What were they thinking? 9/11 scare on the Potomac

September 11, 2009

It boggles the mind.

Why would the Coast Guard decide to conduct a training exercise on the Potomac River, a stone’s throw away from the Pentagon, where the president of the United States and others attended a memorial event, on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks??? SEPT11/

The media, always on hyper-alert for anything terrorism related on the anniversary of Sept. 11, ran with reports of shots fired on the Potomac.

That unleashed never-far-from-the-surface fears of terrorism amid memories of that day 8 years ago when a hijacked plane crashed into the Pentagon, two planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York and another into a field in Pennsylvania — shattering the country’s sense of security.

It turns out the Coast Guard was conducting a training exercise. “Somebody said ‘bang bang’ on the radio” and no shots were fired, Coast Guard Vice Admiral John Currier said, calling it a regular training exercise.

But still, what were they thinking?

The Coast Guard’s first line of defense over the incident was: “The best way that we in the Coast Guard can remember Sept. 11 and our security obligations to the nation is to be always ready and this requires constant training and exercise.”

Did they learn nothing from the photo op Air Force flyover on Manhattan that scared a city permanently scarred from the Sept. 11 attacks all over again?

Military Families United put out a statement calling the exercise “the height of irresponsibility” and calling for the organizer to be held accountable for commissioning the exercise “at the same time and less than a mile away from where the families of the 9/11 victims gathered to mourn.”

The statement goes on to say: “Their actions brought back all of the feelings for victims of 9/11 that they originally experienced 8 years ago today.”

Did someone not look at the calendar?

Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Obama lays wreath at Pentagon on Sept. 11 anniversary)


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What will it take for government agencies to co-ordinate their efforts? there is a related post at iamsoannoyed.com/?page_id=588

Posted by carly | Report as abusive

Hey, this was a routine training exercise, done EVERY day. and NOT that close to the prez. Have you forgotten the flyover of lower Manhatten a few months back which was ordered by a czar? This was a NON story until made into something by CNN. To quote the late Frank McGee–“Let’s get it right!!!”

Posted by Leanne Loval | Report as abusive

The coast guard does these trainings 4 times a week, you actually want them to contact everyone 4 times a week to say they are doing another regular training. Perhaps the better idea is for the STUPID media to actually CHECK OUT a story BEFORE they start broadcasting it on the news.

Posted by M | Report as abusive

M has it right. The media are worried about today’s newsday being “too quiet.” Would this kind of story become news on the anniversaries of the Murrah building bombing, or Pearl Harbor? They are using the 9/11 victims for commercial purposes.

Posted by Barbara Weher | Report as abusive

[…] What were they thinking? 9/11 scare on the Potomac […]

Posted by U.S. Coast Guard drill triggers scare in Washington on 9/11 anniversary | Cogent Nirvana | Report as abusive

They were thinking that idiots at CNN and now you would have more brains that you actually do.

Posted by kmichaels | Report as abusive

“But still, what were they thinking?”
-well they were probably thinking that their job is to be ready to protect people’s lives-
“Military Families United put out a statement calling the exercise “the height of irresponsibility” and calling for the organizer to be held accountable for commisioning the exercise “at the same time and less than a mile away from where the families of the 9/11 victims gathered to mourn.”
-seriously?, how about criticizing a legitimate routine training exercise as ‘irresponsible’ an irresponsible act in itself. and ‘the organizer’?? this is no beer tent, they surely are referring to the person who is responsible for KEEPING PEOPLE SAFE from exactly the event that was simultaneously being memorialized-
so i say thank you coast guard for diligently doing your job and not allowing some sycophantic media outlets to distract you with sentimentality and sensationalism, as they seem to have done to the author of this blog.

Posted by paul | Report as abusive

As a retired Coastguardsman I am constantly amazed at the attitude of the public when one discusses a training exercise. “oh you guys only train, don’t you do any fighting…” Ask anyone connected with the military and most of them will agree that training for any contingencies is one of the most important activities that the military does. It may not be glamorous, but it has to be done and repeated at regular intervals in order to be effective. Shame on CNN for not double checking news sources before racing to be first to break the story! You won’t get a retraction or apology from them for bad journalism, but some would expect the Coast Guard to apologize for routine training. I’m sure there will be some procedural changes in training from now on with the Coast Guard, but will there be some procedural changes forthcoming from the electronic media? Only one thing bothers me about the aftermath…when will the Secret Service and the Coast Guard start talking with each other; after all, they are both agencies of the Department of Homeland Security.

Posted by MKC retired | Report as abusive

The Coast Guard should be applauded for doing their jobs in a competent and responsible manner. I only wish CNN and other news outlets could say the same thing in this matter. Publishing a story claiming that shots were fired after hearing the word “bang” on a radio is simply ridiculous and should be roundly condemned. They are the ones that caused the alarm, not the CG.

