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After 9/11: 50 Dates That Quietly Changed America

1:07 PM, Sep 6, 2011   |    comments
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By Rick Hampson, USA TODAY

Sept 11, 2001, the day that defined a decade, was followed by many red letter dates. On Oct. 7, 2001, U.S. troops invaded Afghanistan. Baghdad fell April 9, 2003. We remember when Saddam Hussein was caught (12/13/03) and Osama bin Laden was killed (5/2/11). (Terrorists hit Madrid 3/11/04, and London 7/7/05.)

But the decade since 9/11 also has a less obvious calendar of dates when history pivoted while we weren't looking.

This calendar is made up of hidden, overlooked, misunderstood, private or secret events, each related directly or indirectly to the attacks. Its dates, momentous and trivial, have shaped the nation in ways large and small.

On this calendar, important things happen behind closed doors or off stage or otherwise out of sight. If perceived, they aren't fully appreciated or aren't what they seem.

Who remembers what occurred Oct. 2, 2002, that helped Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama become a U.S. senator and then president? And who on the Sunday after 9/11 knew that one of hundreds of thousands of sermons preached that day would nearly derail Obama's presidential campaign six years later?

What connects 9/11 to the Tiger Woods scandal? How did the 9/11 widow-advocates known as the "Jersey Girls" first meet? Whose idea was it to replace Take Me out to the Ballgame with God Bless America at the ballpark? To start referring to our "homeland"?

Marked on the calendar are the days when Pat Tillman, NFL star, decides to go to war as a grunt, and when Kenneth Feinberg, Democrat, tries to become the Republican administration's man to determine the worth of a loss on 9/11.

There is the first mission of a confederation of military vet bikers known as the Patriot Guard Riders, and the Iraq War's first roadside bomb.

On this calendar, a soon-to-be whistle-blower is a tell-them-nothing press spokeswoman. A plan to build an Islamic community center arouses no controversy, six months before the same plan generates an international ruckus.

At the airport, a man's heated words land him behind bars, and a mother's breast milk raises suspicions.

At Ground Zero, on a special day, a man who has searched the rubble for months finds something of his dead brother.

The calendar records the results, down the road, of what happened (or didn't) on 9/11. A TV writer who missed a doomed flight lives to achieve great success. A law student, still mourning a 9/11 loss, meets his death. Two strangers stranded far from home fall in love.

It's all on the calendar.

9/12 7th-inning stretch

A new seventh-inning tradition is born. In a meeting to discuss how baseball should resume after the terror attacks, San Diego Padres assistant media relations director, John Dever, suggests singing God Bless America during the seventh-inning stretch, instead of the traditional Take Me Out to the Ball Game. Other Major League Baseball teams follow the Padres' lead, and the patriotic song becomes a fixture at many parks.

9/14 Damaged relationships

Page one of the The New York Post shows a beautiful, weeping woman holding a man's photo. She is Rachel Uchitel; he is her fiancé, James Andrew O'Grady, lost at the World Trade Center. Like thousands of others, Uchitel plasters photos all over in hope of a miracle. For her, 9/11 begins a tumultuous personal decade that culminates in an affair with Tiger Woods - a relationship that, when revealed in 2010, helps end the top-ranked golfer's marriage and derail his career.

9/15 'The rules have changed'

American intelligence-gathering enters a new age. In a secret War Cabinet meeting at Camp David, CIA Director George Tenet presents President Bush with a draft presidential order giving Tenet's agency broad new powers for targeting al-Qaeda members outside the USA and for covert operations - including special rendition of terror suspects and use of deadly force - without prior presidential approval. Bush's reaction, according to Bob Woodward's book Bush at War: "Great job!" After Bush signs the order two days later, Tenet tells his agency, "The rules have changed."

9/16 Obama, Jeremiah Wright

A fiery sermon, a political time bomb. Jeremiah Wright, pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, tells his congregation the terror attacks showed "America's chickens are coming home to roost. We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye." One of Wright's parishioners, state Sen. Barack Obama, is not in church. But when Wright's comments are reported in March 2008, they create a crisis for Obama's presidential campaign. The candidate goes to Philadelphia to deliver a pivotal speech on what he calls America's "tragic history when it comes to race."

