Entries in 9/11 (100)


Head of 9/11 Hijackers’ Flight School Faces Drug Running Charges

Kevin Horan/Stone(NEW YORK) -- The man who ran the flight school that unwittingly trained two of the 9/11 hijackers now sits behind bars, accused of drug smuggling and offering his illicit services to an undercover federal officer.

Rudi Dekkers, a Danish national who used to run the Florida flight school Huffman Aviation, came to the attention of federal authorities in October when he was introduced to an undercover federal officer as an associate of suspected drug smuggling kingpin Arturo Astorquiza, according to Texas court documents. 

Though Astorquiza was the target of the federal operation, Dekkers allegedly told the undercover officer in their first meeting that he “was involved in narcotics transportation via private aircraft and that he [had] flown narcotics and U.S. currency previously without any problems.”

After Astorquiza was arrested, the documents say Dekkers reached out to the undercover officer and offered his services directly.  Federal investigators then began tailing Dekkers and eventually arrested him in early December when it appeared he was about to make a drug run for another customer.

The arrest comes more than a decade after Dekkers found himself in the national spotlight in the days after terrorists hijacked four commercial airplanes and used them to kill nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2011. 

Federal investigators quickly identified Dekkers’ school, Huffman Aviation, as the location where two of the hijackers, Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi, earned their instrument certificates from the Federal Aviation Administration.  Atta and al-Shehhi were the men at the controls of the planes that flew into New York’s World Trade Center buildings.

In an interview with ABC News in 2001, Dekkers said the men were unfriendly, but he didn’t think there was anything suspicious about them.

Because of his fleeting connection to the 9/11 hijackers, the years after the attack proved difficult for Dekkers as he described in his memoir Guilt by Association.  He reportedly said in the book he received death threats and that people suspected he was somehow complicit in the attack.

In a recent interview with a local Fox News affiliate, Dekkers was asked if he thought he would ever outlive the shadow of 9/11.

“Yeah,” he said.  “When I die.”

Dekkers has been charged with intent to distribute five kilos or more of cocaine and 100 grams or more of heroin.  A Texas judge ordered he be held without bond, as the court said there was a “serious risk that the defendant will flee.”

Dekkers’ public defender did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this report.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


9/11 'Truthers' Adopt a Highway in Missouri

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(ST. LOUIS) -- The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has approved a controversial "9/11 truther" group's application to adopt a highway.

The St. Louis 9/11 Questions Meetup Group, which suggests the U.S. government may have been involved in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001, will have a sign erected with its name on it.  In exchange, it will arrange to pick up litter on a half-mile stretch of highway four times a year.

This isn't the first time MoDOT has dealt with a controversial group wanting to adopt a highway.  After a legal battle with a Ku Klux Klan group, MoDOT had to make a change in its policies, allowing anyone to adopt a stretch of highway.

Tom Blair, assistant district engineer for MoDOT in St. Louis, told ABC News that after its battle with the KKK, the state can no longer reject a group based on its beliefs, no matter how controversial or offensive.

"MoDOT has been there," Blair said.  "After they won the right to adopt, we modified the process.  We had to make sure anyone could be approved."

The department's battle with the Klan began in early 2000, when the KKK applied to adopt a stretch of highway and was denied.  After a five-year lawsuit, a federal judge ruled the KKK had the right to adopt a stretch of highway in St. Louis, but its sponsorship signs were routinely stolen.  MoDOT appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, but was rejected.

The sign for the St. Louis 9/11 Questions Group will go up in January, according to Blair.

The website for the 9/11 truther group sells T-shirts that say, "The 9/11 debacle was an inside job" and other shirts that compare George W. Bush to Hitler's deputy, Hermann Goring.

"We are in the U.S. and everyone has the right to their viewpoint," Blair said.

The St. Louis group's organizer, Donald Stahl, could not be reached for comment.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Texas Teacher on Leave After Kids Draw 9/11 Pictures

ABC News(EL PASO, Texas) -- An elementary school teacher in El Paso, Texas, is being investigated for an assignment in which he had fourth graders draw depictions of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, according to school district officials.

For an assignment on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks Tuesday.

Children reportedly drew pictures of people jumping off of buildings with the words “Help” and “I love you” for an assignment on the anniversary of the terrorists attacks Tuesday.

The teacher of the class has been placed on leave while the incident is investigated, according to a spokeswoman for the school.

“(The El Paso Independent School District) is very concerned about the images that were drawn in response to a lesson on the events of September 11,” the school district said in a statement to ABC News Friday.

“District and campus administrators immediately launched an investigation into the specific assignment that led to the drawings, however, the investigation is not yet complete,” the statement read. "The teacher is on leave pending the results of the investigation."

