felt we had to do something."

It was not something he could keep doing for long. There was no way they could search more than 2 or 3 percent of the 7,000 to 9,000 containers coming in every day without so delaying these shipments that commerce all over the world would be paralyzed. Worse, these searches didn't deal with the real problem -- which was that the same kinds of people who had flown the planes into the buildings could ship a nuclear or biological device into the port, and, as McCabe now figured, it wouldn't be like drugs where nailing a big stash on the docks occasioned high-fives all around. If this stuff even got to the docks, it would be a catastrophe.

What are we going to do, McCabe thought that afternoon as he looked across those thousands of containers at the smoke where the towers had been.

Copyright © 2002 by

From After: How America Confronted The September 12 Era

Now everyone saw what they saw -- that America had no good way to protect itself against an enemy whose method, it was now clear, was to blend in and then commit suicidal acts of terror, be it with nuclear suitcases, airplanes, trucks, or biological weapons, all aimed at scaring the country out of its way of life. Was there any way Ashcroft could root out that kind of enemy within, let alone do it without hacking away at everyone else's rights? How "relevant" could Romero and his ACLU be in this new world?

Could McCabe really protect his port? Would Lindemann and the Border Patrol ever be able to secure America's 7,500 miles of land and water borders? Indeed, could the Immigration and Naturalization Service, for whom Lindemann worked, ever get its act together? The America of September 10 was so open that 1,660,000 people -- 760,000 citizens and 900,000 foreigners -- had entered or exited the country's borders on thatone day.How could anyone possibly know, let alone control, who they were and what their intentions were? How could the government do any of that without creating a nation of informants, personal databases, security bottlenecks, and identity checks, which would achieve the terrorists' goals for them, by freezing commerce and snuffing out the country's freedoms?

This is the story of how these Americans -- some well known, others not known at all -- struggled over the next year to stand themselves and their country up to these challenges, the challenges of the September 12 era. On September 11, they were strangers to one another. A year later, many would have crossed paths in a series of surprising alliances and confrontations.

Theirs is a story of patriotism and amazing displays of American grit. But it is also a story of a constant clash of interests -- "special interests" -- competing in the boisterous, open arena that is America. Indeed, the first year of the September 12 era became a modern, vivid test of a country that has flourished not only on patriotism and strength of spirit, but also because it allows, even encourages, its people and institutions to seek to advance their own interests.

Copyright © 2003 by Steven Brill

From After: How America Confronted The September 12 Era

Sergio Magistri was jarred out of bed in Silicon Valley at 6:00 by his girlfriend, who was on the phone from Toronto, where she was attending an airline industry conference that included the executives who run most of America's airports. "Turn on your TV," she said, then hung up. For the first three hours, Magistri recalls, he was "completely spaced out in front of the TV." Then Magistri started to come to grips with the reality of what had happened, and how it affected the company he ran. "I looked up across the [San Francisco Bay] and realized that there were no planes flying into the airport. Then I saw a jumbo jet from one of the Asian airlines coming in -- and saw that it was being escorted by F-16s."

Magistri, who was forty-eight and still spoke with a thick, strange accent that reminded anyone who heard him that he was born in Switzerland and raised among people who spoke German and Italian, was the President and CEO of a small Silicon Valley company called InVision Technologies. InVision made giant machines that screened passengers' checked baggage at airports. The purpose was to see if the bags were carrying bombs. InVision was the clear leader among only two companies certified by the federal government to make these machines.

Magistri had come to InVision in 1990. Some friends from a company that made CT scan machines for hospitals and doctors had started the company two years before, right after Pan Am 103 had exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, when a bomb was planted in the checked luggage. "We were a reaction to Lockerbie," says Magistri.

But Lockerbie had not produced the business Magistri and his cohorts had hoped for. Congress had passed a law in 1990 requiring the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to get explosive detection equipment in place by the end of 1993, but by 1994 the FAA still hadn't approved standards for the devices, which are the size of a minivan. It had taken until that year for Magistri even to sell his first $1 million machine, and the sale was to an airport in Brussels. The Israelis had also become customers, but few other airports were willing to foot the bill. Magistri's machines were expensive, because they required not only an enormous amount of software to pinpoint the combination of mass and density that suggested explosives, but also a giant, rapidly rotating X-ray chamber that can record multiple images from multiple angles at high speed. By the end of 1996, Magistri had sold only twenty units, mostly to airports in Europe and in the United Kingdom (where by September 11, every piece of checked baggage was screened).

He had sold none in the United States. The American airline industry, concerned about passenger inconvenience and maintenance costs (the federal government would buy the machines), had continually persuaded the FAA to forgo the installation of Magistri's machines. Nonetheless, he had somehow been able to take his company public in the spring of 1996.

When TWA Flight 800 exploded over the Long Island coast in the summer of 1996, it looked like Magistri's shareholders had been in the right place at the right time. The stock nearly doubled, and Magistri was certain that the need for his machines had finally been demonstrated. A presidential commission, headed by Vice President Al Gore, investigated aviation safety and recommended the screening of every checked bag. The federal government quickly ordered fifty machines. It seemed that Magistri and InVision had made it. He began producing and selling ten to fifteen InVision units a month. Legislation was passed mandating 100 percent screening by 2013; then, the deadline was moved up to 2010. Magistri pushed his many suppliers to ramp up, while he hired and leased more space.

However, as the memory of TWA Flight 800 faded (or as it became clear that a fire in the plane's fuel system, not a bomb, had caused the crash), America and its government seemed to lose interest. The FAA and Congress stopped appropriating funds for his machines, and the airlines -- who had lobbied against the machines even when the government promised to pay for them, because they feared they would slow down the check-in process -- certainly weren't going to ante up on their own.

Magistri's sales stalled out, so much so that by September 10, 2001, he had sold only 140 in the United States (and about 110 abroad) in the seven years that the product had been given FAA certification and put on the market. Magistri had just subleased a chunk of his factory space and completed a round of layoffs that trimmed his workforce 15 percent, down to 180. Morale sagged among those who remained, as the company tried to cut costs by eliminating even little perks, such as the donuts and drinks that had been the staple of most meetings.

In short, Magistri was generally in the soup along with the rest of his Silicon Valley neighbors. His factory was nearly idle, making only one machine every week or two. He had even diversified InVision, developing an imaging product to track faults in logs for the lumber industry. That hadn't helped much: InVision's stock, which had gone public in 1997 at $12 and soared as high as $25, was at $3.11. To Magistri, the stock's rise and fall seemed to track America's dangerously short attention span when it came to security issues.

Now, by noon, or 3:00 Eastern Time, Magistri, who has the optimist gland endemic to any entrepreneur, was sure that everything had changed, this time for real. True, it seemed that the terror attacks had nothing to do with checked baggage, but Magistri's instinct was that September 11 was a seminal event that would result in a swift hardening of all targets in aviation. So he instructed his chief operating officer to think about ramping up again, quickly. "We had reduced ourselves to be a $40 million [in revenues] company," he recalls. "That afternoon, I decided we should at least ramp up to $60 million."

Magistri made two other decisions that afternoon. He instructed everyone in the company not to talk to the press at all, no matter who called. He did not want to seem to be taking advantage of the tragedy. At the same time, he rehired the PR firm he had laid off a few months before, in order, he says, "to prepare to respond to what I knew would be the new demand for coverage of us in the media and in the investment community. We had to get ready."

New York City's Department of Transportation CommissionerIris Weinshallfound herself with lots of quiet time early that morning. She'd left her Brooklyn home at about 6:30 to vote in the city's Democratic primary, then was chauffeured in her government car to City Hall in Manhattan. She thought she had a cabinet meeting with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, but when she arrived she found that the 7:30 session had been changed to 9:45. So she grabbed some coffee at Starbucks, then proceeded to her office, which was about two blocks from City Hall and four blocks from the Trade Center. She was doing paperwork at her desk and talking on the phone to a business association leader, who was complaining about a water main and sewer project that was blocking traffic on lower Broadway, when she heard the noise from the first low-flying jet. Weinshall ran to another side of the floor, saw the fire, and was soon in touch with her deputies to make sure they would help clear traffic from the area so the firemen could get easier access. It was only when the second plane hit that she realized this was more than a local traffic problem.

Weinshall had two immediate worries. Her elder daughter, Jessica, was a senior at nearby Stuyvesant High, the elite magnet of the New York City public school system. And her husband -- SenatorCharles Schumer-- was in Washington.

Chuck Schumer was watching TV and reading a newspaper in the House of Representatives gym at ten to nine. The senior senator from New York didn't seem the type who'd still be in the gym that late in the morning. He was a notoriously hard worker, the kind of driven politician who mixes obsessive involvement with the details of any issue with such a drive for publicity that the old joke, "he'd show up at the opening of a phone booth," seemed to have been written about him. But, he says, "I sweat a lot when I exercise. Even if I get to the gym at 7:00 and work out for an hour, it takes me another hour to be able to put my clothes on. So I use the time to read the paper and make some calls."

