Kathleen Parker

Flipping through channels on Sept. 11 was like rummaging through a box of old photographs. You see things you hadn't noticed before and ordinary images seem suddenly extraordinary.

Of all the recaps, memorials and tributes, the one I found most riveting was the real-time replay of NBC's ``Today'' show from five years ago.

We often wish we could return to the past with the knowledge and wisdom we've gained in the interim. Monday we got that chance. Minute-by-minute, we were able to re-experience 9/11, this time knowing what we know.

It was chilling not only because of the obvious horror, but because of our utter inability to fathom what was happening. That lost innocence we keep hearing about was manifest as reporters delivered scraps of news and Katie Couric and Matt Lauer narrated.

Snapshot: After the first plane has hit the North Tower at 8:46 a.m., they wonder whether there might be air traffic problems. At 9:03 a.m., the second plane hits the South Tower and the word ``deliberate'' finds its way into the conversation.

Couric asks, ``What are the odds of two planes hitting ... ?'' Still unknowing at 9:59, Tom Brokaw notes the extensive damage to the World Trade Center and innocently remarks, ``Those buildings will probably have to be brought down.''

What was impossible to imagine then is starkly clear now. What is also clear is that no one should have been surprised by 9/11, least of all our leaders. Our enemies had declared themselves and demonstrated their intentions -- repeatedly -- yet we seemed locked in blind denial.

We didn't need a five-hour docudrama to remind us of the horror of 9/11, but ABC's ``The Path to 9/11'' provided a useful chronology of events, beginning with the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and continuing with other attacks on American interests.

When terrorists blow up a car here or an embassy there over a period of years, these events can seem random and disconnected. This is probably owing to our American sense of insta-time. While we're on motordrive, our enemies are content with a much slower shutter speed. Century time.

Viewed through their lens, those scattered events don't seem random at all, but are pieces of a choreographed plan for the West's demise.

Notwithstanding justifiable complaints from Clinton administration officials that the ABC production misrepresented people and events, the drama served well as a capsulated rendering of American indecision and inaction in the face of a known foe.

We did know Osama bin Laden's purposes; we did fail to stop him. That much is undeniable and irrevocable.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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