SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
REFLECTIONS OF BEING STRANDED OUT OF THE USA
It was a beautiful September morning in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, as it was in New York. I had enjoyed my favorite Mexican breakfast, machaca nortena (eggs & dried beef, jalapenos, more) and papaya. I bade adios to the smiling breakfast cook and waiter, both of whom always made me feel it was very important to serve me. I checked out of the hotel, chatted with the friendly manager, who asked me if I'd return in one week as usual. No, maybe two to three weeks. After going home, I had to go to Scotland to negotiate a contract with SGL Carbon to convert Mann Industries-Grupo Cydsa carbon fiber precursor into carbon fiber for aircraft brakes. Our recent work had been very successful, the outlook positive. The day was good! Until I entered the waiting car and my driver/engineer said a “small plane had hit a New York Trade Center tower”. Soon, as we drove the 25 minutes to our office and factory, another plane hit the building. I said to Victor, “this is no accident, it's an attack. Please hurry!”
In the office we soon watched the towers fall. It's difficult to describe my feelings. I was stunned, angry and numb. My friendly associates were incredulous. There were expressions of sorrow, many typical Mexican embraces and one not too surprising negative voice from the company Director General, who often had different opinions. He said, “This is inside Gringo job, no one outside could do it.” “This is what happens when you are biggest and most powerful.” Obviously, these two comments didn't comport. I said very forcefully, “I am in no frame of mind to accept such nonsense. You will not say it again, please!” He didn't. Later, in private, he apologized and assured me I was among friends and they would do all possible to help. He did. They did! And, so did others. I spent the rest of the day in the offices trying to get a flight and was assured no planes would fly, even for days.
Carol called immediately to assure me she was safe. But, my concern was what the follow-up would be. Carol and our niece and nephew were in Williamsburg, Virginia, surrounded by military facilities and even a CIA center. Daughter Susan and family, as well as Carol's sister, were in Northern Virginia, her mother in Maryland, within minutes of the center of government. Daughter Leigh was in Greensboro, NC near one of the largest fuel storage depots in the East. My mother was seemingly safe in West Virginia, but only minutes from The Greenbrier Resort, which had been the “secret hiding place” for government officials in time of emergency since the 60s. Was it still? Soon, I had a different challenge -- convincing Carol I could not get 1000 miles to the border and she and “the kids” must not even consider driving 1000 miles south. An assistant, Maricruz, helped me with an excuse when I asked her about a bus to the border. She vetoed it forcefully saying it was very dangerous. “You could die.” “We will not 'approve' it,” she said in excited-Latina Espanol. That worked as I pondered other alternatives.
In the third day, friends in Monterrey learned, they thought, that Continental would start flights from McAllen, Texas. There were reported problems crossing the border, but they would hire a person who knew how to get across without problems. They engaged the driver, I booked the flight out of McAllen only to be told within hours that no planes would fly. When I rescheduled McAllen, Continental canceled my priority. I was now in worse position, but for the best of intentions.
There is a story, or more than one, here. Please indulge me. Thanks.
The airport hotel filled quickly with people coming from many areas trying to get to the USA. I met many interesting people. A most interesting person was a lovely Latina, an American citizen, with her physician husband from Tampa, FL. She came from Veracruz and had been visiting her family there. We became friendly, exchanged credentials and agreed to try to stay in touch. At one point she became a bit emotional, as a Latina can be, often charmingly so. But, she was serious and so intense. She took my jacket lapels in her hands and with her face no more than inches from mine, she said, “Dr. Mann, you must believe me when I tell you something.” Of course I would. She said,“Americans do not know the 'bad things' happening.” She told me that Middle Easterners were paying large amounts of money to groups in Mexico to "make them look like Mexicans,” teach them Spanish, help them get Visas and to get across the border into the United States. I asked if she knew any of the groups. She tensed noticeably. I asked if her family was involved. Her expression said they were and her husbands slight nod confirmed it. She implored me to “tell our government.” I asked if she would do the same knowing, she wouldn't and couldn't. She said her family would be in danger. For sure! I understood and promised I would not reveal her identity but would tell our government. When I finally got home, I engaged a friend with DOD credentials and credibility I didn't have. We issued a report to agency heads whom he knew. We were told that we might never hear how they dealt with it. We didn't.
