Thursday, September 08, 2011

The Sandy Bob Stage Meets 9•11

September 8, 2011

Long day yesterday. Had my bi-weekly True West Moment dinner at Cartwright's last night. Got home about nine, exhausted by happy. Another sold out crowd and the food, Mountain Man Bison Meatloaf was excellent.

It was on this date, September 8, 1881, a passenger stage on the 'Sandy Bob Line' in the Tombstone area bound for Bisbee, Arizona was robbed. I illustrated this for my book, Classic Gunfights, Volume II: The 25 Gunfights Behind The OK Corral.

Meanwhile, someone on here pegged me as The Duke of Dust and going with that theme, here's a set piece I finished this morning before I came into work, "Mickey Rides In" which is for an upcoming Graphic Cinema:

My editor at the Arizona Republic, Ken Western (now there's a name for an editor!) asked me to come up with something Arizona related on 9•11 for this week's True West Moment (to be published Sunday on the anniversary of 9•11). My first reaction was to do something on the report that the hijackers were going to flight schools in Arizona to learn how to fly 737s but they didn't want to know how to land or take off. Turns out that isn't true. Although "widely reported" after 9•11 it is evidently one of those rumors that got credence from constant airing and it has seeped into our national consciousness (I certainly believed it for the past decade).

But what I did find about Arizona's connection to 9•11 was kind of chilling:

There are over 50 references to Arizona in the 9•11 Commission Report. A dry run of the plane hijacking procedure was apparently implemented in November of 1999 on an American West flight from Sky Harbor to Washington D.C. The alleged pilot of flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon, was Hani Hanjour. He enrolled in the University of Arizona as a freshman in 1991 and in 1996 began flight training at a Scottsdale flight school. Another hijacker, Mawaf al Hazmi, trained at a flight school in Mesa. One of the co-founders of Al Qaeda, Wa'el Jelaidan, was a graduate student at U of A's School of Agriculture. In July 2001, FBI agent Kenneth Williams wrote his famous "Phoenix memo" to his superiors warning of an inordinate amount of Middle Eastern men in flight schools. His warning was ignored, because it was deemed "speculative and not particularly significant."

I mentioned these findings at my talk last night at Cartwright's, and after my speech a former FBI agent came up to me and told me why William's Phoenix memo was ignored: he claimed it was because at the time the bureau was heavy into the drug war and mobsters in the Arizona corridor and they didn't have many agents or analysts covering the terrorist threat. Since 9•11, of course, congress basically gave the administration a blank check to spend on the threat and it's these catastrophic costs that have contributed to most of the deficit and almost bankrupted us.

So, let's fire some teachers. Ha.

"We shall seek the truth and endure the consequenes."

—Charles Seymour