9/17 'Politically Incorrect'

Bill Maher, host of the ABC late-night show Politically Incorrect, agrees with a guest, conservative pundit Dinesh D'Souza, who questions President Bush's claim that the 9/11 hijackers were cowards. "These are warriors," D'Souza says. Maher replies, "We have been the cowards. Lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That's cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building - say what you want about it, not cowardly." Nine months later, after protests from sponsors and others, ABC cancels the show. Maher says that when Bush told Americans to do what they were doing before 9/11, "I guess I shouldn't have taken that on faith."

9/19 Jessica Lynch

Jessica Lynch, a recent high school graduate from Palestine, W.Va., enters basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C. Last year, in need of money for higher education, Lynch and her parents spoke to an Army recruiter, who admitted war always was a possibility. But that was before 9/11, before terrorism was on everyone's lips. Lynch didn't think she'd be in harm's way. Eighteen months from now, she'll be America's most celebrated POW, and her rescue one of the Iraq War's biggest early stories.

9/20 'Homeland security'

"Homeland"? Speaking to Congress, President Bush slips in a term new to most Americans - but not all. On Jan. 31, a report by a national commission headed by former U.S. senators Gary Hart and Warren Rudman urged tighter "homeland security." In 1997, another panel on the same subject used the term. And the day after the attacks, Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas said, "Our homeland security is not safe. The oceans don't protect us anymore."

9/22 Kenneth Feinberg

Kenneth Feinberg, a legal mediator, reads that the airline bailout bill passed by Congress creates a victims' compensation fund run by a special master. Feinberg wants the job. He'd held a similar post remedying the effects of Agent Orange and understands the challenge of putting a price on human suffering. He calls Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., former Veterans Administration official he knows from the Agent Orange case. "Leave it to me," Hagel says, and calls Attorney General John Ashcroft to explain why Feinberg - a Democrat - would be perfect. Over three years, working pro bono, Feinberg will supervise the payment of about $7 billion to 9/11 victims or their relatives. He goes on to serve as the banking system bailout "pay czar" and to administer the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster victims' fund.

9/28 Coleen Rowley

Coleen Rowley, spokeswoman for the FBI in Minneapolis, tells reporters the office has no comment on a county sheriff's claim that the bureau got a tip about terror suspect Zacarias Moussaoui that led to his arrest shortly before 9/11. In fact, Rowley believes the office's attempts to further investigate Moussaoui - which might have exposed the 9/11 plot before it was carried out - were frustrated at the FBI's Washington headquarters. Eight months later, she will send a whistle-blowing memo to a congressional committee, alleging that a Washington FBI supervisor changed a wiretap application to make it less likely the Moussaoui investigation would proceed.

9/30 'Rescue Me'

As planned, actor Denis Leary's foundation to benefit firefighters holds a celebrity hockey game in his hometown of Worcester, Mass. But nothing else has gone as planned. Leary, who was filming a TV episode on the West Side Highway when the twin towers were hit, learned the next day that two men helping him plan the fundraiser were killed: New York firefighter Tim Higgins, and Ace Bailey, a former NHL player who was on one of the hijacked jets. The game raises $350,000, some for the families of slain New York firefighters. Sept. 11 becomes the grist for Rescue Me, an FX network series that debuts in 2004. Leary plays a firefighter; in the first episode he wears a fireman's overcoat given to him by Capt. Paddy Brown, who died on 9/11. Leary started his foundation in 2000, after a fire in Worcester killed his cousin and five other firemen.

10/31 More die driving

In a hidden cost of terrorism, hundreds of additional Americans have died in highway accidents this month. Cornell researchers will conclude in 2005 that an average of 344 additional travelers died on the road in the last three months of 2001. The reason: After 9/11 many people, afraid of terrorist attacks and/or airport security hassles, decide to drive instead of fly, and driving is more dangerous. There was no similar increase in deaths of commercial drivers, whose numbers remained relatively steady after 9/11. Over time the 9/11 effect lessened, the researchers found. But overall, about 2,200 additional lives may have been lost on the roads.