Posted by Outraged at CNN | Report as abusive

“The coast guard does these trainings 4 times a week, you actually want them to contact everyone 4 times a week to say they are doing another regular training.”

No one expects them to contact everyone about regular training. But, I really would expect them to use a little COMMON SENSE. Today is not just a regular weekday. Maybe just a REMINDER to the proper agencies that this training would be ongoing. Would that be too much to ask?

Posted by Robert M | Report as abusive

This speaks volumes to the culture of fear that now pervades the US and the media’s 24-hour-news-cycle insatiable appetite for hyperbole.

Posted by ThatGuy | Report as abusive

I hate it when a single life is lost. I wish we could all live for nothing other than enjoying our time on the planet. Let’s have a blame session. I blame the inventor of propulsion for all the chaos in the world today.

Posted by Vkay | Report as abusive

Let’s be honest! It’s irresponsible, they need to apology

Posted by let’s be honest | Report as abusive

are you people at reuters insane? are you so steeped in republican drivel that you will stoop to the lowest level to create controversy? SHAME ON YOU reuters!

Posted by betty | Report as abusive

This was a routine training exercises, one that happens in the exact same way 3-4 times a week without incident. The media is laying blame on the coast guard because it was the media that heard “bang bang” on the radio and thought is was wise to report “shots fired”. The problem here is so many “news” agency too eager to be the first to break a story that they don’t bother to check the facts first. Had the media acted responsibly this would have gone without incident.

Posted by John | Report as abusive

The military (including the Coast Guard) train each and every day and they do not take off for holidays or days of remembrance…and thank God for that! If they did, media stupidity would be the least of our worries.

Posted by Dee | Report as abusive

They were probably thinking “not even the morons at CNN could could hear the words bang, bang bang and report that a major naval battle was raging on the potomac and the british were burning washington and…” wrong again coast guard

Posted by T. Jefferson | Report as abusive

First of all, all of the radio communications were broadcast on VHF Channel 81. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of marine band radios knows that when hailing a vessel channel 16 or channel 13 would be used. Channel 16 is the international distress and hailing frequency, any vessel that has a VHF radio on board is required to monitor this channel. Channel 13 is used for ship to ship communications in the professional maritime industry, but is not required to be monitored. Channel 81 is designated by the FCC as a coast guard to coast guard frequency. the general public is never talked to on channel 81. In addition to not being a channel that would be used these drills are always started and ended with the phrase “this is a drill, this is a drill” training like this does occur every single day all over the country. And believe it or not we still have work to do on September 11th, I’ve been at it all day.

Posted by just a guy | Report as abusive

In the 7 years George W Bush was President there was not a single scare after 9/11. Obama has been in office less than 8 months and there are two scares so far. Obama is not on top of what is going on is one reason and the second is people just no longer feel safe with Obama as President.

Posted by Jake | Report as abusive

“The media, always on hyper-alert for anything terrorism related on the anniversary of Sept. 11, ran with reports of shots fired on the Potomac”.

That is precisely the problem. The media needs to exercise restraint and responsibility in its reporting. If anyone is doing a disservice to the American public on September 11, it is the media — not the US Coast Guard.

Posted by Whiskey1027 | Report as abusive

It boggles my mind that people are so quick to judge those who are training to put their lives on the line for our country. The men and women involved in this ROUTINE, EVERYDAY exercise signed on the dotted line to protect their country–and they are doing their job by training. Yet so few are pointing to the journalist for not having the common sense to realize that in a real situation no one would be saying “bang, bang”? Come one people! IN this case it is the JOURNALIST WHO SCREWED UP!Thank you to those past and present who serve our country!

Posted by DG | Report as abusive

This is a lose-lose. The Coast Guard, on a day when the military should be on heightened alert and ready, is out playing war games. And the media, without verifying anything, shouts the equivalent of “fire!” in a crowded theater.

No one can seriously defend the Coast Guard’s decision to be less-than-ready on 9/11 and nobody can defend the media for propagating a lie, which is the antithesis of what they should stand for.

If this is what 9/11 now means for America, we better get serious or we will suffer and learn the lesson all over again.

Posted by Hello? | Report as abusive

Please explain how it is the coast guard’s fault that CNN reported on a daily training exercise?