Administrative action was taken in the wake of complaints by parents who said their children were frightened by Tuesday's lesson.


Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


9/11 Anniversary Marked By Subdued Ceremonies

Chris Pedota-Pool/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Americans marked the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks today, observing moments of silence and reciting the names of the dead in an all too familiar annual ceremony.

More than a year after terror mastermind Osama bin Laden was killed in a raid on his Pakistan compound, there were signs that Americans may be ready to move forward. The New York memorial was subdued this year, with only family members permitted to attend and no politicians speaking.

In New York, bagpipes wailed mournfully, roses sprouted from the names of victims etched in granite, and families wandered the site holding pictures of their lost loved ones. For many the grief washed over them again as they spoke their names, said prayers or made pencil rubbings of their loved ones' etched names.

"Clear day like this brings you right back eleven years ago," said John Darcy, a New York City firefighter who works in a Greenwich Village firehouse that lost seven men at the World Trade Center.

"The only thing you can do is just keep them in your memories," he said.

[ VIEW SLIDESHOW: 9/11 Remembered - Memorials Held Across the US ]

Throughout the city, cops in their precincts and firefighters in their stationhouses stood at attention to mark the moment that traumatized the city and the nation 11 years ago.

Similar heartbreaking scenes were played out at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pa.

While the grief was unabated, there was a noticeable difference in the scale of the memorials.

News coverage was scaled back compared to last year's historic 10th anniversary and many of the past controversies – about how to best memorialize the victims and what to rebuild on the site -- that had added to the day's tension have been resolved.

As the country remembered those killed in attacks in New York, Washington D.C., and Shanksville, long-stalled programs intended to preserve victims' memories and insure care for rescue workers were reinvigorated on the eve of the anniversary. And President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney suspended campaign advertisements for the day.

At 8:45 am EDT, Obama and first lady Michelle Obama observed a moment of silence on the White House's South Lawn, and loved ones of those killed in New York City gathered at Ground Zero to read the names of those killed there.

"So as painful as this day is -- and always will be -- it leaves us with a lesson, that no single event can ever destroy who we are, no act of terrorism can ever change what we stand for," the president said at remarks later in the morning at the Pentagon, one of three sites where airplanes commandeered by terrorists crashed on Sept. 11, 2001.

"It's true that the majority of those who died on Sept. 11 had never put on our country's uniform, and yet they inspired more than 5 million Americans, members of the 9/11 generation, to wear that uniform over the last decade. These men and women have done everything that we have asked," he said.

Under sunny New York skies, a cloudless day eerily similar to the Tuesday 11 years ago that served as a spotless backdrop to the drama unfolding above their heads, victims' family members greeted politicians who mingled at World Trade Center site.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D- NY, and Gov. Chris Christie, R- NJ, as well and New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano were all in attendance. But, for the first time, this year no politicians made public remarks at the New York memorial.

At the site where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood, family members gathered at a new memorial. The footprints of the giant buildings, once the tallest in New York, are now deep scars on the landscape, transformed into reflecting pools. Along the sides of each pool, nearly 3,000 names of victims and emergency workers killed on 9/11 are etched in the granite.

In the shade on 1 World Trade Center, the still unfinished but glistening tower built new at the site, many family members made pencil rubbings of their loved ones' etched names.

Just before today's anniversary, federal authorities concluded that the smoldering wreckage of the collapsed twin towers was responsible for the cancers of many of the volunteers who worked on the site or lived near the site in the months after the attack. Fifty cancers were added to a list of medical conditions for which emergency workers who were sent to Ground Zero and became sick can now receive compensation for treatment.

On Monday, officials announced a deal to resume construction on a 9/11 museum in lower Manhattan. The deal would put the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in control of the museum.

Vice President Biden spoke at the site in Pennsylvania where United flight 93 crashed on 9/11 when passengers confronted a group of terrorists intent on flying the plane into the White House. "We wish we weren't here. We wish we didn't have to be here. We wish we didn't have to commemorate any of this," Biden said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


No 'Credible or Specific' Terror Threat on 9/11 Anniversary

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Intelligence sources tell ABC News that there is no "credible or specific" information that al Qaeda or any other terrorist organizations are plotting attacks timed to coincide with the 11th anniversary of 9/11.

Heightened vigilance in the nation's big cities and a strong, visible police presence at Ground Zero in New York will signify law enforcement's readiness to respond to any anniversary terror attack.

Federal and local counterterrorism officials tell ABC News that a heightened awareness of terror threats is now the "new normal."