11/11 Lauren Manning

"Hi, Greg." These words - whispered, almost inaudible - are Lauren Manning's first to her husband since the morning of Sept. 11. That morning, Manning, an executive at the Cantor Fitzgerald financial firm, had just entered the lobby of the Trade Center's north tower when it was hit by a hijacked jet. A wave of burning jet fuel exploded from one of the elevator shafts, enveloping her. She ran into the street, where she was extinguished by a bystander and put in an ambulance. Now she's regained consciousness from a month-long, drug-induced coma that allowed her burns to heal and skin grafts to take. By 2004, she'll have recovered enough to carry the Olympic torch as it passes through New York.

11/12 Flight 587

American Airlines Flight 587 crashes into the Belle Harbor section of Queens, killing 260 on board and five on the ground. The latter include Chris Lawler, a St. John's University law student who should have been in class. But he'd missed school since 9/11, when Charlie Heeran, one of his closest friends, died at the Trade Center. After that, Chris wasn't the same. The Airbus A300 crashes into Lawler's house, killing him and his mother.

11/26 'Jersey Girls'

The four widows who'll call themselves the "Jersey Girls" first meet at a law office in Woodbridge, N.J., where 9/11 victims' relatives gather to discuss claims against the airlines. Kristen Breitweiser thinks that she and Patty Casazza, Lorie Van Auken and Mindy Kleinberg share an understanding: They are going to get to the bottom of what happened, and they are going to make sure someone is held responsible so that nobody else ever has to walk in their shoes. The four will become prime movers in the drive to create, over White House objections, a national commission to investigate the attacks.

1/29/2002 Anthrax attack clue

The American Society for Microbiology e-mails its 40,000 members asking for clues about the October anthrax mail attacks that killed five people, crippled the Postal Service, and made millions afraid to open their mail. The appeal strikes a chord with Nancy Haigwood. In October, shortly before news of the first attack became public, she'd received an e-mail from Bruce Ivins, an Army civilian anthrax expert. The e-mail seemed to predict such an event. In another e-mail, Ivins - who is advising the FBI - seemed to delight in the case. Haigwood met Ivins when both were graduate students, and she has long considered him a creep. She now suspects something worse and calls the FBI. But it will be years before the bureau closes in on Ivins.

2/21 Wall Street to Army

Enlistment day for Kevin Mincio, who at 31 is trading a Wall Street office and a beachfront house for a private's billet in the Army. Five months ago, Mincio stood at Liberty and Church streets in Lower Manhattan and watched a Boeing 767 hit the Trade Center. Now he wants to get out from behind a desk and do something about the crime he saw. He's an anomaly: Military enlistment doesn't increase much as a result of 9/11. Mincio serves until May 2005, including a tour in Iraq, then moves to Seattle and starts a new job. On the summer of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, in memory of a buddy killed in Iraq in 2007, he cycles coast-to-coast to raise money for families of fallen vets.

2/22 Air travel strained

"If I have to go through this at every airport, I am going to kill someone." So says a passenger at a boarding gate at the airport in Corpus Christi, Texas, who is quickly arrested and taken to jail. On this Friday, 23 security breaches across the nation delay 28 flights for a total of 23 hours and 20 minutes. It's an example of the strain that new security measures are placing on the air travel system and those who use it.

3/17 A memory found

On St. Patrick's Day, Brian Lyons finally finds what he's been looking for since Sept. 12 - a physical trace of his firefighter brother, Michael, who was killed at the Trade Center. The day after the attacks, Brian, a construction manager based in Lower Manhattan, put on his brother's backup fire gear for protection, went to Ground Zero and began searching for him. He's been there almost every day since. Now, sifting through rubble with firefighters, he recovers a handmade tool Michael used to pry open doors. When the site cleanup ends in May, Brian will join the construction effort. Ten years later, he'll have gone through 12 pairs of work boots.

4/1 The wrong flag

April Fools': The U.S. flag famously raised by three firefighters in the Trade Center wreckage is unfurled in a ceremony outside New York City Hall - only it's not the real flag. On 9/11, the trio used a flag they took off a yacht in the Hudson River. News photographer Thomas Franklin captured the scene, creating a classic image of resilience. Today, the firefighters realize the flag being raised is bigger than theirs. The yacht's owners later confirm the discrepancy. So what happened? Sometime after the firefighters raised it, the real flag was lost. An imposter toured the world - and now flies at City Hall.

