Features

The Year in Review-September

The Nation | Top news stories for September, 2002

Issue: "Year in Review 2002," Dec. 28, 2002

1st anniversary

When the grim anniversary arrived at last, Americans remembered 9/11 in whispers rather than roars. For the entire day, all the broadcast networks canceled their entertainment programming, showing instead the somber ceremonies from Ground Zero. For hours on end, rotating pairs of relatives, officials, and celebrities read the names of each of the nearly 3,000 victims in the twin towers, while photos of the fallen flashed briefly at the bottom of TV screens.

Airports turned into ghost towns as timid flyers canceled travel plans. And not for nothing: The Office of Homeland Security issued its first-ever Code Orange alert, saying it had credible evidence that terrorists planned to mark the anniversary with fresh attacks on American targets.

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In a day of shuttling among the three crash sites, President Bush sought to both honor the victims and focus the nation on the task ahead. "The murder of innocents cannot be explained, only endured," he said. "And though they died in tragedy, they did not die in vain. Their loss has moved a nation to action in a cause to defend other innocent lives across the world."

Remembrance, then vigilance

Just days after the anniversary ceremonies, attention shifted to the upstate town of Lackawanna, N.Y., where six young Americans of Yemeni descent were arrested and charged with supporting terrorism. According to the FBI, each of the men had flown to Pakistan and Afghanistan where they attended al-Qaeda military camps, received weapons training, and listened to speeches by Osama bin Laden himself. Relatives insisted the men were simply devout Muslims in the wrong place at the wrong time; prosecutors insisted that the six took money from al-Qaeda. In October, one of the defendants was freed on a $600,000 bond. The others are being held without bail, awaiting trial.

Politics of 9/11

With just two months to go until the crucial mid-term elections, President Bush turned up the rhetorical heat on Democrats. While a Homeland Security bill languished in the Senate, Mr. Bush charged that his opponents were interested only in winning union votes and "not interested in the security of the American people." Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle responded with predictable outrage, but it was a theme the president would continue to hammer home during weeks of frantic campaigning.

Meanwhile, the Democrats lost a marquee candidate when former Attorney General Janet Reno was squeezed out in her primary bid to become governor of Florida. Despite universal name recognition and mountains of cash, Ms. Reno lost by less than 1 percentage point to Bill McBride, a little-known Tampa businessman. Voting machines in South Florida malfunctioned again, but Democrats this time decided that an exhaustive re-count would hurt their chances in November. Despite talk of a legal challenge, Ms. Reno conceded defeat a week after the election.

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