After Schumer saw the reports of the first plane, he called some staff people to ask them to get on the phones to get more information. When he saw the second plane hit he called Weinshall.

"Chuck, could these buildings come down?" Weinshall asked her husband.

"Don't be ridiculous, Iris," Schumer answered with characteristic certainty. "These buildings are built to withstand anything." They agreed to try to reach their daughter and talk later.

When the first tower came down, Weinshall, amid what she recalls as mass hysteria in her building, got her husband back on the phone. Schumer reported that Jessica's cell phone had just gotten through to his office in Washington, where she had told a staffer that she was on the ninth floor of Stuyvesant and was about to be evacuated but that all the elevators were out. Weinshall then took out a street map of Manhattan and counted the blocks from the North Tower to Stuyvesant, which was about four blocks from the Trade Center. The transportation commissioner and the senator now tried to calculate how tall the Trade Center tower was, what the length of an average block was, and, therefore, whether it would hit Stuyvesant if it fell over. "I wanted to leave to go find Jessie," Weinshall remembers. "But I couldn't. I was in charge of all these people and we had responsibilities. It was awful."

Weinshall deployed all of her staff -- from executives to her own driver -- to fan out in the yellow vests they'd all been issued for emergencies, and divert all traffic out of lower Manhattan. Amazingly, Weinshall's driver soon spotted Jessica with her friends running north up West Street. He scooped her up and brought her to Weinshall's office.

When the second tower collapsed, Weinshall's building lost all power and phone service. She and her senior staff, with Jessica in tow, began moving uptown in a caravan toward a Transportation Department depot in upper Manhattan that they would use as a command center. She stayed there until about 11:00 P.M., when she got her driver to take her home to Brooklyn so she could change her soot-laden clothes before attending a midnight emergency command meeting with Mayor Giuliani. As the driver began to go over the Brooklyn Bridge, which like all bridges and tunnels had been closed to the public, a police sergeant leaned in and told Weinshall that "we haven't had a chance to check the bridge out yet; the scuba team won't be here until the morning to look for bombs at the base." Weinshall thanked him, then told her driver to "gun it." They hurtled over at 100 miles per hour, she recalls, "as if we were trying to get a good running start in case it blew up."

Meantime, Schumer, whose Senate office had been evacuated, had commandeered a lobbyist's suite on K Street. He began getting his staff focused on what he saw as the twin callings of his job -- combining, as he puts it, referring to two predecessors, "Al D'Amato when it comes to bringing home the bacon for New York, and Pat Moynihan when it comes to being serious about policy." The bacon had to do with all the aid New York would need to rebuild. Policy had to do primarily with the law enforcement and national security issues related to terrorism.

Copyright © 2003 by Steven Brill

From After: How America Confronted The September 12 Era

Chubb Insurance Chairman and CEODean O'Hare-- fifty-nine, perpetually tanned, perfectly coiffed -- seemed like the country-club-groomed soul mate of the first President Bush. When O'Hare got the news of the attacks, he left the small airport in New Jersey where he was about to board the company jet for a trip to Pittsburgh and headed back to Chubb's headquarters in Warren, New Jersey, which is about forty miles west of Manhattan. His people were already at work doing computer models that projected potential Chubb losses, which included payouts to clients such as Cantor Fitzgerald, the Wall Street trading house where Eileen Simon's husband worked that would end up losing more than two thirds of its 1,000 American employees. After checking to make sure that none of Chubb's 12,000 employees had been hurt in Manhattan, O'Hare went to work with his team on the computer models. Because they always have information about policies at the ready organized by locations and industries, they calculated that Chubb's maximum exposure -- provided the insurance they have from reinsurers kicked in -- was $200 million. This included some insurance Chubb had sold to Silverstein's World Trade Center, but the bulk of what Chubb would have to pay involved clients ranging from people whose cars had been destroyed at the Trade Center, to those with companies whose businesses had now been interrupted, to large companies who paid Chubb for insurance to compensate workers killed or injured on the job. To reassure investors and the financial markets, that afternoon they put out a press release describing the projected losses.

But already the lawyers in O'Hare's conference room were raising a troubling issue. Because the President and others were calling this an act of war, and because acts of war were excluded from coverage on all insurance, what would Chubb do about the claims? More important, no matter what Chubb did, what would those reinsurers do? In other words, if Chubb wanted to pay the claims but its reinsurers -- some of whom were foreign companies -- took the position that they wouldn't, Chubb could be on the hook for more than a billion dollars. Maybe they should hold off on the payouts until things become clearer, the lawyers counseled.

We'll deal with that tomorrow, O'Hare decided.

Copyright © 2003 by Steven Brill

From After: How America Confronted The September 12 Era

When the sun came up over the Memphis airport on Wednesday, September 12, Larry Cox was sure of one thing: He should have splurged and bought automatic pumps for those 5,000 inflatable mattresses. His staff was bone-tired from pumping them by hand. He was still juggling local media interviews, while scrounging for food and water for the 8,000 people still marooned at his airport. Some refused to leave, despite the willingness of the city's families to take them in for a day or two.

Meantime, Cox's fax machine was still spitting out new security directives from the FAA on issues ranging from new fencing requirements around the airport to the security of the planes parked at ramps. Another directive ordered all airports to prohibit travel accessory stores and other shops inside the checkpoints from selling knives. The order seemed to illustrate to Cox and anyone else who read it how much the world had changed in less than a day. Selling Swiss Army knives to people about to board jetliners now seemed suicidal.

One FAA fax that Cox didn't get that morning, but which made him angry when he heard about it months later, was one the agency sent to the airlines. It was a list of about 300 people who the airlines were told were considered dangerous by the FBI, the CIA, or the FAA. When flights resumed, the directive said, these people were not to be allowed on board.

One top American Airlines executive, who had been up all night helping to get the airline's planes back in the air (plus tending to the human and legal issues beginning to emerge from the fact that two of American's planes had been used by the hijackers), was incredulous. Why had they waited until September 12 to send us that, he wondered. They must have had a list on September 10.

Indeed, they would have had such a list had the FAA simply compiled and sent, as they now had done on September 12, the separate lists that the FBI and the CIA had been sending the FAA for at least the prior six months, naming people who were flight risks. The lists were sent to Lee Longmire, a longtime FAA official, who was Director of Civil Aviation Security Policy. They were on his desk on September 10, Longmire acknowledges, although he would refuse to comment about what he did with them or who was on them. But according to an FAA official and a Justice Department official, two of the hijackers were on those September 10 lists -- something that Ashcroft would later say he could not confirm or deny. In fact, says the FAA official, his agency had crossed those names off on September 12 to avoid embarrassment. "We just never got around to setting up a protocol for who would control the list and how we would get the airlines to implement it," says the FAA person.

Among the recriminations to follow in the months after September 11 over who knew what and when that might have prevented the attacks, this failure of the FAA to circulate that no-fly list -- unlike other supposed failures to "connect the dots" -- seems clearly to have resulted in, or contributed to, at least two of the hijackings. That the airlines never complained about it publicly said a great deal about that industry's symbiotic relationship with its regulators. For years, the airlines -- an industry whose product is regulated from Washington like almost no other -- and the FAA have had a mutual support relationship. Their personnel regularly switched sides, going from the agency to one of the airlines' large Washington lobbying offices and back again. They attended the same conventions, and, most of all, they thought of themselves more as partners than adversaries, which had its positive side in the sense that overbearing regulators could easily strangle an industry like this. So, the airlines rarely complained publicly about the FAA, and the FAA didn't hassle the airlines about issues like security.

In fact, on September 11, the FAA was two years overdue on delivering new explosive detection baggage screening regulations mandated by Congress, and its lawyers were at an off-site conference that day discussing what to do with a backlog of 10,000 allegations of breaches of security and hazardous materials regulations that it had not yet acted on.

It was an arrangement that airport directors like Cox resented because, in their view, when the FAA wanted to show it was getting tough on safety, it would send inspectors to check on how well Cox was securing his gates or exit doors, rather than check the baggage screeners, who were under the control of the airlines and who generally operated in a way meant not to hassle customers. For example, the screeners, who were employed by private security companies, never quibbled over whether the customer was bringing a razor blade or a knife on board, as long as the knife's blade was less than 4.5 inches long -- a bizarre standard whose history no one at the FAA after September 11 could remember, let alone own up to.

At 11:00 on the night of September 12, things changed. The CEOs of the airlines participated in a conference call with Norman Mineta, the Secretary of the Department of Transportation, which oversees the FAA. It was a conversation that signaled a new era in federal regulation. A Republican administration that had eschewed Washington regulatory power -- albeit with a former Democratic congressman, Mineta, at the DOT helm -- was about to flex Washington's muscles.

Mineta had told President Bush on September 11 that he'd have the planes up the next day, but September 12 had come and gone. Now the airline executives expected Mineta was calling with the good news that things were go for the next morning.

The call was anything but good news. Mineta sat at his conference table with, among others, John Flaherty, his chief of staff and longtime aide, and Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson, a veteran of the first Bush administration and a Republican, who had worked at aerospace giant Lockheed Martin during the Clinton years.