Posted by archstanton | Report as abusive

Clearly none of you who posted lost anybody on 9/11 or lived in NYC or DC on that day becuase if you had, you would know that it is inapropriate to conduct an exercise in plain sight on that day. There are plenty of folks for whom stubling across the exercise on their way to the memorial events at the Pentagon may have triggered some serious panic or profound fear. How would they have known it was an exercise? Perhaps what you all need to do is live a day in the shoes of one of those people who were actually victimized by the attack either by having been at one of the locations or by loosing loved ones. Then, we might find that the posts would be less partisan, ignorant, and divisive and more motivated by compassion and sympathy for those who were actually effected by 9/11. Did we learn nothing 8 years ago?

Posted by Amy | Report as abusive

2 organizations were involved and only 1 did their job right. It’s the CG’s job to protect us, no matter what day/time, and they did it just fine. It’s the news organization’s (CNN) responsibility to report accurate news and they failed. They didn’t check their source, plain and simple. They said they called the CG to see if anything was going on, and the CG said nothing was…yet CNN still went forward with the story. Don’t blame the men and women who protect your nation, blame the trigger happy journalist.

Posted by Brian | Report as abusive

Given the information available, I think the people at CNN made the RIGHT call. Thank God they were there. Where were the other networks or news organizations? Really, this is stupid. The Coast Guard fumbled the ball here. Clearly.

Posted by Choppers | Report as abusive

I can not in good conscience let the comment posted by ‘Hello?’ go by without a comment of my own. Whether they are termed training exercises or “war games”, Coastguardsmen are always ready to change from a training mode to emergency mode without missing a beat. They have been doing this for over 200 years in both peace and war. They were not “less than ready”, they were on scene and training. Call it “war games” if you will, but it is serious business for the crews manning the Response Boats in the Potomac River. Because of the training they conduct, they will be ready the next time terrorism or disaster strikes. “Semper Paratus!” – Always Ready!

Posted by MKC retired | Report as abusive

To Amy, you just like CNN need to get your facts straight! There was no “exercise in plain sight”. This was a RADIO ONLY DRILL! It was started with and ended with “THIS IS A DRILL… THIS IS A DRILL” There were NO SHOTS fired. There were no boats involved. This was done on the radio on a Coast Guard reserved channel. And as someone who DID lose someone on 9/11 I applaud the USCG for going on with life and training every day regardless of the day. 9/11 is NOT a holiday. We will NOT let the terrorists bring us down and make us STOP doing what we should do to protect ourselves every single day! The USCG motto is “Semper Paratus”… Always Ready. To BE Always Ready we need to DRILL EVERY SINGLE DAY. Do you think the military stops operations on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor? NO. And there is a very big reason… The United States Military needs to be “ALWAYS READY” to protect us from threats. As is our job!

Posted by ITC USCGR | Report as abusive

True journalists will always seek to verify their information. What CNN did was equivalent to shouting fire in a crowded room. The goal was to beat everyone else which took precedence over accuracy. Of course others then picked it up without bothering to check on the facts. One of the problems with our current 24 hour news culture is the loss of concern for truth, replaced with a concern for ratings.

Posted by Josed | Report as abusive

“No one can seriously defend the Coast Guard’s decision to be less-than-ready on 9/11″ ~ Hello?

If by being underway, making way, on the Potomac River you can consider the members of the local CG Station to be “less-than-ready,” then yes, I think they can be defended. Unlike our other armed forces, the Coast Guard is truly a first-response agency, and if — God forbid — something whould have really happened on Friday, this site and countless others would have been full of praises for a service that seems to be only appreciated by the people who need their help.

It is comments such as these, from people who fail to understand the nature of the service, that support CNN’s foolishness in reporting something that “somebody heard” on a marine-band radio. For those who feel that the CG should have notified everyone in DC from the FBI to the Secretary of Homeland Security, a training exercise conducted by the local CG station would not rise to their level of concern – 9/11 or not.

CNN should have bothered to check their source before going on the air, and even if they hadn’t, a sane look at the live TV coverage would have shown that nothing was going on. From another angle, if their was a terrorist attack occuring, I think we can be fairly sure that the FBI and other federal LE agencies would be the first to be informed by the CG.

Posted by wndjmr | Report as abusive

It’s good to know that disgraced White House staffer who ordered Air Force One to buzz Manhattan a while back has landed on his feet and has a new job with the Coast Guard.

Posted by jhozae | Report as abusive

Eventually after 8 yrs of 9/11 :
1)Where is US Troops ? Ans : Suffering/fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq, by staying away from their loved ones.
2)Where is George W. Bush ? Ans : Enjoying in Dallas,TX with their family members and loved ones, also enjoying texas ranger ownership with huge profit.
3)Where is Osama Bin Laden ? Ans : Enjoying in Pakistan (under the roof of top pakistani politicians, Real Truth)
with everyday Night party, Girls are Dancing and serving american Wine and Mexican Bear.

Posted by Nilesh | Report as abusive