4/2 Security threat?

A lactating mother boarding a flight is told to drink from three containers of breast milk she's carrying to prove it poses no security threat. Elizabeth McGarry, 40, is in line for a Delta flight to Miami at JFK airport with her infant daughter. She's pulled out for a random search by a male guard employed by a private company. She complains but complies and is allowed on the plane. Later, she'll describe the experience as "embarrassing and disgusting." Airport security personnel have discretion to make such requests - until June 24, when the TSA changes the rules.

4/8 Pat Tillman

Pat Tillman of the NFL's Arizona Cardinals completes a statement he titles "Decision" about his inclination to quit football and join the Army. He writes: "These last few years, and especially after recent events, I've come to appreciate just how shallow and insignificant my role is. I'm no longer satisfied with the path I've been following. My voice is calling me in a different direction. It is up to me whether or not to listen." When he tells his brother Kevin he's going to enlist as a grunt, Kevin - a minor league baseball player - says he will, too.

4/10 He shoots. He scores.

Fire Capt. Al Fuentes, the last fireman pulled alive from the Trade Center wreckage, attends a Knicks basketball game at Madison Square Garden. Fuentes, 51, suffered a fractured skull, collapsed lung and nine broken ribs and had to be placed in a drug-induced coma to reduce swelling on his brain. He hopes to get back to his regular full-court, five-on-five pickup game at a park near his home on Long Island. That day will never come. But two years later, accompanied by his son, Fuentes walks up to a hoop at the park and makes three tentative layups before he's too dizzy to continue. The court regulars applaud as if he's won the NBA Finals.

5/12 A fateful Mother's Day

Marie Tillman gets a Mother's Day call from her son Kevin, who tells her he's joining the Army. Aghast, she asks, "Did you talk to Pat about this?" Surely Pat, who got married just last week, would talk Kevin out of this. "Mom," Kevin says, "Pat's going, too."

6/7 Homeland security?

Everybody's talking about it, but what exactly does it mean? A General Accounting Office report says the term "homeland security" has "not been officially defined," hampering decision-making across federal agencies. It suggests various things to Americans, including the nation from whence they or their ancestors immigrated; tribal regions of South Africa under apartheid; and Nazi Germany. To Orlando Sentinel columnist David D. Porter, the term evokes a "goose-stepper cadence."

8/1 What is torture?

Confidential memos drafted by Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo advise the CIA, the Defense Department and the White House that use of interrogation techniques such as prolonged sleep deprivation and simulated drownings known as waterboarding - acts widely regarded as torture - might be legal under an expansive interpretation of presidential authority in the war on terror.

9/7 A 9/11 love story

Nick Marson of England and Diane Kirschke of Houston are married. The couple, who are in their 60s, met a year ago while stranded for several days in Newfoundland when U.S. airspace was closed because of the terror attacks. Flights from Europe were diverted to Gander International Airport, and thousands of passengers were put up in schools, churches and halls. Nick and Diane met in a shelter; he first spotted her sitting on an Army cot. After visiting Diane several times, Nick - an oil company engineer - got a transfer to Houston. The couple will honeymoon where they met. Locals serenade them with a song that begins, "They met in Gambo/A little town in Newfoundland ..."

10/2 Obama opposes war

Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama, speaking in Daley Plaza at Chicago's first big anti-Iraq War rally, declares his opposition to the war nine days before Congress authorizes the U.S. invasion. It's a pivotal moment in Obama's career. "But no one realized at the time that it would be a historic thing," Obama adviser David Axelrod will tell the Chicago Tribune in 2007, when Obama's presidential campaign will use the speech's fifth anniversary to remind voters that he opposed an invasion backed by his Democratic rivals, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.

12/12 Kissinger steps aside

The Jersey Girls meet with Henry Kissinger. The former secretary of State and famous diplomat has been named chairman of the federal commission that will investigate the 9/11 attacks. At a meeting with Kissinger in New York, the widows - Kristen Breitweiser, Patty Casazza, Lorie Van Auken and Mindy Kleinberg - express concern about potential conflicts of interest involving his many foreign clients, some in the Middle East. But Kissinger says he won't disclose his confidential client list; he asks the widows to trust him. The next day, he tells the White House he cannot lead the commission.