Because of a classic conference call snafu, Mineta, Flaherty, and Jackson knew that the airlines expected to get the go-ahead even before the call officially started, because they could hear them talking among themselves before Mineta activated his own speaker signaling that the Transportation Department people were on the line. Instead, Mineta told the airlines that they weren't going to fly unless and until a whole raft of new regulations were implemented. These included more careful baggage screening, no razor blades or knives of any kind, no curbside check-in, National Guardsmen at the airports, the hand-searching of a large sample of passengers and their carry-on bags even after they had gone through metal detectors, and arrangements made to accommodate as many as 600 new armed sky marshals immediately to ride (in first class) on selected flights.

Deputy Secretary Jackson told the airline executives they ought to be able to do all that by Thursday or Friday. The airline CEOs said that was impossible. Mineta said they had no choice. The airline people protested that they were running out of cash and would need a federal bailout even if they started flying as early as tomorrow. One offered to fax over a tally they'd begun working up of all the losses. Flaherty and Jackson said they'd consider all that once they got the planes up. They should also understand, Mineta added, that a lot more regulations were on the way, from Congress and the White House.

Copyright © 2003 by Steven Brill

From After: How America Confronted The September 12 Era

John Ashcroft wasn't waiting for anything to happen next week. He wanted results now. At about the same time that Romero of the ACLU was ordering his staff to cancel a direct mail solicitation planned to go out the next day -- focused on "the new anti-liberty era being unveiled by President George Bush" and on how Americans should be "ashamed" of the "new morality" being pushed by, among others, John Ashcroft -- the Attorney General had a morning meeting with the President and his national security team. When FBI Director Robert Mueller assured Bush that everything was being done to track down those who had been involved in the attacks, Bush upbraided him. "Our priorities have changed," he said. "We need to focus on preventing the next attack more than worrying about who did this one." Ashcroft was determined to enforce that focus, even if it meant living in the FBI's operations center.

"Focus" was not a good word to describe what the FBI had been doing since the attacks. Activity, yes. But not focus.

True, they had pulled the passenger lists of the four planes and figured out who the hijackers probably were. (This was due in part to phone calls the flight attendants and passengers on the planes had made before the crashes, in which they had identified the hijackers' seat numbers. Also, these were pretty much the only people with Middle Eastern names on the planes, and in several instances they had bought tickets together.) But beyond that, what the FBI had done was to begin running down the tens of thousands of names on those INS immigration lists, go after a handful of prior leads on Middle Eastern terrorists, and otherwise respond to calls.

Thousands of calls.

Just the Newark office of the FBI -- whose jurisdiction includes Middle Eastern immigrant enclaves like Paterson, New Jersey, where it was already known that several of the hijackers had lived -- received more than 5,000 citizen calls between the afternoon of September 11 and the end of the day on September 12. Whether the government should engage in racial or ethnic profiling would be hotly debated in the months ahead. But among Americans sitting in their homes or offices contemplating the horror of September 11 there was no such debate. One by one Americans did their own ad hoc racial profiling. It seemed that anyone who had ever seen a Muslim or suspected a neighbor of being a Muslim called in. Some reported suspicious-smelling food in a neighboring house or apartment; others reported seeing people in Muslim garb whispering. There were so many calls that the lines jammed and the phones had to be kicked over to FBI operators in the Atlanta office. One by one, Newark-based agents, working through the night and helped by local police, ran down each call, a process that would last through Thanksgiving and ultimately include 27,000 face-to-face interviews from September 12 through February.

The agents and their supervisors tried to prioritize. Obviously, a call about suspicious food smells should be attended to after a tip about three men with guns coming in and out of an apartment at all hours of the day. But mostly they went after everything. And for good reason. From his command post in the FBI operations center, Ashcroft told Mueller that any male from eighteen to forty years old from Middle Eastern or North African countries whom the FBI simply learned about was to be questioned and questioned hard. And anyone from these countries whose immigration papers were out of order -- anyone -- was to be turned over to the INS. Ashcroft then put Michael Chertoff, the head of his Justice Department Criminal Division, in de facto charge of these INS roundups, even though the INS process was supposed to be part of a civil law proceeding, not a criminal prosecution. The goal, Ashcroft and Chertoff told the FBI and INS agents, was to prevent more attacks, not prosecute anyone. And the best way to do that was to round up, question, and hold as many people as possible.

That was not a message, however, that made it to Lindemann, the INS Border Patrol agent in Detroit. It seemed as if it had been forever since the Border Patrol regarded itself as part of the INS, let alone the Justice Department. September 11 hadn't changed that. So now, while the FBI and INS in New Jersey began rounding up people with families who had worked for years at gas stations or pizza parlors, Lindemann and his fellow Border Patrol agents were instructed to keep to business as usual in the north. That meant that what Lindemann had bitterly come to call the Catch and Release Program, or CARP, would continue in the days and weeks after September 11. He and his partner, Mark Hall, would catch people sneaking over the border into Detroit from Canada and then be told by supervisors to release them because the Border Patrol unit only had a $1,000 a week to pay the local jail to hold people.

A significant portion of those Lindemann and Hall had caught and released in recent years -- perhaps 25 percent -- were Muslim, which was no surprise because the Detroit area has the country's largest Muslim community. And Canada, which had notoriously looser border controls than the United States (people coming in from twenty different countries, such as Saudi Arabia, who needed visas to get into the United States do not need visas to get into Canada), was known as a hotbed of terrorist activity. Everyone Lindemann caught was, by definition, breaking the law and, unlike many of those being rounded up and held in New Jersey, had no roots in the community. But they continued to be released after filling out a form and promising to come back for a deportation hearing, which, of course, they never did. Lindemann's and Hall's repeated protests to the bosses, which now became more vehement than ever, were ignored. "I was getting to the point where I couldn't stand it anymore," Lindemann recalls. "I felt like I had to do something."

Copyright © 2003 by Steven Brill

From After: How America Confronted The September 12 Era

At Ground Zero, Brian Lyons called the boss at his construction management firm on Thursday morning and told him that he needed to take some vacation days from his job (supervising construction for an investment bank's renovation) so that he could continue to look for his fireman brother. Then he went back to worrying about keeping the bulldozers moving, hoping that as they cleared away the beams, the dust, and whatever stray pieces of anything else that was left he might see some sign of Michael Lyons. Later that morning, he noticed that the bulldozers were loading the debris onto a truck. When he inquired about where it was going, he was told something about Fresh Kills.

Fresh Kills?The name, he found out, was not intended to have any kind of sick double meaning. Rather it was the site of a garbage landfill in Staten Island. Beginning the night before, trucks and boats had begun loading up with debris to be driven (or in the case of the barges, shipped from the West Side docks past the Statue of Liberty and through New York Harbor) to what until recently had been New York's major garbage dump. Fresh Kills had now been reopened. And a group of FBI agents and New York City police were on hand waiting to receive the "evidence" from this "crime scene."

Deputy Police Inspector James Luongo had arrived to take charge of the effort that morning. As he surveyed the 175 acres, some of it still bubbling with leaks from the methane gas produced by the tons of garbage underneath, he had no idea how he was going to handle all the wreckage that was fast arriving in a place so desolate, so spooky that another cop, who was a Vietnam veteran, likened it to a scene out of Apocalypse Now. Luongo needed structures for dressing rooms, refreshment centers, and cleanup areas for what he was told would be a crew of hundreds, working for what he assumed would be a year, sifting through it all. Who was going to build all that? Who was going to organize the crews? What about protective equipment? Food? Water? Electricity?

Brian Lyons had a different concern: Were the remains of his brother and everyone else, now being shunted off to a garbage dump, to be lost forever?

Copyright © 2003 by Steven Brill

From After: How America Confronted The September 12 Era

Monday, September 17, 2001

At 7:00 on Monday morning, September 17, the police allowed Sal Iacono back into what was left of his store.

The windows were smashed. The two doors, the one at the front of the fifteen-foot-long store and the brass door leading from the other side into the lobby of the office building that sat on top of the store, lay flat on the floor. That brass door, which to Sal was the one shining piece of elegance in his work life, was black and twisted.

Inside, three firemen were spread out on the floor asleep, two in the middle of the small customer area, one behind the counter. They and their brethren had obviously been using Continental Shoe Repair as a relief station. And as a bathroom. In a corner, just under where the picture of the Virgin Mary still hung by a nail on the wall near the front window, there was a large plastic bucket filled with liquid and solid excrement. In the other corners were puddles of more urine. The place reeked.

As Sal looked up from the bucket he saw that his walls had been stripped bare, except for some shoe polish. The 200 or 300 sole insets, arch supports, and heel cushions he kept in stock and sold for $5 or $6 apiece were gone. Sal supposed that for firemen and rescue workers to have taken items that might make them a little more comfortable was okay. It was as much a part of the cost of that horrible day as was the damage to his expensive leather-shaping machinery, now sitting behind the counter under a mound of gear-jamming dust and debris. But the bucket of human waste? The urine on the floor?

