Commemorating 9/11

CBP personnel in Sault Ste Marie take a moment to recognize the fallen on 9/11 at the International Bridge. (Picture: US Customs & Border Protection)

CBP personnel in Sault Ste Marie take a moment to recognize the fallen on 9/11 at the International Bridge. (Picture: US Customs & Border Protection)

 

Also see –

9/11 – The Significance for Customs

9/11 Vivid Memories

 

WTC developer says United and American airlines negligent

While American’s are accustomed to a period of mourning and remembrance over this time, it seems as though property mogul – Larry Silverstein – is more concerned with lost profits than the fate of a few thousand lost souls resulting from the 9/11 tragedy. Perhaps the US Airforce should be cited for not scrambling fighter jets quick enough to intercept the rogue planes. Moreover, why not cite the ‘negligent’ customs and immigration officials of the DHS for failing to intercept the rogue hijackers. A strange case of selective blame, indeed!

Most of the lawsuits arising from the hijacked plane attacks on the World Trade Center 11 years ago have been settled, but one demanding that United Airlines and American Airlines be held liable for loss of property and business could go to trial.

Two recent rulings by a federal judge in New York denying the airlines’ bid to dismiss the lawsuit over a narrow insurance dispute have opened the door to the entire case ending up in the hands of a jury. At issue is whether the two airlines and other defendants should pay additional damages to Larry Silverstein, the leaseholder of the World Trade Center property, beyond what he has already received from his own insurer.

Silverstein’s World Trade Center Properties blamed United, now United Continental Holdings Inc, and American Airlines, for breaches of security. The 2008 lawsuit also named aircraft manufacturer Boeing Co, the Massachusetts Port Authority, which manages Logan International Airport, and security companies.

The lawsuit claimed that negligence allowed hijackers to board two planes at the Boston airport and use them as missiles to destroy the 110-story twin towers and cause other buildings on the site in lower Manhattan to burn down. Before Sept. 11, the airlines and the security companies they hired oversaw security at airports and on planes. That responsibility now lies with the Transportation Security Administration, a government agency.

Silverstein is seeking $8.4 billion in damages for loss of property and lost business, even though U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein has limited the amount to the $2.8 billion Silverstein paid for the leases. The lawsuit is among the last pieces of litigation resulting from the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which killed more than 3,000 people in New York, the Pentagon outside Washington, and Pennsylvania. Read the full article here! Source: Reuters.

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9/11 – The Significance for Customs

The tenth anniversary of 9/11 recalls a day of infamy for many, particularly those who lost loved ones, not to mention the sheer audacity and questionable motives of the respective attacks. It also marked a distinct period of change in the Customs, international travel and trade environments. For one, there is a not a single person involved in any of the above who has not felt the effects of a ‘shake up’. It is therefore relevant to recount this event and reflect on the explicit impact which the attacks in New York would have for Customs officers, worldwide.

WTC 6, an eight storey building –known as Custom House – was home to 760 officers of the US Customs Service. It was situated adjacent to the North Tower. Within 12 minutes of the first plane hitting the North Tower at about 8:46 am, all occupants (WTC 6) were safely evacuated. Stephen Barr of the Washington Post noted in an article titled, “Knowing the Drill Saved Lives at New York’s Customs House” on 18 September 2001 that ‘Federal agencies demonstrated coolheaded leadership during the crisis. Because of practice sessions held several times a year, employees knew what to do and where to go. In a day marked by unbelievable horror and confusion, old-fashioned fire drills helped one band of office workers to escape’.

Beneath the plaza level of US Customs House (WTC 6) was a large underground garage, separated off from the rest of the complex’s underground area and guarded under tight security. This was where the various government services parked their bomb-proofed cars and armoured limousines, counterfeit taxi cabs and telephone company trucks used for undercover surveillance and covert operations, specialized vans and other vehicles.

New York Customs House (WTC6) - AfterThe evacuation of WTC 6 was indeed timely, because at 9:04am a massive explosion shook the building, bellowing a huge plume of smoke 550 feet into the air. When the North Tower fell, the US Customs House (WTC 6) was crushed and totally incinerated. Much of the underground levels beneath it were also destroyed.

The Commissioner designate, Robert C. Bonner, commented “The sudden disruption to such a large and important area of Customs’ operations threatened to compromise the immediate security of ports of entry in the New York area and the integrity of ongoing Customs investigations and trade and enforcement activities. We faced an immediate need to relocate all 800 employees and to allow them to resume their work quickly so they could focus on border security. These men and women responded heroically to the challenge, setting up a temporary operations center within hours at nearby JFK airport. And, within three weeks of the attacks, they succeeded in relocating our New York Customs Office into new office space in Manhattan”. Click here to view the full testimony of Robert Bonner to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks.

Customs evidence amongst the rubbleIn the months to follow, significant developments resulted in the institution of the Department of Homeland Security – the merger of the US Customs and Immigration Services – a gargantuan displacement of some 140 000 federal officials. (For SARS Customs officials – ours is but a picnic!). The full implications of 9/11 were to be felt by the international community in 2002 with the implementation of several ‘security/anti-terrorism’ measures that have undoubtedly changed the focus, intent of all customs administrations worldwide. Click here to visit the 9/11 image gallery.