2/24/2003 Abu Ghraib

A fateful call-up. The 372nd Military Police Company in the Army Reserve is activated for deployment to Iraq. Members include Lynndie England, who joined the reserve in 1999 at Cumberland, Md., when she was a junior in high school. In Iraq, the unit will be assigned to Abu Ghraib prison to guard suspects detained by the military, as well as common criminals. England and 10 other unit members will be convicted by Army courts in connection with torture and prisoner abuse.

3/29 First Americans killed by IEDs

Four soldiers are the first Americans killed in Iraq by what will soon become that war's signature weapon - the improvised explosive device, or IED. It happens at a checkpoint north of Najaf, as the soldiers search a taxi. They and the driver are killed when more than 100 pounds of C-4 plastic explosive in the trunk detonates. Before the year is out, the IED will be the major source of death and injury to Americans in Iraq.

5/26 First U.S. soldier killed by roadside bomb

On Memorial Day, Army Pfc. Jeremiah Smith, 25, of Odessa, Mo., becomes the first U.S. soldier in the Iraq war to be killed by a roadside bomb. Smith's vehicle drives over a mine or piece of "unexploded ordnance" on the road to the Baghdad airport. Military officials say they believe the device was planted there. The attack, 25 days after President Bush declared an end to major combat operations, marks the beginning of a bloody two-week period in which nine U.S. servicemembers will die.

5/31 Al-Qaeda leader killed

Yusef al-Ayeri, founder of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is killed in a gunbattle after a car in which he's riding runs a Saudi government roadblock near Mecca. But that's only half the story. According to Ron Suskind's 2006 book, The One Percent Solution, what's important about al-Ayeri's killing is what doesn't happen afterward. The Saudis don't notify the U.S. until several days later, and they never collect al-Ayeri's personal effects - cellphone, address book, car registry - or trace them to a residential address. Suskind calls the al-Ayeri case emblematic of a dilemma in the war on terrorism: "The Saudis - like so many 'dark side' states allied with the United States- had a way of often disappointing America."

6/30 Prison's chief named

Janis Karpinski, a brigadier general in the Army Reserve, is named commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade. Her main responsibility: the Abu Ghraib prison complex, which was stripped by looters after the fall of Saddam Hussein in April, renovated by the U.S., and now a prison for common criminals and detainees suspected of supporting Saddam or other insurgents. Karpinski, the only female commander in Iraq, is an intelligence officer who served in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. She has never run a prison, and most of her troops have never handled prisoners. In December, she'll tell the St. Petersburg Times that for many Abu Ghraib inmates, "living conditions now are better in prison than at home."

10/16 Winning or losing war on terror?

After a bloody week in Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld writes a private memo to Pentagon officials in which he observes: "We lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global 'war on terror.' Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?"

4/13 Patriot Act raid

Spanish investigators tell the FBI they don't agree that fingerprints at the scene of the Madrid train bombings match an Oregon lawyer's. But the FBI, using powers granted by the Patriot Act (anti-terrorist legislation passed shortly after 9/11), obtains a "sneak and peek" warrant to secretly search the home and office of Brandon Mayfield. Agents take about 335 photographs in the house occupied by Mayfield, his wife and their three children. Three weeks later, Mayfield is arrested in the March 11 bombings, which killed 191, and held for two weeks. But he's never charged, and an FBI internal review later acknowledges serious errors in the investigation. After he sues, Mayfield receives a government apology and $2 million.

4/28 Silver Star for Tillman

Gen. Stanley McChrystal approves a final draft of the Silver Star medal recommendation for Pat Tillman, even though it deliberately omits mention that "friendly fire" killed him in Afghanistan. The next day, McChrystal warns the White House the president should not quote the medal recommendation because it "might cause public embarrassment if the circumstances of Corporal Tillman's death become public." McChrystal will be one of eight officers recommended for discipline after a Pentagon investigation, but the Army doesn't take action against him. He eventually becomes U.S. commander in Afghanistan, but resigns after he and his aides are quoted making unflattering remarks about administration officials.

10/26 A 9/11 coverup?

