I saw a link today to an amazing Washington Post story that I missed when it was published five years ago: two Air Force pilots who scrambled on the morning of 9/11 in an effort to intercept the fourth hijacked airliner, in what was basically going to be a suicide mission.
Over the years, I’ve read a lot about 9/11, and I’ve even followed—with amusement or maybe bemusement—some of the nutcase “conspiracy theories” that claim that the U.S. government plotted and carried out the attacks. (For an idea of what that’s all about, take a deep breath and click here. 9/11 “truthers” are a strange breed and you sometimes wonder whether they’re seriously deluded or just yanking our collective chains.)
The only such conspiracy theory I ever gave any consideration to dealt with that fourth plane: right after 9/11, I thought it was possible—maybe even likely—that the U.S. military had shot down Flight 93 to protect the Capitol or whatever its target was. My feeling at the time was that the government would want to keep the shootdown a secret, for obvious reasons. But of course it’s laughable to think that governments can keep secrets like that for long, and after a few months I accepted the reality of the passengers on that flight having taken matters into their own hands.
Also, such a mission, even though it would have involved shooting down a commercial airliner, would ultimately have been seen as heroic so the military wouldn’t have needed to cover it up.
We now know that the Air Force really did try to take down Flight 93, albeit with unarmed jets, because there wasn’t time to load missiles on the planes. Here’s another article about the same mission.
It was truly a remarkable day; I previously wrote about it, six years ago, in this post.
Near the intersection of Grand Avenue and Highway 44 in St. Louis stands the Compton Hill Water Tower, built in the 1890s to improve water delivery to city residents. The “guts” of the tower is actually a 140-foot-tall, six-foot-diameter standpipe. The city found that somewhat unsightly, so the brick and limestone tower was built around it. It no longer functions as a water tower, but the 179-foot structure is on the National Register of Historic Places, and visitors who climb the 198 steps that spiral around the standpipe can get some great views of the city.
The tower is open the first Saturday of every month, and evenings during full moons. I’ve always wanted to visit, and today I finally made the climb. See the photos below for proof.
Detail of fountain on reservoir wall.
St. Louis University Hospital complex.
179-foot tower was completed in 1899.
Observation deck at the top, with terra cotta roof.
Under-construction: the Grand Avenue bridge over Highway 44.
Steps up to the Compton Hill Reservoir.
Busch Stadium and the Gateway Arch.
An all-too-familiar stretch of road: Highway 44 at Jefferson Ave.
“The Naked Truth” sculpture, built in 1914 to honor three German newspaper editors and St. Louis’ German heritage in general. Adolphus Busch was one of the major funders of the statue. According to a brochure of the Water Tower and Park Preservation Society, the sculpture was created “in bronze rather than white marble to minimize the nudity.”
View of downtown.
Barnes-Jewish hospital complex.
View to the south, with the Jefferson Barracks Bridge in the distance.
The intersection of Grand and Russell.
Union Station, with the towers of the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge in the distance.