What I Remember
That unforgettable morning.


September 11 affected me more deeply than anything I have ever experienced, because I had been present at its conception. “In today’s world, when nuclear arms have made military force obsolete, terrorism should become our main weapon,” KGB chairman Yuri Andropov told me in 1972. Western Sovietologists generally limit themselves to recalling his brutal suppression of dissidence, his role in planning the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia, and his pressure on the Polish regime to impose martial law. But the leaders of the KGB community, when I was one of them, looked upon Andropov as the father of a new era of international terrorism that profoundly changed our lives.

Hijacked passenger planes became a KGB terrorist tool in 1969, two years after Andropov rose to head the KGB. Before I broke with Communism in 1978, he took credit for 16 major hijackings of Western passenger planes. They were all organized by his Department for Wet Affairs (“wet” being a euphemism for bloody) and carried out by Islamic terrorists trained by the KGB. No wonder Andropov became the first KGB officer to be enthroned in the Kremlin.

September 11 was the Pearl Harbor of our generation, and it had the same end result: It made the U.S. stronger. Today it is not politically correct to express gratitude to President Bush and Vice President Cheney, but we should. They kept our country free of terrorism after 9/11. While mourning our dead, let us also pay our respects to them and to our military and intelligence forces who defended us. Let us also hope that no intelligence officer will ever be prosecuted again in the U.S. for defending our country.
— Lt. Gen Ion Mihai Pacepa (Ret.) is the highest-ranking intelligence official who has defected from the Soviet bloc. His book, Red Horizons (Regnery, 1987), was republished in 27 countries.

We lived in San Diego at the time, and that morning my husband had brought me my morning tea, as he did every day at 5:30 a.m. Then he slipped out of the front door to take our dog on his morning constitutional. I wrapped myself up in a sweatshirt and shuffled into the living room to turn on the TV. I squinted as I was still waking up, and I thought — hmmm, it looks like the World Trade Center is on fire. And right then I saw the second plane hit the second tower. It felt like being in the beginning of a Hollywood film, seeing things that could never really happen. Right?

Like everyone else, we have stories of going to work, being sent back home, watching the empty skies, and getting used to the quiet that was so different from watching the planes come into the airport near our house. We felt like we wanted to do something, but like most Americans we could only talk and pray and watch as the events unfolded. We communicated by e-mail to friends from all over the world. One message sticks in my memory — it was from a friend in England who said, “I feel like someone just kicked my cousin.” I thought she captured that perfectly.

Two months later I was back in Washington, D.C., working as a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice. Over the next several years, I had a chance to meet many brave souls who had rushed into buildings to help, who watched people jump to their deaths rather than be burned alive, and who had decided to join the military or the intelligence community to help take the fight to the enemy. I’m humbled by them every day.

— Dana Perino served as White House press secretary for Pres. George W. Bush.


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