Like most days on the history spreadsheet, yesterday had topics about which I might have said a little something. But like so much of this year, I didn’t say anything. And that was fine…you got plenty of history this weekend as we commemorated the 10th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. In a very good speech in Shanksville (site of the crash of Flight 93) on Saturday, President Bush mentioned Antietam and Abraham Lincoln. He was followed by President Bill Clinton – who I thought gave a brilliant what-appeared-to-be-extemporaneous speech – mentioning the Alamo and the ancient Battle of Thermopylae.
And of course yesterday (the 11th) was a day filled with ceremony, celebrations of life, the reading of the names of those killed a decade ago, and the dedication of memorials. And while the typical emotion of Sunday football was certainly there, there was (at least in our house) this underlying feeling of sadness and a remembrance of how we changed that bright, sunny Tuesday morning in 2001.
And as we come to today, it’s somewhat coincidental that we have another plane crash popping up on the calendar. It also involves a suicide mission, as well as our nation’s capital. But the circumstances – 1 small plane carrying 1 passenger – and the outcome – 1 fatality – are very different than the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.
As some of you may recall, Frank Corder stole a single-engined Cessna 150L (like the one shown above) late on the night of the 11th and, at nearly 2:00am on September 12, 1994, he attempted to crash it into the White House. But it appears that Corder’s suicide mission was not an attempt to kill anyone except himself, while gaining a bit of notoriety in the act. Corder was despondent over the way his life was going. The 38-year old had been in and out of jail for drug issues and had recently been thrown out by his wife.
And while I mentioned just a single fatality, there may have been a second (though I’m not 100% sure), as Corder’s plane succeeded in hitting a magnolia tree planted by President Andrew Jackson. He also succeeded in creating something of a national incident, as lots of people wondered how a slow-flying single-engined airplane piloted by a man under the influence of drugs and alcohol could get by the vaunted air defenses that supposedly surrounded the White House.