I also learned that Hezbollah had a presence in the “Tri-Border region of S. America, known as the “Triple Frontier.” They were building a “base” of some kind. Not much was known. However, a few credible people confirmed that it was discussed among certain people, but not widely reported. Not until 2007 was either of these issues reported by Pablo Gato of Telemundo and Richard Windrem of NBC News. The stated intent of Hezbollah was to “get to the USA if anything happened to Iran.” Today, there are over 12,000 Google references. In 2008, I published an article along with a proposal to deal with immigration and terrorism, “IMMIGRATION BEYOND WALLS.” I gave well-received speeches as well.
Again, in 2011, I updated the “Immigration” article and included the reference to Hezbollah. It was well-received except for one ignorant person who accused me of stretching the truth. Hezbollah couldn't possible be where I said and where reported He'd been cavorting in Argentina and didn't see anything. He didn't look at the 12,000 references. Why do I write this?
I'm writing simply to indicate how foolish people can be, especially on immigration and terrorism issues But, they influence others. And, I'm reminded of the colleague who thought the towers came down under “gringo actions.” But he relented. Now I think of one of arguably the most undesirable, and in my opinion, one of the the dumbest, women in America, Rosie O'Donnell. She chooses to be ignorant and also claims the towers succumbed to an inside conspiracy. Her justification? “Never has fire melted steel!” Obviously, she is abjectly ignorant but that doesn't silence her voice. The sad fact is, foolish people like this one do influence others....and they get paid well by media to be what they are. There are many more. Can you say Bill Maher of HBO and Alan Colmes of FOX News? But, I'm digressing to make a point.
Oh yes, I also met a couple from Berkeley, CA. Both were professors, he of philosophy. He educated me in Jungian philosophy and the interest continues. He has also sent me a book. Little things can mean a lot. Something positive!
NOW ANOTHER STORY WITH A BIT OF AMUSEMENT– GETTING OUT OF GRADALAJARA:
At the airport hotel I met an American Airlines flight crew. I had dinner twice with the captain and a couple of flight attendants. I told them of my plight with Continental Airlines. The captain said they'd find a seat for me and instructed me to go to an American agent, who'd have my name, and tell the agent he had sent me. I'd “have to fly coach,” though. Big deal! If I were on Continental, I'd be in seat 11-A on an ERJ 145, the best seat in the "tin can" for leg room. I bought a ticket for a flight scheduled the next day, the 6th day of being stranded. I had breakfast with the captain and two attendants the morning of the flight and introduced them to my favorite breakfast. The restaurant was full of people, mostly ready to travel. It came time to fly.
As I entered the plane, one attendant was standing in front of the galley and the captain and co-pilot were standing in the doorway to the cockpit. The three of us spoke briefly as passengers filed into the cabin. I settled into my AISLE seat. The 2nd flight attendant came by, welcomed me and told me “we are happy to have you aboard.” They were very nice people! Soon after we were airborne, the man behind me began to talk rather loudly revealing that his IQ probably wasn't in triple digits. He was talking to the person in the middle and another across the aisle. They seemed tolerant, but didn't respond. He may have been Rosie's mentor since he spouted the nonsense that the towers came down by “explosives planted in the building by insiders.” I was in no frame of mind to listen very long. I stood up, faced him, and simply looked at him for a while. He said nothing to me and stopped talking. But, only for a few minutes. He started again by trying to explain why there had to be explosives and that burning fuel could not have “melted steel and concrete.” I suppose I was more arrogant than the others around him, but I was in no mood to hear him any longer.
I stood up, leaned over the back of my seat and said, “Sir, I've had enough of your loud nonsensical bantering. I suspect no one wants to be subjected to more of it. Folks are rather somber and relieved to be heading home. Now, be quiet!” A few in earshot applauded lightly. He shut up. I sat down to read. A flight attendant came by, ostensibly to bring me something. She knelt over and with a chuckle, said, “some passengers think you're a marshal. You're the only one on the plane wearing a coat and tie. You look official. Thank you.” I said let him think so. Maybe I'll be one for this flight. The man remained quiet for the entire flight. As we deplaned and walked up the concourse, a gentleman got my attention and said, “They told me you're posing as me.” You did a good job. I looked at him and said, “but you aren't wearing a coat and tie.” You're not official. OK, it's not an inspirational story, but it is an amusing memory from a time that was far from amusing in other ways. The attack was such an assault on all of America and a huge price was paid by so many good people. Yet, so many do not recognize the full impact of it, even today. I suppose we could start with Michael Bloomberg. It is not too difficult to make the case that America is being destroyed from within, once insidiously and now blatantly. Can the decline be halted?