Posts Tagged ‘1994’

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.

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I’m a fan of Robert Ludlum’s writing.  But that’s not a huge surprise, as I’ve mentioned it before.  I’m also confident that the Jason Bourne trilogy he penned sits pretty highly on my list of favorite Ludlum readings.  Now if you’ve seen the movies starring Matt Damon but haven’t read the books, don’t worry.  The theater renditions on the subject of Bourne (Identity, Supremacy, and Ultimatum), while pretty exciting to watch, have about as little to do with the books as ironing boards do with motherboards.  So picking up the books and giving them a go will not be in the least bit repetitious…except for the main character’s name, a girlfriend, and a few place-names.

I read the trilogy (for the first time) back in 1992.  I had graduated from college in December of the previous year and was living and working over in eastern Iowa…Cedar Rapids to be specific.  I was just starting out, didn’t have much money, and knew just three people outside my circle of co-workers.  But I could afford to spend $6 on a paperback book…and so I did.  And I spent many an evening reading away the hours.  A co-worker introduced me to Ludlum, and I was hooked.

In Ludlum’s trilogy, Bourne is pitted against Carlos the Jackal, an international terrorist wanted for numerous crimes, assassinations, and other unsavory activity.  Bourne’s job is to mimic this “public enemy #1” and draw him out for capture.

But I had no idea that Carlos the Jackal was a real guy…at least initially.

His real name is Illich Ramirez Sanchez, and while Ludlum’s history of the character might have been altered some for the sake of his writings, his portrayal is closer to real life by far than the movies were to the books.  He really was an international terrorist, and he claimed responsibility for dozens of terrorist acts over a 20-year span beginning in the early 1970s.

After numerous failed attempts to capture Sanchez, French agents finally succeeded in arresting him, which is where my fictional Jackal met with reality.

I was a software developer and, in 1994, I spent a lot of time on the road, visiting clients around the state and upgrading their software from an old version to the new.  Part of that upgrade process was running a data conversion that made existing data run on the new program.  I had written the conversion, so it was best that I handle the upgrades.

One particular job took me to clients in the small town of Denison, IA.  As I sat and watched the data conversion run (not much more exciting than watching paint dry), I grabbed the local newspaper and looked through it – not that it took too long, being just a couple of pages.  But inside was a little blurb, maybe five or six lines of text, concerning Carlos the Jackal.  I sat straight up in my chair.  This criminal mastermind, the snippet read, had been captured on August 14, 1994 in Sudan.  This bad guy was real!

Apparently, French authorities had discovered his hideout in Sudan and flown there, kidnapped and sedated the criminal mastermind, and carted him back to France.  And I believe he’s currently in prison, serving a life sentence.

Recommended Reading:  The Bourne Identity, Supremacy, and Ultimatum – Some of Ludlum’s finest work.

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