05/20/04 — Silence critics: The 9/11 responders did not fail anyone

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Silence critics: The 9/11 responders did not fail anyone

Appearing before an investigative panel, fire and police officials in New York defended their departments’ responses to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Their performances need no defense.

The men and women of those departments and many civilian volunteers came through superbly under the most difficult circumstances imaginable.

Of course there were communications problems! Of course Americans could get a better overall view on their television screens than could the firemen and policemen struggling amid the raining debris, the searing heat and the blinding smoke and dust.

But those brave souls trying to rescue their fellow citizens did not have the advantage of being able to see what was happening to the tower next door or inside the building many stories above them.

They had not the advantage of reviewing and nit-picking and second-guessing that has gone on for the months and years since that monstrous attack.

The same applies to our national leaders. Critics, usually for political purposes, claim there were clear and adequate signals pointing to the terrorist attacks that were either ignored or dismissed at the highest levels.

Such talk sometimes borders on the suggestion that some of our leaders might have through their ineptness been co-conspirators.

All of this is nonsense.

It is all well and good to review what happened, how it happened, what our firemen and policemen did and what they might have done differently. And we can be assured that such critiques have been held over and over again at all levels.

But these reassessments should be undertaken in the spirit of improving performances in the future — not as exercises in blaming people for their failures.

In the aftermath of 9/11 — an unprecedented and internationally shocking act of terror — there were no failures. The responses of our people, including the victims, were deserving of our highest praise and greatest pride.

Serious review of those performances are appropriate in the interest of being better prepared in the event of other attacks. Strident criticism is abominable.

Published in Editorials on May 20, 2004 12:18 PM