Well, maybe even that could be explained, he thought. Who knew what these rescue workers had gone through, or if they had had access to any real bathrooms. But then he looked at his cash register. It had been forced open. (Almost anyone could have done it, because in the hours following the attack all varieties of people, not just police and firefighters, were at Ground Zero.) Because Tuesday was Sal's regular day of the week for taking cash to the bank, there had, he would later say, been $1,400 in there when he'd left on the morning of the 11th. None of it was there. Not even the coins.

Sal was furious. Why did they have to destroy the shop that he had always regarded as another of his children? Why did someone have to take his money? When he got home, he tearfully told his wife that he had lost everything. Franca Iacono, reminding him that he was sixty-seven, told him it was time to retire.

Copyright © 2003 by Steven Brill

From After: How America Confronted The September 12 Era

Gale Rossides came home from her first day as the new something -- no one had any titles yet -- at the Transportation Security Administration and told her husband it had been twelve hours of "indescribable chaos." No one had desks, chairs, phones, or computers, let alone any idea of their responsibilities. She bounced around from meeting to meeting, although these were more conversations or encounters than meetings, since they happened spontaneously around a vacant desk or in the tenth-floor hallway of the Transportation Department's white-box, ugly building. Only Magaw seemed to have an office. Sitting outside it in a converted closet was Stephen McHale, who was supposed to be TSA head Magaw's deputy and whom Rossides knew from ATF, where he'd been Magaw's general counsel.

For someone who had spent every day of the twenty-three years of her working life in the same government agency, this might have been Rossides's way of explaining to her spouse why she thought she had made a terrible mistake. But Rossides had loved it. Everything about it gave her the feeling of having been swept away into a group of warriors fighting on an important front in the new home front war.

Even the groups of seemingly know-it-all private sector hotshots, who were running all those go teams she heard about only after she arrived ("who are the guys with all the laptops," she wondered), didn't bother her. The charts full of deadlines and milestones they'd taped along the walls of a conference room that they'd converted into their war room, and all their lists, and lists of lists, made it seem like these guys had everything so well under control that they didn't need her. They cheerfully disabused her of that, welcoming her, clearing a desk for her in the war room, and pushing her to join the fray. They needed help and really didn't have anything solved yet. If it looked like they'd been working here for years, that was only because "TSA time," one of them told her, was something akin to dog years only more so: In terms of how fast they had to move, a day was like a month and a month was like a year. In fact, most of them had started only a few weeks ago.

Rossides had jumped into a budget meeting, agreed to join an organizational structure committee, and begun working with the go team that was a week or two ahead of her on trying to figure out how to recruit and train all those new federal baggage screeners.

By the end of the day, she felt like she'd been there a week or two. The go team guy was right about TSA time and dog years.

Copyright © 2003 by Steven Brill

From After: How America Confronted The September 12 Era

Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Ken Feinberg knew that the attacks on his regulations would come from all sides. He'd even joked with Ted Kennedy about it. But deep down, he also thought that reason would prevail and that it would quickly become clear to the victims that his was, indeed, "the only game in town." Yet as of today only 250 people had applied to his fund. It had now been a month since the draft regulations had been issued. The program guaranteed an immediate $50,000 and the rest within 120 days of Feinberg making an award. Still, most weren't biting.

Perhaps because he didn't yet appreciate how the charities had covered so much of the immediate cash needs of so many of the families, while life insurance payouts had provided even more to people like Eileen Simon, Feinberg was surprised that more people weren't signing up faster.

This morning in Ridgewood, New Jersey, he got a firsthand lesson in what was holding them back. His audience of about 150 were mostly well-dressed widows from the New Jersey suburbs, who arrived at a local courthouse in Suburbans, Lexuses, and BMWs. Several sat with babies in their laps.

Feinberg, standing at a lectern in front of the courtroom, ran through the basics of his program. His voice boomed a bit too loud, his words came a little too quickly, and his promise to get to another subject "in a minute" became more annoying the more he repeated the phrase. Yet he seemed to talk to these people like he was trying to help them. He wasn't defensive. He used no legalese.

"You give up your right to sue, before you know what you're going to get," someone complained.

Feinberg answered that although the statute seemed to require that, he had developed three ways around the problem. First, they could look at the presumptive awards on the charts, something they could ask a lawyer or other advisor to help them with. Second, they could watch his website and see what other, similarly situated people got. (To preserve privacy, names and identifying details would not be given on the website, but enough specifics would be provided to give them a good idea.) Third, and most important, they could make an appointment to come see him or a member of his staff and get an estimate of an award calculated in advance. It would not be binding, but "you would be able to trust me."

"Why should we trust you?" someone yelled from the back.

"Because if I don't make good on those estimates, I'm sure you'll hear about it."

When someone asked what would happen to the money if there was no will, Feinberg reported that the estimates he had seen were that only 25 percent of all the families had had wills -- which meant that in three quarters of the cases the money would be divided up according to how the state where the deceased person had lived dictated it be divided. (In New Jersey, that meant a spouse gets half and the children split the other half.)

A woman stood up to complain that because she didn't have children and her husband had no will, under her state's law "my mother-in-law will get half, and she didn't suffer at all. I'll get one twentieth of my loss and she'll get twenty times her loss."

Feinberg said maybe he could talk to the mother-in-law for her and get her to be reasonable. She smiled a teary smile and said, "That's not likely."

A baby let out a wail. Her mother, toting a Prada bag, shot up from her seat to take her out into the hall.

Someone asked if she could come to Feinberg's office and provide proof of her husband's real potential for earnings growth, potential that was "way beyond the formula [for assumed income growth over the years] in your charts."

"You could," said Feinberg, "but it'll have to be more than a letter from someone saying he was a star and would have made a lot of money."

It was that kind of truthful but unvarnished response that alienated the group. Feinberg just didn't have any kind of bedside manner.

"You should talk to a lawyer about what kind of proof you can present."

"What if we don't want to hire a lawyer," someone shouted.

"Then talk to an advisor, or come ask me or someone on my staff."

Another baby cried.

One woman asked why she shouldn't be compensated for the value of her husband's lawn mowing and other services, such as cleaning the pool. Feinberg said it was unlikely that he could help her with that.

Someone else stood and talked about her life partner, another woman who had died. What could she recover?

That depended on whether New Jersey changed its law to recognize same sex partners, Feinberg replied.

One woman complained that she had five kids, ages two to nine, to support, but she'd get zero because of the deductions to be made from any award for life insurance policy payouts, which in her case amounted to $2 million. This brought on a barrage of more complaints, even catcalls, about life insurance offsets. The one who complained most adamantly was the woman who was hosting the meeting -- Marge Roukema, the longtime Republican congresswoman from this area of New Jersey. She declared that her constituents were being destroyed by this unfair rule.

When Feinberg reminded the group, and the congresswoman, that the insurance offsets were specifically in the law that Congress had passed, Roukema blurted out, "I voted for it, but I didn't understand the full implications of what I voted for." Some laughed at their hapless congresswoman. Others booed. Someone yelled out, "What else didn't you understand?...How in blazes could Congress vote and not know about the insurance?"

"This is a travesty," a heavyset man in the far right corner yelled.

Roukema recovered to tell her audience that she was co-sponsoring legislation to repeal the offsets, but Feinberg politely said that it was unrealistic to expect Congress to pass anything like that. "You should see the letters I get attacking the whole program, or asking, 'What about the Oklahoma City victims?'" he added.

As Feinberg looked at his watch and said that he had to leave soon, another heavyset man in the back asked about pensions being offset, and about Social Security. A chorus of "yeahs" followed.

Feinberg, who had by now begun to understand the widespread concern about the Social Security, workers' compensation, and pension offset issues, seemed to welcome the question. "There are pensions and there are pensions," he said. "Many won't be offset. The same is true for workers' compensation and Social Security. We are looking at that right now. I think an argument can be made that no workers' comp should be offset and most Social Security should not be offset. I'm doing my best to make sure no one gets zero because of this. My goal," he continued, adding something that would have surprised Mitch Daniels back at the Office of Management and Budget, "is to deduct as little in the way of offsets as possible. I'm really going to do my best."

This got the attention of a blond woman in the first row, who had had her hand up through most of the question period. Now, she waved it more purposefully.

"Widows only," said Roukema.

"I am a widow, that much I know," the blonde replied with a chuckle. Then she turned to Feinberg.

"Uh, I have to tell you that you're saying you're doing your best is not enough," she said with a smile. "You have to tell us. What are the rules?" Her face now lost its smile. She stood up, and continued. "In the beginning I felt like you were on my side. Then you put out the regulations, and I'm being told I get zero. I have three children and with their Social Security and workers' comp I get zero. I was counting on you, I really was, to do the right thing. You seem like a decent person. But I can't stand watching them rebuild Afghanistan while America turns its back on me....I have had a huge American flag on my porch since September 12. I want to love that flag."

It was Eileen Simon.

