My 9/11 story doesn’t really take place on 9/11. It doesn’t take place in New York, or Shanksville, Pennsylvania, or at the Pentagon. I was a police officer in a suburban department in Northern Kentucky at the time, though I was off that day. I watched it on TV like most of you did, and felt the same things you felt. But my most important lesson didn’t come until a couple of weeks later.
While working 2nd shift, my sergeant called me and one other officer on the radio and asked for a “Signal 2”…a face-to-face meeting. The three of us pulled our cruisers together in the Kmart parking lot, and the Sarge asked us if we’d be interested in doing a few hours of overtime the next day. He said the Feds wanted a couple of uniforms to go along on a search warrant, and we both said OK. He told us we’d meet up at the city building in the morning and go over the details.
Well, Sarge had drastically undersold what was going on. We ended up in the auditorium of the city building with easily 100 local and federal law enforcement officers. City police, county sheriff’s deputies, and every variety of federal officer you can think of. We were briefed by the FBI agent in charge of the operation, which was to serve multiple federal warrants on multiple apartment buildings throughout the county. We were looking for evidence of involvement in the 9/11 attacks by local immigrants from various Middle Eastern nations.
We split into teams of 4-5 officers, mixing locals and feds, then got our assignments and moved out to stage. The operation was set to execute all the warrants at exactly the same time, so that the suspects would not have time to call and warn each other. It was a huge operation, so we got to do some “hurry up and wait” time while everyone got into position. I was on a team with another officer from my department, plus three federal officers: one from the FBI, one from the Secret Service, and one from the DEA. While we were waiting for the “go” signal, the Secret Service agent told me that they knew for a fact that one of the Pentagon hijackers had definitely lived in the apartment we were preparing to enter.
Shit just got real.
The command to execute came, and we entered the apartment, my partner and I leading the way. (The feds had suggested that since we were local and knew the layouts better, we should go first.) The apartment manager had provided keys, so we didn’t have to break the door…we just quietly unlocked the door and GO GO GO!
We all blew through the apartment, looking for any occupants, and I heard a commotion in an adjacent room. I ran in to find the DEA guy struggling with somebody, so I helped him get the guy under control and into handcuffs. He was the only one there, but it looked like there were probably at least 5-6 people living there. Mattresses and sleeping bags on the floor, and junk everywhere. The FBI agent told us that although the feds were really the only ones supposed to be doing the searching, they were going to need help going through everything. “You guys are cops, and you know when something doesn’t look right. Help us search and let us know if you find anything.”
We found stuff. I’m pretty sure I can’t tell you exactly what…but we found stuff. Some of it was pretty breathtaking as evidence goes. But on the local 11 o’clock news that night, the FBI spokesman went on camera in front of the city building and gave a statement saying that they “found nothing of interest.” Maybe it was for OPSEC purposes, or maybe just for the sake of preserving public sanity so close on the heels on 9/11…but it was a lie.
I came away with a clarity after that day. In my Army days I had a working knowledge of the Middle East, and had served in Saudi Arabia, so I didn’t really doubt that there was an element in that part of the world that truly hated us. But after those search warrants…after what I learned and saw that day…it was undeniable. I had made personal contact, and seen it with my own eyes. Not only did they hate us, but they were here…in a run-of-the-mill American suburban town…and they were actively working to hurt us.
Of course, there is plenty of evidence to that effect these days if you want to look at it. There is certainly no need to take my word for it. But if you know me, and if my word is worth anything at all to you, my personal experience is that radical Islamic terrorists were right here all along. Call me racist or Islamophobic if you want, but I saw what I saw. They were here in 2001, and before. They are still here.
— Dave Cole
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