"There is no credible or specific intelligence to indicate terrorist organizations are plotting attacks to coincide with the 11th anniversary of 9/11," Department of Homeland Security spokesman Matt Chandler told ABC News.  "However, we know from the intelligence gathered from the Osama bin Laden raid that al Qaeda has shown an interest in specific dates and anniversaries, such as 9/11."

Just before last year's anniversary, intelligence sources were hearing incessant "chatter" on radical Islamist websites and communications channels that some kind of attack was coming to mark the 10th anniversary.  Fortunately, nothing materialized, but officials said they were not letting down their guard.

"We continue to encourage our federal, state and local partners, as well as the American public, to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to local authorities," Chandler said.  "Our security posture, which always includes measures that are seen and unseen, will continue protect the American people."

Meanwhile, federal authorities have been communicating with their local and state counterparts through joint terrorism task forces reminding them to track any lead and check any tips.

A bulletin obtained by ABC News has already gone out, urging vigilance on the anniversary, noting that there has been little discussion heard or found online by authorities of how al Qaeda would mark the anniversary.

Nor was there any "overt" discussion of al Qaeda's failure to mark the 10th anniversary in the 12 months since.

A New York City official said that the New York Police Department would have a strong, visible presence at Ground Zero, where it now routinely deploys several hundred officers at a World Trade Center command center.

While 9/11 will never become just another day in America, keeping a close eye on any possible terror threat has become business as usual for law enforcement.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US Commemorates 9/11 Attacks on 11th Anniversary

ALEX FUCHS/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Unlike last year, Tuesday’s commemoration of the 9/11 terrorist attacks will be far more subdued.

It was on Sept. 11, 2001 that al Qaeda hijackers flew planes into the World Trade Center towers in lower Manhattan as well as the Pentagon building in Washington, D.C.  A fourth plane crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pa., after passengers and crew rushed the cockpit.

Nearly 3,000 people were killed that day, including all 19 hijackers, in the deadliest terrorist strike on U.S. soil that led to two overseas wars while Americans no longer took their national security for granted.

During Tuesday’s ceremonies to commemorate the 11th anniversary of the attacks, no politicians will be allowed to speak at the spot in lower Manhattan that has come to be known as ground zero.  As always, the names of the dead will be read by their family members and loved ones.

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will observe a moment of silence at the White House while other administration officials plan to visit the Pentagon and the memorial to the victims in Shanksville.

Also, neither Obama nor GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney plan to run campaign ads Tuesday in deference to the memory of 9/11 victims.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Leon Panetta Pays Tribute to Passengers and Crew of Flight 93

Department of Defense/Glenn Fawcett(SHANKSVILLE, Pa.) -- While Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to deliver a speech Tuesday at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., Secretary of State Leon Panetta offered his own tribute Monday at the crash site where 40 passengers and crew members fought valiantly against al Qaeda hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001.

It is believed that the hijackers had planned to crash the plane into either the White House or the Capitol but were thwarted when those aboard Flight 93 refused to allow the terrorists to carry out their mission.

Panetta, who was making his first visit to the memorial in Shanksville, said the crash site was "hallowed ground because this is the final resting place of American patriots."

The defense chief suggested that the 40 on board Flight 93 were among the first casualties of a new war, adding, "We honor those and all of those who have fought and died for this country who made the ultimate sacrifice to defend the United States of America."

Although al Qaeda appears to be less potent than it was 11 years ago, especially following the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, Panetta warned that the group remains a threat and that the U.S. will remain vigilant in stopping the movement whether it's here or overseas.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


9/11 Memorial Offers Quiet Amid New York Chaos, Designer Says

DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Michael Arad, the architect behind the 9/11 memorial that opened a year ago this week, wanted to create a space for quiet reflection on those who died in the attacks in the midst of the chaos of New York City.

Arad’s design, called Reflecting Absence, beat out 5,000 submitted proposals to become the memorial tribute at the site of the attacks that killed nearly 2,700 people.  The site has now been visited by 4.5 million people.

“I wanted to capture that and create a place that allowed  people to come together to reflect on what happened here, not alone but as a community in a public space where people gather and congregate,” Arad told ABC News.

Arad, a native of Israel who was raised in the United Kingdom, the United States and Mexico, had only lived in New York for 2.5 years when the north and south towers of the World Trade Center complex were attacked.

“It changed who I am,” he said.  “I became a New Yorker because of what happened here.”

Reflecting Absence, which was chosen as the winning design in January 2004, consists of a plaza containing waterfalls above reflecting pools where the original north and south towers stood.  The names of all those killed on Sept. 11, 2001, and in the earlier World Trade Center attack on Feb. 26, 1993, are inscribed on bronze parapets surrounding the waterfalls.