Feinberg, in fact, recognized her, because she's not easy to forget and because she had buttonholed him last month at the first Cantor Fitzgerald meeting to ask about the same thing.

But since that first meeting, Simon had learned the details of the workers' comp and Social Security issues cold. She had consulted both a lawyer at Kreindler's firm, referred to her by people at Cantor Fitzgerald, and a lawyer at her sister's old Wall Street law firm. In fact, a week ago she'd gotten those two lawyers and people from the Justice Department who had worked on Feinberg's regulations on a conference call. When she'd rattled off what she said she thought the workers' comp and Social Security payouts to each of her children and to her were worth, everyone else seemed to doubt her. But as the conversation dragged on and reconvened after the person at Justice got off to check Simon's numbers with others in the government, they all soon concluded that she was right.

Now Simon stood in front of Feinberg, reading from her notes the dollar-by-dollar presumed value of what to Feinberg and apparently everyone else in the government had seemed to be minimally relevant benefits. "Under your rules, as you have written them, I get zero; in fact I get less than zero," Simon concluded.

Feinberg would later recall that after Simon stood up and spoke that morning about the problem and seemed so sure about it, he made a note to himself that he had to go back to Washington and nail down how to deal with workers' comp and Social Security. The lawyers at Justice, working with people at the Labor Department, had handled all that. Had they gotten it wrong? Worse, had they sandbagged him into putting out regulations that were budget-friendly but would screw the victims?

"The blonde with all the numbers really got to me," is how he later put it.

Copyright © 2003 by Steven Brill

From After: How America Confronted The September 12 Era

Thursday, February 7, 2002

Hollie Bart had clearly gotten the insurance company's attention. Today, which was the twenty-fifth anniversary of Sal opening Continental Shoe Repair, she got a fax offering $5,685 for his business interruption claim covering the four weeks his store had been closed. (The number was arrived at by calculating his average weekly revenue -- about $2,000 -- and then deducting the costs he did not incur, such as for materials, because he did no business during that time.) Bart replied that she'd take it, but not as a complete settlement; she still wanted more for the period when Sal had been opened but the area around him had been so blocked off to vehicular and pedestrian traffic that it was almost as if he were closed.

Larry Silverstein told the author that he expected his trial against the insurers to start in September, that the jury would give him his win by October, and that by the following spring of 2003 the appeals would be over and he'd have his check for $7 billion.

By now David Childs, Silverstein's architect at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, had completed the elaborate design and mock-up of a new World Trade Center complex that Silverstein had asked him to start on the day after the attacks. It included a glorious new transit hub, with what Childs called his "great train room" at the base, surrounded by four office towers of varying sizes. The tallest had a protective sheaf of glass around it that rose above the office building itself (which stopped at about sixty-five floors) to the exact height of the original towers. In the middle of the four buildings was a grass plaza area of about ten acres that would serve as a memorial. Childs had also meant for the glass sheaf as another kind of memorial; it seemed to rise and fade up into the heavens. Or as Childs explained it to Silverstein, it was "a marker in the sky of the memorial down below." In all, it was an ambitious plan, likely to be far more pleasing to architecture critics than anything they might have expected from Larry Silverstein.

But Childs had a trick that made it even better. Two of the four towers could simply be picked up and removed, leaving 60 percent of the old Ground Zero space open.

Silverstein loved the way Childs could yank the two buildings up off the mock-up and produce something that turned a crowded circle of office buildings into an open, beautiful setting for two beautiful towers, a grand transit station, and acres of serene, open space for a memorial and even a museum or some other cultural amenity. For now, however, they had to show the Port Authority the design with the four towers, which provided the same amount of office space that the old Trade Center had had. Taking away two of the towers left about 60 percent of the original office space, which is about what Silverstein expected to negotiate. But because of that contract with the Port Authority that required him to rebuild it all, and them to let him rebuild it all, the crowded design would serve as their prop for a multibillion-dollar game of chicken. They had to wait for the Port Authority to blink first before Silverstein could lift those two towers and reveal Childs's real design.

Copyright © 2003 by Steven Brill

From After: How America Confronted The September 12 Era

Thursday, February 14, 2002

Eileen Simon, the American flag still dominating her front porch, sat in her living room looking at a dozen arrangements of Valentine's Day flowers that had been delivered by noon, half from strangers. On the coffee table were boxes of cookies brought over by the Girl Scouts. On the credenza, where Michael used to keep the family's financial records, were five checks she had received recently, many from strangers, such as the members of a prayer group in Illinois who had gotten her name off a website and sent $100.

On the mantelpiece, next to two unlit candles, there was a small antique box that held the bone from her husband's skull. She had put it there in December, without ever looking at it or telling the kids what it was.

Simon sat on a couch under the mantelpiece trying to explain how much all of the generosity meant to her -- the flowers, the letters, the community organization that had paid for a tutor for her daughter, the counseling groups, the kids who played ball with her kids, the random checks that arrived in the mail. The outpouring made her love her country, she said. "Who wouldn't love a country filled with people, even perfect strangers, who are capable of this?" Yet at the same time, she had begun to fear that her government, in the person of Ken Feinberg, was going to disappoint her. Every sentence mixed tears with laughter, as if to broadcast both sides of her at once. This was a woman who loved to laugh, who had resolved not to be bitter. She wanted so much to see the bright side of everything and not be confronted with the opposite that, she said, with that laugh and a tear, she had "liked it much better when I didn't think Michael's death could be anyone's fault but the terrorists. I hated it when I started to hear things like how maybe they could have escaped from the roof, or maybe the buildings weren't designed right. I don't want to hear that."

So, she hated, too, that she couldn't shake the feeling that her government, the government of a country with such generous people, wasn't dealing with her fairly. "If I can even end up with just $500,000, I think I'll be okay," she said. "That and the life insurance [another $500,000] will let us live okay. I'm just counting on him [Feinberg] not to give me zero."

InVision put out a press release announcing that the FAA had ordered $13.7 million worth of equipment for the San Francisco Airport. However, as Sergio Magistri knew, this order was not only minimal, it was a leftover item from the FAA's pre­September 11 go-slow program. It had nothing to do with the TSA's plans to meet the deadlines. In fact, Jackson and a go team that had been assigned to deal with explosive detection systems were holding firm on not giving any orders to InVision until they negotiated a deal to license the company's intellectual property, so that others could also build the machines. So far Magistri wasn't giving in. He hated the idea of licensing away his chance to make it big, in return for the immediate sales orders that he needed so badly.

Copyright © 2003 by Steven Brill

From After: How America Confronted The September 12 Era

At 3:30 Ed Woollen and two other Raytheon executives, along with two lawyers from their well-connected law firm, were ushered into the Vice President's ornate old conference room in the Executive Office Building. There, they met with Peterman from Ridge's office, as well as members of the Vice President's staff and a senior aide in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The meeting had been arranged by one of Raytheon's lawyers, Larry Levinson, a longtime Washington hand who was a partner at Raytheon's Washington law firm. Levinson, who is friendly with Cheney chief of staff Lewis Libby, had gotten Libby to convene the meeting so that he could bring the Raytheon people in to brief relevant White House officials on what Raytheon thought it could do to help the government get a handle on its immigration problem. Peterman, who by now was knee-deep in trying to figure out how to build the entry-exit system that Congress had mandated, was glad to be there.

Woollen began with his standard spiel about Raytheon's experience at the airports with baggage scanning machines, then gave an overview of his efforts since September to organize Raytheon to meet the challenges of homeland security. From there, he segued into what they wanted to talk about today, which was "visitor management."

Peterman seemed amused by the euphemism.

As Woollen continued, an aide began to set up a PowerPoint presentation. But as invariably happens when a tech company tries to demonstrate its tech prowess, he couldn't boot it up. After a few long minutes and some nervous laughter from the Woollen side of the table, he finally got it to work, and Woollen continued.

Raytheon's great market dominance in spy satellite software, he explained, was because the company was so good at mining billions of bits of data. Now they would bring the same skills and capacity to visitor management by creating a system that would "keep terrorists out, deport the ones who get in, detect illegal overstays, and manage students on visas."

Where do I sign up? Peterman thought.

Woollen continued, outlining the options Raytheon had for biometric identifiers -- iris scans, fingerprints, palmprints, and even a new face scan that could be done reliably from twenty feet away, and not only served as an identifier but also detected enough "vascular changes" in a face to make it "a first order of lie detector." Woollen didn't mention that Raytheon actually subcontracted out all that high-tech stuff to smaller companies in the field, whose products Raytheon would buy and assemble into a working system.

To screen people, the data would be mined through a system that Raytheon called Genesis, which, Woollen explained vaguely, could track "certain patterns of behavior" that indicated someone was a threat.

None of that was enough by itself, Woollen added. The real value Raytheon added was that the Raytheon system would be "proactive." Once a visitor arrived here, his data would be constantly updated, so that everything he did would be "tracked during the entire lifetime of the visa." If he got into trouble here and was wanted by the police, or even if new information about his prior activities was developed by Genesis, he'd be placed on a new lookout list so that he could be apprehended.

