2001-11-24 / Columnists

Boyle-ing Points

By Kevin Boyle

Isn’t it time we debunk the myth about terrorists taking credit for acts of violence? Anybody take credit for the anthrax letters? Osama bin Laden went so far as to deny any involvement with the September 11 attack. There was nothing but silence after the suicide bombing of the U.S.S. Cole. Even homegrown Timothy McVeigh pleaded not guilty to the Oklahoma City bombing.

It’s become clear that no one comes out and takes responsibility----they’d rather take their chances on the run or, if caught, at trial.

Why do we expect cowards to be stand-up guys? Within an hour of the crash of Flight 587, the NTSB was saying it looked like mechanical failure (i.e. not terrorism). This hasty assumption seemed bolstered by the fact that no terrorists had claimed responsibility. What a quaint thought.

Let’s consider the one seemingly indisputable fact: the tail of a jet broke off. Another agreed upon fact: a tail had never just broken off this type of aircraft. Ever. That bears repeating. This was an unprecedented failure of the jet’s tail section.

So, why the rush to rule out sabotage? Just because no one telephoned the media or Tom Ridge ahead of time?

Jets fly at 30,000 feet, sometimes in horrendous weather and they have "close calls" with other flying aircraft more often than we like to think about but tail sections remain intact.

Yet, in the case of Flight 587, the tail breaks away and within hours the NTSB says there are no indications suggesting sabotage. We first heard reports that birds might have flown into the engine. Well, obviously that one wouldn’t fly, so to speak. Next we heard about a possible defect in the engine’s core. We heard that when investigators and "experts" (invariably former NTSB employees) were working under the assumption that one of the engines had broken away and knocked off the tail. But they had to scratch that idea, too. The tail fell off first.

Better to stick with something invisible like "wake turbulence."

It’s enough to make us all conspiracy buffs. It’s not all that plausible that someone on the ground shot a missile at the plane and it’s not all that plausible that someone loosened enough screws and bolts to make the tail fly off but…. Few things were clear other than the NTSB’s desire to place one theory or another ahead of sabotage.

Were half-baked conclusions issued because the country’s already-frail economy couldn’t take another terrorist attack? On one hand, that seemed to work. Flights resumed and the stock market was up for the week. On the other hand, what are we to believe about the ultimate findings? Was it a freak accident or was the investigation conducted to "prove" it was?

More Boyle-ing Points:

While homemade video is invariably the most compelling stuff you’ll see, you gotta wonder about people who take camcorders to accidents and tragedies. One local couple who rushed to the scene to shoot video was interviewed by a television crew.

The woman said she and her husband got in their car and drove as close to the site as possible. The husband goes on to say that woman and children were still running out of their burning houses when they arrived. In other words, they got over there not to help but to get good pictures. It’s one thing if it’s your job---quite another if it’s a ghoulish hobby or an attempt to make a buck.

You probably saw the video shot by the doctor as one of the towers collapses at the World Trade Center. It’s a riveting, horrifying piece. As blackness surrounds him he’s heard whimpering. "I shouldn’t have come. I came to help people and now…" Ok, doc. The video’s great stuff but if you were going to help people what exactly were you doing with the camera?

Fortunately, Rockaway’s full of people more interested in helping than in getting 15 minutes of fame. Many firefighters remarked how helpful the neighbors were---a place that makes Rockapulco like no other.

*** I suppose there’s no connection but we never had a plane crash here until….until they put the Doppler Radar up in Floyd Bennett.

***With precious few days left in his ignominious career as a public official I’ve got to beat this dead horse while I can. Where was our councilman Al Stabile in the aftermath of last week’s tragedy? He’s still on the payroll as a councilman---doesn’t he have some responsibility to do something for those bucks?

***I’ll say this, I thought I knew a lot of people in Belle Harbor---can’t say I knew many who appeared on TV to do interviews. One eyewitness said he saw everything from Beach 116 Street---he sure had Hardball’s Chris Matthews convinced. I coulda sworn the guy was on the phone from Roger’s or P.J. Curran’s.

***No I am not writing a regular column again.

***The world’s a screwed up place. But I’ve seen a lot of silver linings. Happy Thanksgiving.

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