The name of Van Jones, an environmental advocate and civil rights activist, appears on a petition by 911Truth.org, an organization seeking to expose the "official lies and cover-up surrounding the events of 9/11." The petition suggests the Bush administration "may have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen." Jones is listed along with 99 other prominent figures, including comedienne Janeane Garofalo and U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga. Almost five years later, when Jones is the White House special adviser for green jobs, reports about the petition force his resignation.

11/22 A husband's $2 bill

Myrta Gschaar gets a call from the New York police - they have the wallet of her husband, Rob, who worked and died at the Trade Center. Myrta's about to fly to Ohio to visit relatives, so she doesn't go to the police property room until after the holidays. She's given the wallet and gasps when she pulls out a $2 bill. When Rob proposed, he showed her two $2 bills - one for her, one for him. Their first marriages had ended in divorce, and he said these bills meant they were two of a kind, with a second chance at happiness. Each tucked a bill away; nothing more was said. Now Myrta reaches into her pocketbook, finds her wallet and pulls out her own $2 bill. Somehow, this helps her accept that Rob is really gone, and to move on.

2/6/2005 Nothing to laugh about

First broadcast of the Fox animated sitcom series American Dad! whose title character is an outspokenly patriotic CIA agent. This show, plus the hit Family Guy, will make their creator, Seth MacFarlane, one of the world's richest TV writers. He's already one of the luckiest. On Sept. 11, 2001, MacFarlane was scheduled to fly from Boston to Los Angeles on American Flight 11. But, hung over and relying on an incorrect departure time, MacFarlane arrived at Logan Airport about 10 minutes too late to board. The flight was hijacked and crashed into the Trade Center. "I just sort of stared at the screen and said, 'Oh, my God.'" he told USA TODAY a week later. "I saved the itinerary. I figure it's a piece of history." MacFarlane goes on to produce several new animated shows. In a 2003 interview with the website, TVShowsOnDVD.com, he said of his narrow escape, "I really can't let it affect me, because I'm a comedy writer."

10/11 Patriot Guard Riders

Mission 1 for the Patriot Guard Riders: the Chelsea, Okla., funeral of Army Staff Sgt. John Doles, killed in Afghanistan. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church plan to demonstrate, claiming that war deaths are divine retribution for U.S. tolerance of homosexuality. Hearing about this, motorcycle-riding members of the Mulvane, Kan., American Legion post plan a counter-demonstration. About 70 leather-clad vets converge for the funeral, revving their engines during the service to drown out demonstrators' chants. "It ain't right to protest a sacred thing like this," Ron Scrivner, a rider, tells the Associated Press. "He died for his country. They ought to show him the respect he deserves." The biker vets soon have a website, a communications director and a name. The Patriot Guard Riders will become a homefront mainstay, providing escorts for military funerals and homecomings.

3/20/2006 Charlie Sheen joins 'truth movement'

The 9/11 "truth movement" gains a celebrity adherent. Charlie Sheen, star of the CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men, says he doubts the government account of the 9/11 attacks. "Taking four commercial airliners and hitting 75% of their targets, that feels like a conspiracy theory," Sheen says in a radio interview. "When the buildings came down I said, 'Hey, call me insane, but did it sort of look like those buildings came down in a controlled demolition?' " Sheen repeats his views over the next few years, despite a warning in 2007 from Fox TV's Bill O'Reilly: "We're looking out for you, Charlie Sheen. Don't do this. You're not gonna come back from it if you do. And that's not a threat. I'm just telling you. I know the country."

6/23 Cornerstone removed

The cornerstone of the Freedom Tower, dedicated in a ceremony on July 4, 2004, is quietly trucked from Ground Zero to a stone yard on Long Island. Because of a design change in 2005 forced by security concerns - the latest in a series of delays to plague the project - the cornerstone is out of place and obsolete. Meanwhile, almost no progress has been made on what is supposed to be the nation's tallest building. Talk of returning the stone to the Trade Center site is just that; the 20-ton, 5-foot-high stone will remain in a garden in front of Innovative Stone in Hauppauge, where it's known as the "Freedom Stone."