In arranging the names, Arad and his team queried close to 3,000 families, and received more than 1,200 requests asking that certain names of people that knew each other be placed next to or near one another.

“[The names] are arranged according to what I call a system of meaningful adjacency.  When you walk up to these panels, you don’t see the order but, in fact, they are very carefully organized,” he said.

The “survivor tree” -- a callery pear saved from the rubble of the fallen World Trade Center towers -- is also featured prominently in the memorial.  After it was salvaged from Ground Zero, the tree was sent to a Bronx nursery, where it was not expected to survive.  But it survived an uprooting and now stands 30 feet tall.  It has come to symbolize hope and rebirth.

“There was just something incredibly beautiful about that story of its survival,” Arad said.

Arad’s ultimate goal with the memorial’s centerpiece of waterfalls, which flow into the voids left by the original towers, was to create a place where visitors can experience the magnitude of the voids.

“I wanted to know: Could I bring that idea of emptiness, this continuous presence, and making absence present and visible, and tangible to the site?” he said.  “And that’s really what these spaces are about -- making what is no longer here, here for all of us as we stand around the voids.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Govt. Admits Ground Zero Cancer Risk

Anthony Correia/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The World Trade Center Health Program will now provide treatment and compensation for 9/11 victims who were diagnosed with cancer after they inhaled toxic dust, program administrator Dr. John Howard announced this afternoon.

Initially, the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act -- the fund established in 2010 and named for police detective James Zadroga, who died at age 34 after working at Ground Zero -- included only a short list of illnesses that qualified for compensation. Cancer was excluded because of a lack of scientific evidence linking any form of the disease to conditions in the debris pile, even though many of the 50,000 9/11 first responders believe they got cancer -- among other illnesses -- because of their exposure to dust and other substances at Ground Zero.

"We received a petition to consider adding cancer from the New York Congressional Delegation," Howard said in a statement, adding that the WTC Health Program's Scientific/Technical Advisory Committee recommended adding dozens of cancers to the coverage list in June.

The expansion will go into effect 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register.

The government says 2,976 people were killed when terrorists hijacked passenger jets and flew them into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., on Sept. 11, 2001. Passengers aboard another flight that is believed to have been destined for another Washington, D.C., target -- possibly the U.S. Capitol building or the White House -- took over the aircraft. It crashed into an open field in Shanksville, Pa.

The fire and collapse of the World Trade Center's twin towers contaminated the nearby air with particles of glass, asbestos, cement, lead, gypsum, calcium carbonate, other metal particles and other toxins.

It is believed that exposure to this dust through the lungs and skin has contributed to the asthma, gastrointestinal problems, and possibly the increased cancer risk experienced by rescue workers, especially those who were on the site immediately after the attack, when the cloud of debris dust was its thickest.

Asbestos causes lung and other types of cancer, while lead and other heavy metals can be toxic to the brain.

The Zadroga Act provides first responders with screening and treatment for health problems associated with working at Ground Zero. It also created a $4.3 billion fund to compensate affected first responders for any wage or other financial losses they incurred as a result of working at Ground Zero.

About 40,000 Sept. 11 responders and survivors receive monitoring and 20,000 get treatment for their illnesses as part of the Zadroga Act's health program.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Officials Reach Agreement to Complete 9/11 Museum

David Handschuh-Pool/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- On the eve of the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the Port Authority and The National September 11 Memorial Museum have reached an agreement to continue construction on the museum after months of delays.

The deal between the Port Authority and the museum ensures construction will be restarted soon and will continue until the museum is completed.  

"Today's agreement puts in place a critical and long overdue safeguard to finally protect toll payers and taxpayers from bearing further costs, and, at the same time, put the project on a path for completion," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg tweeted his favor for the announcement: "@NYCMayorsOffice: Very gratifying that on the eve of this important anniversary we have an agreement that will ensure the completion of the 9/11 Museum."

Construction has been halted since last December, when a dispute over which agencies would finance the museum's construction broke out between the museum and the Port Authority, which owns the land. The Port Authority of New York/New Jersey is under the shared jurisdiction of Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Mayor Bloomberg oversees the Sept. 11 foundation behind the memorial and museum, according to the New York Times.

The Times reports that, under the terms of the agreement, the Sept. 11 foundation will provide the Port Authority with financial data related to the project and will supply $12 million for the museum construction.  Another $1 million per year for 30 years will be provided from surplus funds beginning in 2018, the newspaper reports. A formal transfer of land ownership from the Port Authority to the Sept. 11 foundation will also take place.

There's no word yet on a completion date, but construction is expected to continue beyond the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, according to the New York Daily News.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio