Based On a True Story
Late 1993, New Casablanca Studios, Hollywood. Screenwriter Cindy Cheek has arrived in producer W.P. Fitzwool's top-floor office with a story to pitch.
W.P. Fitzwool: Whatcha got for me?
Cindy Cheek: Hey, W.P., you're looking great...
WPF: Ten minutes- don't waste it.
CC: OK, ready for this? -- Terrorism!
WPF: Sure, fine, terrorists. What's the angle?
CC: World Trade Center.
WPF: Old news. You might have noticed -- it was on TV and everything.
CC: This time the towers go down - both of them.
CC: Hijacked planes.
WPF: Go on.
CC: A suicide mission. They fly one plane into each tower, high up.
WPF: And the towers collapse?
WPF: Could that happen?
CC: We can make it happen. A really big fire. Get the pyrotech guys on it...
WPF: Has it ever happened? I mean, a fire bringing down a steel skyscraper?
CC: My people say no, but...
WPF: OK, no problem; it's doable. So take me through it.
CC: The title sequence is a lot of fast cuts showing Middle Eastern guys being real busy -- having meetings in exotic Asian locations -- we'll view them through the camera lenses of CIA operatives, you know, with the shutter clicking -- moving into apartments in American cities, acting generally suspicious, and also getting pilot training various places, in flight schools, on military bases ...
WPF: American military bases?
CC: Yeah, now stay with me. We see the chief of intelligence, in a place like, say, Pakistan, nodding approval to a big payoff, at least 0,000, and then see one of the terrorists picking up the money at his bank in the US -- say, Florida. The sequences ends with a cute Pakistani kid in a schoolroom, in Manhattan, pointing out the window and telling the teacher, " Do you see those two buildings? They won't be standing there next week." Pan to the window, which frames the twin towers. "Directed by ..." And we're on our way.
WPF: (Looks at his watch) Nice. Seven minutes to go.
CC: We're in a Wall Street boiler room where one guy's shouting to another about heavy short-selling of airline stocks. This with a date, typewriter style, below him -- sometime early next century. We don't know it, but it's the day before the disaster. We go down to the Trade Center's main floor, where the head of security is arriving for his first day on the job, complaining that he'd been a big terrorism expert with the FBI, but had been canned for pushing the issue too hard. Now, he says, here he is protecting the WTC, and he's afraid "we're in for something big."
WPF: His first day?
CC: Right. The next day, he'll die in the attack. But first cut to DC, and see that the same Pakistani intelligence boss who sent the money to the terrorists is now hobnobbing with White House, State Department types. See Pentagon officials being warned to stay off commercial flights. The camera backs out of the window to a wide shot of the Pentagon from above -- because it's going to be hit, too, you see...
WPF: Come on ...
CC: So now we follow the terrorists again. Same day. This time you see them being tailed by other Middle Eastern guys, but they seem different. That's because, we'll see later, they're Israeli intelligence.
WPF: Why them?
CC: You'll see. Actually, I'm still working on that. Now fade to black. Then we see the date -- the following day, the fateful day, with a time stamp, real early morning. Suddenly, a big control room -- think Fail Safe, War Games -- and the maps show intruding aircraft, shoot-down orders are being given. Give the audience a first jolt. It goes on for a little while before we see it's just a big fire drill by the NORAD. We see other agencies doing the same.
WPF: On the same day as the real disaster they're running exercises?
CC: Yeah, we have to compress time a bit here.
WPF: It's not believable.
CC: Then here are the terrorists, boarding their planes in different cities -- Washington, Boston, ... We see a couple of the passports up close. Saudis. Cut to the Pentagon. The Secretary of Defense is having a meeting ...
CC: ... about terrorism, ...
WPF: Sure ...
CC: ... and he says to a Congressperson, "Let me tell ya, I've been around the block a couple of times. There will be another event. "
WPF: No way. Give the audience a little credit.
CC: Trust me. Now we see the hijackings in progress. The first thing we see is a terrorist in one of the planes jumping up and stabbing a guy a couple of rows back. We'll see later that the dead guy is another Israeli spook.
WPF (Holding head in his hands): Uh...
CC: The terrorists get control of two planes, lots of passengers and flight attendants are on cell phones to their loved ones, not realizing how this is going to turn out. The ground flight controllers see the planes go off-course, toward NYC and then lose them, NORAD watches the situation ... stock stuff.
WPF: Fighters are scrambled,...
CC: But the towers are hit before they can get there.
WPF: But aren't there bases all over the place, and aren't the jets real fast? Does the timing work?
CC: Remember, W.P., this is a chase scene. We cut real fast from the airliners to the jets to NORAD, back to the airliners. We can make it work. The towers are hit, they pour out smoke for an hour or so, then collapse. Thousands dead.
WPF is lost in thought, visualizing the horror.
CC: Some shots of shock and grief, the exception being a little group of Israeli guys celebrating and taking pictures of the burning towers.
WPF (snapping out of his reverie): More spies, I assume?
CC: Could be. Meanwhile, cut to a close family friend of the President. He's the guy who had done more than anyone to get the President his job. He's at a business meeting that includes a member of the main terrorist honcho's family.
CC: He's watching the events on TV. The terrorist's relative slips out. Our guy starts to worry and leaves, too, to find out where the President is.
WPF: Which is?
CC: At an education photo-op somewhere in Florida, still going on. There's some suspense -- why isn't the Prez doing anything? He finally gets on Air Force One, but instead of returning to Washington, flies here and there, all over. All we hear from him now is a voice over the phone.
CC: Meanwhile, NORAD learns that another plane's off course and probably flying toward DC. They don't know what's going on in the plane, because there aren't all those cell phone calls like from the other flights. But they'll figure out later that there was one call, from a passenger to her husband, and he happens to be the U.S. Solicitor General -- another member of the President's inner circle...
WPF (sighs): Perfectly natural.
CC: But for now, officials are desperate. They radio the pilot of a big transport plane in the area -- something like a C-130 -- to look around for the missing plane.
WPF: That's the best defense Our Nation's Capital can come up with?
CC: Yeah, at least in this movie. Back to a wide shot of the Pentagon, so we realize where the plane's headed, but the military still doesn't. In fact, the Defense Secretary still hasn't been informed of the plane heading for DC, but he knows about the ones in New York. He's still in the terrorism meeting, and he tells that same Congressperson, "Believe me, this isn't over yet. There's going to be another attack, and it could be us." A couple of minutes later, the plane hits the Pentagon, but not the spot where the Secretary is.
WPF: Does it break his crystal ball? I think ...
CC: Wait ...
WPF: ... I think your time's up.
CC: No! There's another plane.
WPF: Not today, there's not.
CC: You have to hear this. These passengers have cell phones, by now they know about the other planes, they get organized and go after the terrorists. We don't see it -- we hear it unfold over the phones. Meanwhile, we're cutting to the Vice President, who approves a shoot-down. This time, a fighter is scrambled in time. We see, from the point of view of that same C-130 pilot from DC, who also happens to be near this action, that the jet is closing on the plane, ...
WPF: Who is this C-130 guy ... ?
CC: Sshhh -- we hear a passenger saying they're getting into the cockpit, we see the fighter jet, we hear another person say, "I think we can do it," then we hear a loud wind,...
CC: And we cut to a news reports of the plane's crash. Were they shot down just as they were about to prevail over the terrorists? Or did they crash? Leave that open. Anyway, we move to the investigation sequence. The Feds identify all of the terrorists from all the planes almost immediately. For one thing, one of these guys' passports has landed, undamaged, on the sidewalk in Manhattan.
WPF (rolling his eyes): Sure, why not?
CC: A cop picks it up, opens it, and we zoom in to see it's the same passport we saw the guy show at the airport. Meantime, Feds swoop in on the hijackers' cars in airport garages in the different cities, where they find stuff like Arabic flight manuals, maps of NYC and DC, stuff from their flight schools, lists of names of the terrorists, hijacking instructions,...
WPF: I guess when the FBI's involved, you gotta make it easy for them? Is that the idea?
CC: The ringleader's luggage gets left behind when he changes planes, and it contains a pilot's uniform, a Koran, and a 757 flight manual. We see a pizza delivery guy tell the Feds, "They paid for their order with a card instead of cash. That's pretty unusual. Just a second -- I've got the slip right here." We see a bartender in a strip club telling the cops, "They were here, all right. One of 'em left his business card and a copy of the Koran at the bar." Then ...
WPF: Look, Cindy, you've left loose ends everywhere, and now youre tying them all with this made-for-TV, so-called investigation. You've got a concept here, but you've got unexplained Israelis all over the place, you've got Pakistanis, you've got it raining passports. You can't insult the audience. I'm late for lunch.
CC: Wait -- dig this epilogue. It's a montage of TV news footage, you know, grainy images. America, a Sleeping Giant, has been awakened. The President, previously a sort of nonentity, rises to the occasion, learns that mujahedeen types in Afghanistan were behind this, and orders an invasion. We flatten the place, wipe out the terrorists, install a democratic government. It goes so well, we move on into the Mideast, tossing out tyrants and bringing democracy in country after country. Their people are happy, our people are happy, the oil's safe from dictators Tragedy paves the way for a bright future for all the world, ...
WPF: Now you're talking. That's no epilogue-- it's your story! Let's make that movie! Have something ready for me this time next week, right here!
All of the individual events discussed by Cheek and Fitzwool (except, of course, those in the epilogue) are documented. See Paul Thompson's comprehensive Complete 9/11 Timeline, David Ray Griffin's book The New Pearl Harbor, and Justin Raimondo's The Terror Enigma for lists of sources. This article draws no conclusions about the origins of 9/11; indeed, no theory, either official or unofficial, has managed to expain fully the events of that day.