6/26 A new builder

Without ceremony, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey agrees to take over construction of the Freedom Tower from developer Larry Silverstein. Shortly before 9/11, Silverstein bought the Trade Center from the authority. He has the right to rebuild but can't afford to do it all himself. Instead, he'll erect several other office towers at the site. Now, construction can finally begin on a symbolic replacement on the Manhattan skyline for the twin towers.

10/16 Seeds of 'the surge'

In a confidential memo written exactly three years after one that asked who's winning the war on terrorism, Donald Rumsfeld tells President Bush "it is time for a major adjustment" in the war in Iraq. In the memo's cover letter, he says: "It is clear that the current path in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough. Change is needed." In the memo, he asks: "Is our current situation such that 'the harder we work, the behinder we get?' ... It is pretty clear that the coalition can win in Afghanistan and Iraq in one way or another, but it will be a long, hard slog." In early 2007, Bush will increase the number of U.S. troops in what becomes known as "the surge."

12/22 Anthrax investigation

FBI agent Edward Montooth, who for three months has headed the investigation into the 2001 anthrax mail attacks, briefs Director Robert Mueller, who demands, "Where do you stand?"

According to the 2011 book The Mirage Man, by David Willman, Montooth doesn't want to raise expectations. But he tellsMueller: "There's a guy that we can't wash out, no matter what we're doing. It makes us more suspicious." He's a civilian Army microbiologist who created a batch of anthrax that matched the material in the letters; had unrestricted access to this batch; and put in unusually long, solitary hours at a key lab before the mailings. His name: Bruce Ivins. After agents close in, Ivins commits suicide in 2008.

12/9/2009 New Islamic center

The New York Times reports on plans for an Islamic center and mosque two blocks from Ground Zero. The article says that such a project would be one of the site's "more unexpected and striking neighbors," but it has support from city officials, neighbors and at least one prominent rabbi. Among those voicing approval: talk radio host Laura Ingraham. Not until the following May, as more relatives of those lost on 9/11 learn about it, will the "Ground Zero mosque" become a national controversy. Joining the opposition: Ingraham, who says, "We're supposed to be considered intolerant if we're not cheering this?"

7/27/2010 The 'truth' emerges

911Truth.org says it "researched the situation and (was) unable to produce electronic or written evidence" that former White House adviser Van Jones signed a statement in 2004 questioning whether the Bush administration covered up the causes of the 9/11 attacks. "Following recent media-generated controversy," Jones and two others listed as signers "requested their names be removed," says Janice Matthews, director of 911Truth.org. "That has been done." Three days earlier, in an op-ed piece in The New York Times, Jones wrote that the group "put my name on its website without my permission."

12/15 Another 9/11 death

The 9/11 death toll rises. Jerry Borg, a 63-year-old retired accountant who on 9/11 walked home to Midtown from Lower Manhattan, dies of complications of pulmonary sarcoidosis, an inflammatory lung disease. Six months later, the New York City medical examiner will rule that he died from exposure to the toxic dust cloud unleashed by the center's collapse, making him the attack's 2,753rd official victim. Berg, who began to have trouble breathing after the 4-mile walk home on 9/11, is one of three people ruled to have died from inhaling Ground Zero dust. Their names will appear on the 9/11 Memorial to be dedicated on Sept. 11, 2011.

4/27/2011 'Special registration'

The government quietly ends the "special registration" program instituted after 9/11 as part of the war on terrorism. In order to discover immigration violations and detain those with suspected links to terrorism, thousands of Arab and Muslim men were required to register with the authorities. Only a few of the more than 85,000 men who came forward in the first year were found to have any ties to terrorism, but many who were living here illegally were deported. The program, which was denounced by civil libertarians and detested in Muslim communities, was scaled back in 2003. Now the Homeland Security Department ends it, saying special registration "no longer provides a unique security value."

4/30 Bin Laden joke

At the White House Correspondents Dinner, comedian Seth Meyers ribs C-SPAN - "the official network for wide shots of empty chairs" - joking that "people think bin Laden is hiding in the Hindu Kush, but did you know that every day from 4 to 5 he hosts a show on C-SPAN?" A few seats from Meyers, President Obama grins. He knows that an operation has been set in motion to kill or capture the al-Qaeda founder. He's living not in a mountain cave, but in a house not far from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. There will be video, but it will not be on C-SPAN.

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