Today’s post is in honor of the nearly 3,000 Americans that were killed by terrorists on this date in 2001 and the four Americans that also lost their lives 11 years later in Benghazi, Libya.
Lt. Cmdr. Otis V. Tolbert Jr. was the son of a Naval aviator and played football for the Fresno State Bulldogs before receiving his commission in the Navy. Football had taken its toll on his knees so he couldn’t follow his father’s footsteps and become a pilot, so he earned his commission and joined Naval intelligence. On this date, the 38-year-old Lemoore, Calif. native was working in the Pentagon when the building was hit by Flight 77, killing 125 service members and civilians on the ground.
1776: After the British capture Long Island, Continental Congressional delegates Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Edward Rutledge meet with British Adm. Lord Richard Howe for a peace conference at Staten Island. Hoping to bring a quick end to the conflict, King George granted Howe the authority to discuss peace terms, but not including the recognition of American independence. When Howe states that the loss of America would be like losing a brother, Franklin replies that “we will do our utmost endeavors to save your lordship that mortification.”
1814: New York is saved from a possible invasion by British forces when Commodore Thomas MacDonough’s squadron decisively defeats the British fleet led by Capt. George Downie in the Battle of Plattsburgh.
2001: As air controllers learn that several planes appear to have been hijacked, fighter jets are scrambled but do not arrive in time to disrupt a complex terrorist attack that kills 2,997 Americans and injures some 6,000. At 9:37a.m., a Boeing 757 flown by Al Qaeda terrorists slams into the Pentagon, killing 55 military personnel and 70 civilian employees. The area hit by the plane was undergoing renovations at the time of the attack, which meant only a few hundred of what would normally be around 5,000 occupants were endangered. Structural reinforcements and a sprinkler system had recently been added – in response to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing – which increased survivability.
Although it is too late for the Pentagon, all U.S. military facilities worldwide are ordered to enter Force Protection Condition “Delta” – the highest level of readiness for a possible terrorist attack. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld increases the military alert level from DEFCON 5 (the lowest state of military preparedness) to DEFCON 3. Although the Russians would typically match the increase, President Vladimir Putin notifies George W. Bush that he would order his forces to stand down and denounces the terrorist attack. A report of a possible truck bomb attack targeting the North American Aerospace Command (NORAD) headquarters in the Cheyenne Mountain Complex leads to the first time the facility closes its massive blast doors, which are designed to withstand a nuclear attack. NORAD now controls of all American air space as combat air patrols guarded the skies and enforced a nationwide no-fly-zone.
2012: Terrorists launch a coordinated assault on a U.S. government compound in Benghazi, Libya. Although the battle rages for hours, the military isn’t permitted to mount any kind of effective response. Two CIA contractors – Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods – are killed, as well as foreign service officer Sean Smith and Ambassador Chris Stevens.