Depending on your point of view, it was all fascinating, scary, or encouraging. But Peterman and the man from the White House science office also knew that it was wildly expensive. To take one example, how could they pay for the biometric scanners -- whether of the iris, the palm, or the face -- at every border crossing? And how would someone be apprehended once put on a lookout list? Where would all the checkpoints be?

Nonetheless, these Raytheon guys seemed determined to build a system that, in some form, had to be built, so Peterman gave them the name of the procurement people at INS who were overseeing the development of the entry-exit system, and said they should get a meeting over there. He added the now standard speech that all homeland security staffers had learned -- which was that they did not make any purchasing decisions.

If nothing else, the session with Woollen and his colleagues gave Peterman some ammunition if the INS people told him they hadn't been able to find anyone with a vision of how this could be done.

Woollen felt the meeting was a success, because, he explains, "You always have to make the rounds on projects like this. You go from office to office, from the White House to the agencies, to Capitol Hill, laying groundwork, sounding people out, and accumulating information."

Copyright © 2003 by Steven Brill

From After: How America Confronted The September 12 Era

After the White House memorial ceremony, Ridge met with the President and the Homeland Security Council to get final sign-off on the color alert system. For several days now there had been a good deal of back and forth on the details of Ridge's plan, which called for four color categories: white, yellow, orange, and red. This meeting was intended to nail it all down.

First, Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Bolten chimed in that he didn't like using white because it didn't show up clearly on the charts being displayed and, therefore, would look bad on television. That was an issue that had come up repeatedly in the last few days. The President sided with Bolten. That raised the question of whether to change white to blue or to green. But Bush suggested that they use both -- that a color, green, should be added to the four as the lowest threat level, in order to suggest a base mark goal that they might not ever get to, but should still be there. Blue would then be the second lowest level, and the alerts would now be five colors: green, blue, yellow, orange, and red.

Then came the issue of what level they should start out with when Ridge made the color scheme announcement, scheduled for tomorrow.

Some, including Ashcroft, wanted orange, the second highest level. But Bolten wanted it to be blue, the second lowest. Bolten seemed to be prevailing when Karen Hughes, Bush's counselor, suggested that based on what she knew about the protective measures being taken near her home in Virginia, and the general climate around the country, she thought yellow was more appropriate. She and Ridge also argued strongly against Ashcroft's choice of orange because, they said, if things got more tense but not extremely so, they'd be stuck with having to go to red when they probably wouldn't want to. The Vice President, who had been inclined to go with orange, also came around to yellow for that reason.

Let's do yellow, the President said.

Copyright © 2003 by Steven Brill

From After: How America Confronted The September 12 Era

Lawyers usually discover smoking guns only on television. But one of the lawyers working for Barry Ostrager in defending Swiss Re against Larry Silverstein's claim that the destruction of the Trade Center had been two events actually found one in a box of files late last week. It was a simple cover note to a fax, and this morning Ostrager got to question its author in one of those pretrial depositions that Ostrager had fought in court to get the time to conduct.

The witness was Robert Strachan, who was in charge of insurance at Silverstein's company. The cover note was dated September 12 and was attached to the insurance form from Silverstein's own broker -- the one with occurrence defined broadly as including any series of related events. What it revealed was that on September 12, Silverstein's man Strachan had faxed the financial institution that was the lead lender in the Silverstein Trade Center deal the section of the policy form that defined occurrence as a series of related events. On the cover note he had written, "FYI, the 'occurrence' definition and the insuring agreement...that we are working with." Again, the date was September 12.

All Strachan could say at his deposition today was that "I don't recall" the circumstances of his having sent that fax, that "I think you're reading a lot into a brief quick note," and that "I had to send her [the woman from the lending institution] something, and I sent her what was available."

That was not the only killer document Ostrager's team had found in going through all the Silverstein insurance files. A week later, Ostrager would cross-examine Strachan about a note he had doodled to himself at a meeting on September 13, saying the Trade Center had been "underinsured....Did we bite off more than we can chew?"

Asked what he had meant by that, Silverstein's insurance manager was forced to concede, "My initial concern was that the loss limit we had bought...was not sufficient to cover the disaster."

That notion of not having bought enough insurance was solidified by two more memos that Ostrager's associates found in the Silverstein broker's files. One put the cost of a total loss of the Trade Center at $5.05 billion, meaning that buying only $3.55 billion to insure against a total loss was, indeed, underinsuring. The other revealed that when Silverstein had gotten a price quote back on $5 billion worth of insurance, he had rejected it because it had cost too much. So, the memo explained, he had settled on $3.55 billion and only even that much because his lenders had insisted he have that much protection. When asked about all that, Strachan and other Silverstein witnesses could only say that the amount they had bought constituted the largest property insurance policy ever purchased.

Ostrager, of course, could use all of this to claim that Silverstein had decided to buy only $3.55 billion worth of insurance for a total loss, but was now trying to collect $7.1 billion for it.

When the insurance company lawyers had trolled other files they'd found still more -- including notes of that conference call held on September 12 between some of Silverstein's brokers who were stuck at a meeting in Nashville and others from their firm in London. The lead broker on the Trade Center account -- the man who had negotiated and bought the insurance for Silverstein -- was quoted in the notes as saying during the conference call that he thought the attacks had been one occurrence because of the form that had been used.

As significant as this evidence was for the insurers, the simple fact that these documents still existed and were handed over by Silverstein's lawyers to Ostrager may be more significant to the larger picture of assessing how America worked in the September 12 era. Those who don't understand the American legal system, or who think it's all bad, might not appreciate how this process called pretrial discovery operates: Lawyers are duty-bound to give the other side every relevant document in their client's files, no matter how damaging. Sure, there are exceptions involving crooked or overreaching lawyers. But most lawyers honor the rules. That they did so here as a matter of routine -- no one even discussed hiding or destroying them -- in a case involving billions of dollars and humongous egos, and where the documents were so destructive to their side, should not go unnoticed, even if the lawyers involved didn't think turning over the documents was anything special. Indeed, the fact that they thought their conduct was routine is what makes it so noteworthy.

Copyright © 2003 by Steven Brill

From After: How America Confronted The September 12 Era

Sunday, March 17, 2002

Brian Lyons had stayed at Ground Zero through the night again, because they were still finding so many firemen's uniforms. At about 8:00 this morning his patience was rewarded. As Lyons and some members of Squad 41, who had come down to the pit this morning still hung over from a St. Patrick's Day party the night before, were sifting through some rubble, Lyons discovered a half-melted crowbar. One of the Squad 41 members quickly recognized it as a tool that Michael Lyons had hand-fashioned into his own personal wedge for prying open big doors -- like elevator doors, the Squad 41 man theorized.

Standing on top of what must have been twenty-five feet of rubble that represented what was left of the 110-story tower, the men dug down furiously. There were pieces of three firemen's uniforms, including one collar with a melted American flag, and the remnants of three pairs of firemen's metal suspender clips. They found six five-gallon buckets and scooped all the ash they could into them. The larger pieces were spread out on the ground nearby and sifted. There appeared to be something like 300 or 400 bone fragments, none more than an inch long. There were also four teeth. All of it was loaded onto three stretchers. By now about thirty firemen had gathered, and they formed an honor guard as the stretchers and buckets were carried up to be sent to the medical examiner's office.

Lyons knew that Michael had been a bone marrow donor, which meant that he had left a perfect DNA sample behind. Yet he was told that the matching process could still take six months or more. But at least now he was almost sure he had found Michael.

When Lyons called Elaine later that morning, in his excitement he mentioned finding Michael's firemen's jacket. He forgot that in his world that meant a few charred scraps of something that was once a jacket. When she asked if he would bring the jacket home, he had to ruin the whole moment by explaining what it really was.

Copyright © 2003 by Steven Brill

From After: How America Confronted The September 12 Era

Saturday, August 24, 2002

Tom Ridge's information systems and technology guru had sat in on the meeting Ridge had had with the Raytheon people and had told Mike Byrne, the head of Response and Recovery and the man obsessed with getting interoperable communications for first responders, that he ought to try to get a look at the converted Chevy Suburban that Raytheon was touting as a first responder command vehicle. It seemed, he said, as if they might have come up with a simple solution to get different emergency two-way radios to talk to each other.

At a fire chiefs convention in San Francisco this afternoon, Byrne made a point of going to the exhibit areas so that he could check it out. He instantly fell in love.

"It's great," he told his staff when he got back to Washington. "It's so simple. This thing is a winner." Soon, Byrne would be working to assure that the specifications for first responder grants to local police and firefighting agencies included provisions for the purchase of a vehicle matching the Raytheon model.

Neither Woollen nor Poza nor anyone else high up at Raytheon had any idea that the most important person in Washington when it came to launching their First Responder vehicle had just been sold, and that his enthusiasm would be the key to their getting orders from local police and fire chiefs over the next few years. Byrne had simply asked the Raytheon salesman on the exhibit floor for a demonstration without introducing himself.

