Philadelphia Daily News
STILL NO STRAIGHT ANSWERS ON FLIGHT 587
By LLOYD WILLIAMS
"Osama bin Laden, you can kiss my royal Irish a--! My name is Michael Moran, and I live in Rockaway Beach. This is my face, Osama. Come and get me. . ."
NEVER TRY to cash a check your butt can't cover.
Back on Oct. 20, Michael Moran, a feisty firefighter with the NYFD, stole the show at the Concert for New York by issuing that challenge to Osama bin Laden. Moran effectively upstaged the meteor shower of luminaries participating in the patriotic event that featured Paul McCartney, Elton John, Mick Jagger, Billy Joel and dozens of other celebs.
Understandably fueled by a righteous anger at the immense loss of life in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks, the emotional Moran's taunt triggered chants of "U.S.A. . . . U.S.A. . . . U.S.A." throughout Madison Square Garden as a stupefied Michael J. Fox was left speechless. But did the miffed firefighter squander his 15 minutes of fame on a bit of macho posturing that might have come back to bite him?
Three weeks later, whether by design or by an act of God, a perverse irony was played out when American Airlines Flight 587, an Airbus A300 jetliner, plummeted right into Moran's close-knit community, one already hard hit on Sept. 11.
As the plumes of acrid, black smoke billowed out across their isolated sandbar oasis off Queens, you couldn't help but wonder whether the crash was the result of another pinpoint terrorist attack.
After all, what were the odds of an Airbus exploding on impact in Rockaway by virtue of sheer coincidence?
Even all these weeks later, we are still seemingly getting no honest answers.
At first, self-important talking heads alternately opined that everything from wind shear to a flock of seagulls to wake turbulence caused the cascading inferno. Anything but sabotage.
Wake turbulence, a new one on me, temporarily became the media darling, even though no one knows for sure if any such horizontal tornado vortex had ever brought down any commercial aircraft before. Now the talk is about the disintegration of the tail - even as reports have surfaced from some eyewitnesses who say they saw the tail intact - until a couple of explosions wracked the jet.
The truth is that the experts are, once again, stonewalling. And their reticence has many rethinking the official explanations for other recent New York air disasters.
Was the crash of TWA's Flight 800 off Long Island, N.Y., on the evening of July 17, 1996, really caused by a spark in the plane's fuel tank?
Why did the FBI investigation so readily dismiss the accounts of 96 eyewitnesses who described a flare-like object seen streaking from the surface of the Atlantic up towards the 747?
And how about the party line on Egypt Air Flight 990, which disappeared spookily into the Atlantic at night on Halloween 1999, less than an hour after leaving Kennedy Airport?
The FBI trial balloon, since enshrined in the investigative report, blamed it all on a supposedly suicidal pilot. Nitwit newscasters foisted that whopper on a gullible public, although the tragedy could have been the work of terrorists.
But a post Sept. 11 America knows better, and until some credible answers are forthcoming, the populace, if not its planes, remained grounded in a suspicion not likely to be satiated by anything less than honest inquiry.
We're better off believing the crash of Flight 587 to be an unspeakable evil coming courtesy of an evil adversary than the vented wrath of an angry Almighty who might have taken sides.
Accident, shmaccident - God doesn't play with dice. *
Lloyd Williams is a lawyer and writer who lives in Princeton, N.J.
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