The Raytheon team would celebrate another, more visible breakthrough on Wednesday, when the Wall Street Journal featured the First Responder on the front page of its Markets section. It was a glowing article that quoted a captain in the New York City Fire Department's research and development unit as calling it "the most advanced technology in communications we've seen to date. You touch the police and fire, click enter, and they are linked on the line." The Journal added that both the New York official and the Arlington, Virginia, fire chief had recommended that their cities buy a First Responder.

Woollen, who was at Raytheon's Massachusetts headquarters that morning for another review, got congratulations all around. Finally, he was getting some traction. As of today they had only actually sold two vehicles, but it now seemed likely that they were on their way to building a business.

Copyright © 2003 by Steven Brill

From After: How America Confronted The September 12 Era

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Larry Cox's passenger traffic yesterday was about 94 percent of what it had been a year ago, a near recovery that was reflected in similar statistics across the country for air travel and hotel occupancy. However, discounts on air fares were now so steep that the airlines were struggling mightily even if Cox wasn't.

Waits at airport security checkpoints in Memphis were down to five to ten minutes, and Cox was now so impressed by what he'd been told of TSA's plans for rolling out the federalized screeners -- they were now scheduled to arrive in two weeks -- that he was confident that things would keep moving as smoothly, only with what he now conceded would be better security. He wasn't so sure about what would happen when TSA tried to implement the bomb screening of checked luggage in time for that December 31 deadline. Yet, based on what he had now seen of TSA's performance and their plans for implementing the program in Memphis, and on the confidence he had in Wiley Thompson, the Memphis federal security director, he was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt on that, too.

Cox's thermostats were still set at 66 degrees for cold weather and 75 degrees for warm weather to save money on heat and air-conditioning. The hiring freeze was still in effect. And he still feared what he knew was going to be a brutal shakeout in the airline industry. But, as he put it, "We were a lot better off down here than I thought we would be last September 12. Back then, I just couldn't see how we were going to get out of this."

Kevin McCabe sat all morning at a meeting at the Coast Guard regional headquarters debating what to do about that ship giving off the weak radiation signals now being held a few miles offshore. He thought it was a bit of overkill, because the signal was so weak and because he knew that traces from lots of material, such as ceramic tile, could be causing it. But the FBI and the Coast Guard wanted to check it some more, and with an orange alert in place, he understood that.

A few hours later a new piece of equipment from the Energy Department was brought in and declared the ship safe.

But McCabe was already on to another type of threat that the bosses in Washington were worried about. They had just found out that last July a team from ABC News, led by highly regarded correspondent Brian Ross, had begun a project to smuggle a fifteen-pound container of what ABC called "depleted uranium" through seven countries, starting in Austria, going through Eastern Europe and into Turkey, and then onto a container on a ship that had arrived in McCabe's port on July 30. Tonight, ABC was going to report, according to its press release, that it had smuggled "the kind of uranium that -- if highly enriched -- would, by some estimates, provide about half the material required for a crude nuclear device and more than enough for a so called dirty bomb." In fact, ABC had smuggled it right past McCabe and his inspectors. The broadcast, scheduled for an ABC News September 11 prime-time special, would contain an August interview with McCabe. During the interview, McCabe had demonstrated how well his radiation detectors and VACIS machine worked, never having any idea that ABC's Ross was going use it as a setup for his report that in practice McCabe's procedures and equipment didn't work at all.

However, because ABC had also just done an interview with Customs chief Bonner, in which Ross told him about the uranium and then gave him the precise information about the shipment, McCabe and others at Customs were now able to pull the records of what had happened. The version of the story contained in these records was quite different from the one ABC was preparing to tell.

It turned out that the Customs computerized risk analysis system had performed exactly as it was supposed to. Based on the countries it had been in, the fact that the designee was not a name familiar to Customs, and the number of countries it had traveled through, the container in which Ross's suitcase (which was packed in a wood crate) was hiding had, in fact, been targeted as one of only six containers out of 1,139 containers on the ship to be given special attention. Thus, it was selected for a VACIS inspection and radiation detector screening. The radiation detector had signaled nothing -- because the uranium had been so depleted that, by ABC's own admission, it had almost no radiation content. In fact, it was less radioactive than what the detector would find in the earth's natural soils, and could certainly not be used to make any kind of bomb. As for the VACIS inspection, the VACIS crew had zeroed in on the container and concluded that it presented no threat, because it showed no unusual density patterns.

When Customs' press relations people argued these points this afternoon to ABC, the network's response was that they had used depleted uranium so as not to endanger anyone, but that had the uranium not been depleted it could have been shielded in a lead container, which would have rendered McCabe's radiation detectors useless. That was perhaps true, but in that case the VACIS machine would have detected the lead, because of its unusual density, and been suspicious of it enough to hand-search the container. Moreover, undepleted, real uranium simply was not the material that ABC had smuggled in.

Another ABC argument was that even if McCabe had singled out the container, he had only done so after it reached port. By then if it had been a real bomb it could have been detonated. Again, that hadn't been the point of ABC's experiment. Indeed, McCabe and everyone else conceded that the same could be said of any cargo now arriving in the U.S., which was why they were posting inspectors at foreign ports and pushing to develop broad-area radiation detectors that could be mounted on bridges and other places outside the ports. If that had been the point of the story, then why all the footage and talk about the material being allowed to pass through the port and onto a truck that made its way into New York, the Customs people argued.

ABC went ahead with its prime-time broadcast, though it did remove the term "nuclear material" from the script, and did include a rebuttal from Bonner (which ABC countered with the argument that it could have shielded real uranium in lead, and that a terrorist could detonate a device before McCabe had a chance to inspect it). But a Customs press release responding to the broadcast was effective enough that the media pickup of ABC's scoop was relatively muted.

McCabe was cheered by the whole episode, though frustrated by ABC's conduct. Contrary to its claims, the network's report had demonstrated that at least this time he and his team had picked out the proverbial needle from the haystack for extra attention, determined that it was not a threat, and allowed it to proceed.

Copyright © 2003 by Steven Brill

From After: How America Confronted The September 12 Era

Like McCabe, Ken Feinberg was too busy to spend the day at memorial services. A week ago he had announced another eighteen awards, bringing the total to fifty-two. There were now 709 applicants on file out of what he estimated were about 3,000 potential claimants. His average award after deductions for offsets such as life insurance was now $1,570,000. With only thirteen lawsuits filed (meaning only thirteen suits had disavowed his fund), he knew that everyone else was waiting to see how he was going to rule not only on more of those claims that had already been filed, but on the test runs he had done with key plaintiffs lawyers like Kreindler, who said he had 300 clients.

Feinberg spent much of the day preparing for two more test run sessions. One scheduled for tomorrow was with Michael Barasch, the personal injury lawyer whom Feinberg had met over his Christmas vacation in Jamaica. Barasch had claimed to have 1,000 firemen clients, whose respiratory systems had been damaged by the air at Ground Zero during the cleanup. Feinberg was surprised to find that the documentation on many of the sample cases that Barasch planned to go over with him looked pretty good. This did look like a large number of legitimate extra claims that he would have to deal with.

The paperwork for the second test run, scheduled for Friday, was more disturbing. This was the case of Juan Cruz-Santiago, a supervising accountant who had been working in the outer ring of the Pentagon a year ago when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed a few feet away from his office. According to an article by Jim Oliphant in Legal Times, "Cruz-Santiago was burned over 70% of his body. His eyelids were literally seared off. He would endure 30 surgeries and spend twelve weeks in the hospital. His fingers would be amputated....He will never work again. At 52, he will require decades of medical treatment from a team of specialists."

Cruz-Santiago was still in excruciating pain, and had to wear a mask and gloves. His lawyer had submitted a chart showing dollar amounts awarded for pain and suffering in various burn cases almost equivalent to Cruz-Santiago's that ranged from $3 million to $10 million.

The problem for Feinberg with those comparisons with conventional tort cases was the usual one, only it was harder because of this man's obvious suffering and need for money. The sad reality was that unlike the cases the lawyer cited, Cruz-Santiago had little hope of using the tort system as an alternative to the fund. Who was he going to sue? From whom could he expect to recover damages? Then again, Cruz-Santiago's plight seemed to be the saddest, most horrifying among all the cases Feinberg had seen. This wasn't a widow and a family negotiating over how much they would need to maintain or exceed their previous lifestyle. This was a survivor with a lifetime of medical bills and pain ahead of him. That assessment would, if anything, become more certain on Friday, when Feinberg would find himself sitting across a table from Cruz-Santiago and his wife, unable to bear looking at him, let alone think about any number that could compensate him.

In the afternoon, Feinberg appeared on a live telecast of a "town meeting" with NBC's Tom Brokaw that was held across the street from Ground Zero. He was, in his words, "mauled by angry victims" who also participated in the show. As he was about to leave, Brokaw whispered to him, off camera, "You deserve a medal."

Copyright © 2003 by Steven Brill

From After: How America Confronted The September 12 Era

Chuck Schumer left the studio at the Fox network local affiliate in New York just as the station switched from his live appearance to the interview with Eileen Simon and her daughter, Brittany, that had been taped in July. As Schumer got into the car and the police driver raced toward Ground Zero for the memorial ceremony, he called Iris. She had decided to skip the memorial and spend the day in her Transportation Department office.

"Look at this city," Schumer exulted after he got off the phone and the car started approaching downtown. "Look at these people. They went through hell a year ago, and look at them now. They look great. The place looks great."

As Schumer's car approached a staging area across from the old Trade Center site, it was hard not to agree. Newly planted trees swayed in the heavy wind. The lobbies and parks around the Battery Park City apartments, which a year ago were so covered in ash and smothered in putrid air that people had wanted to abandon them, seemed completely refurbished and well occupied. A state program, using some of the federal money Schumer had helped obtain to offer rent aid to people who signed residential leases in the area, had obviously worked. The palm-tree-filled atrium lobby looked better than ever at the World Financial Center -- which was once again home to corporations, such as American Express, that had returned following a crash rebuilding effort and the implementation of another federal program providing rental supplements.

Across the street at Ground Zero, there was a tent for people like Schumer who were to read the names of the victims at the memorial service. The readers could wait in the tent and watch the service on a television monitor until it came time for their moment on the stage -- which in the case of those reading names further down the alphabet could be two hours or more. In every case, a celebrity reader was paired with a noncelebrity who had some connection to the tragedy, typically because he or she had lost a family member.

It was in this tent that the true spirit of the September 12 era recovery became even clearer.

Because there were more than 100 readers, a rule was being enforced not allowing any of the celebrities to enter with their usual posse. Just about everyone complied, shedding their aides or even security guards at the tent's entrance. It had also been requested by those organizing the event that no one leave before the entire ceremony was over, but instead return to the tent after reading their assigned names.

As a result, celebrities were stuck there for nearly three hours with no one to talk to but other celebrities -- or to the noncelebrity readers. And the most stunning thing about it was not only that they all stayed, but that they seemed to prefer talking to the strangers among them. Thus, Secretary of State Colin Powell could be seen sitting in a bridge chair chatting with a fire widow, while Hillary Clinton stood, also with no entourage or Secret Service detail, chatting with a fireman and what seemed to be two widows.

Soon Schumer was in an animated conversation with the widow with whom he had been paired to read names. But then he got up and starting moving around the room, feverishly looking for someone in charge, as if he had a complaint. The problem, he explained, as he grabbed for his cell phone to get his staff working on the case with him, was that his new friend had just discovered that her own husband's name had somehow been left off the list. Schumer spent a half hour ignoring everyone in the tent until he performed this urgent piece of constituent service.

Copyright © 2003 by Steven Brill

From After: How America Confronted The September 12 Era

In short, the way the system throws people into the arena and encourages them to fight for their "special interests" seems to have served America well.

But there was more than this adversarial system at work. When President Bush said after the attacks that the terrorists must have thought that America was "soft," it was easy to agree not only that the country's enemies had assumed that, but that Americans, too, considered themselves soft, or at least not as tough as the "greatest generation" that had fought off Hitler.

Americans turned out to be anything but soft. Remember Eileen Simon standing up to Ken Feinberg at that crowded meeting, clutching her research about workers' compensation, or her success through the year in helping her children recover. Remember Gale Rossides and the go teams, toughing it out at TSA. Remember Brian Lyons and his co-workers, cleaning up Ground Zero, early and under budget; or Michael Cartier and the relentless teams at the medical examiner's office and at Fresh Kills, who found his brother. Remember Larry Cox reviving his airport, or Sal Iacono summoning the will to start over. Remember James Brosnahan standing up for the American Taliban, the tens of thousands of Red Cross volunteers swarming New York, or that IBM crew pulling all-nighters to hook up the September 11th Fund's website.

Many of those people were heroes -- men and women who were inspiringly motivated by more than their own interest. In some cases -- Bob Lindemann risking all to speak out about the naked Northern Border, or Hollie Bart working for free to keep Sal's shop afloat -- that seems obvious. They and others -- such as Lawlor, Byrne, and dozens of other members of Ridge's staff, or Rossides and the thousands of people who joined the TSA, or Romero, who manned what he sees as the barricades of freedom -- are patriots in the true sense of the word. But it is hard to argue that nearly everyone involved wasn't moved to some degree by the tragedy of September 11 and by loyalty to his or her country in a way that made them think about both the public and their private interest. More important, it is pointless to try to gauge the mix of "selfish" or "selfless" motivations at work. We live in a society that depends on both. Asking whether Ken Feinberg worked all those hours for free, traveled all those miles, and put up with all those attacks to bolster his professional reputation, or because he wanted to do good for the world, is to ask the unanswerable and ultimately the irrelevant. What counts is that he did it, and that he lives in a country where a mix of public and private motives encourages him to do it.

Similarly, when Sergio Magistri says he cares about people not blowing up in airplane explosions, and when the blue-smocked men and women in his factory say they derive special meaning from their work because it has a special, higher purpose, there is no reason not to believe them. But what counts is that Magistri and his people, motivated undoubtedly by a mix of enterprise and mission, did ramp up and did get those machines out there into the airports. There is every reason to believe that what got Gale Rossides up before dawn most mornings, as she fought to get TSA into all those airports on time, was her commitment to her mission, but what matters most is that she was tough enough to pass her test.

Whatever combination of public and private motivation made people like these, or McCabe, or those TSA go team leaders, or Romero work so hard, or that made Tom Ridge leave his family and his governorship to come to Washington and work his way through all the obstacles thrown in his path, or that kept his staff working day and night, the important thing is that they did.

The results have hardly been perfect. We could all write a happier ending, in which America is completely safe and the enemy, like a disease, has been eradicated. But this threat isn't like that. Although the country might have moved faster with a leader in the White House less afraid of the anti-government wing of his own party, the results are far better than most would have imagined on that morning after the attacks.

We need to remember where America was that morning.

No one knew when the stock markets would be able to reopen, or even whether New York's economy, or the country's, would ever get back on its feet.

Sal Iacono had no idea whether he would ever re-sole a shoe again, and those who lived in the apartments near him at Ground Zero thought they had lost their homes.

Chuck Schumer didn't know whether the President would stiff him when it came to helping New York.

Eileen Simon didn't know how she was going to pay the bills, or when her kids would stop crying as they rummaged through her husband's laundry to sniff his memory.

Michael Cartier didn't think he had a prayer of finding his brother or getting the time of day from the people in charge of finding him.

Larry Cox couldn't imagine how the planes were going to get back in the air.

Sergio Magistri, who had just finished a round of layoffs and was producing fewer than three machines a month, thought he should ramp up production at InVision, but he was scared of once again getting out ahead of demand.

Bernadine Healy and the Red Cross had no idea of how they were going to attract and channel charitable contributions to thousands of victims. Although the Red Cross failed the test of establishing a coherent, accountable policy, other groups, such as the September 11th Fund, stepped into the breach with sensible strategies, sound management, and the creation of a system for pooling information and efforts that provides a template for handling future disasters. And, of course, all the thousands of volunteers and millions of contributors proved that at least in this context Americans were not "bowling alone."

On the morning after the attacks, Ken Feinberg and any other lawyer who'd ever worked the country's tort system couldn't begin to predict how many thousands of lawsuits spanning how many decades were going to tear the country apart, as victims of the tragedy tried to cast blame on everyone except the terrorists who had caused it. The victims fund has proved to be a far better alternative.

And, as Kevin McCabe looked out across his port and was able to do nothing but put aside hundreds of containers based only on the country he thought they had come from, while his colleagues in North Dakota and Detroit strangled trade by holding up trucks at the checkpoints, and while Bob Lindemann was called back from the front by Border Patrol bosses who actually said it was too dangerous to be out there, it was hard not to believe that there really was no way America was ever going to be safe again.

America is still not safe, not in the sense that an attack is not possible or even probable. But the country is much less vulnerable than it was. America has come a long way, making progress fitfully, as democracies must, toward achieving the longer-term changes that will enable the country to protect itself in the September 12 era.

Although American freedoms and the legal system that protects its people have been tested and even changed, Americans are still fundamentally free. Although terrorism, by definition, involves those living quietly in their communities, the country did not constrict freedom at home nearly to the degree it did during World War II, when thousands of its citizens were interned in camps.

A cost -- in inconvenience as well as expense -- has been added, and will continue to be added, to the nation's commerce. But the country's economic system has not been crippled, far from it.

How Americans live has been indelibly affected. But the country's core values and way of life remain the same.

The American people and the American system have been as resilient as ever. Even as the nation changed, it prevailed, because its people remained fundamentally the same -- motivated enough and tough enough to pursue the same mix of self-interest and public interest in the same spirited, open arena that since its beginning has been the source of America's enduring strength.

Copyright © 2003 by Steven Brill

Excerpted from After: The Rebuilding and Defending of America in the September 12 Era by Steven Brill
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