America’s Wake-Up Call

James Carafano /

Last week, I was in New York City participating in the filming of The Heritage Foundation documentary on missile defense due-out early next year. The purpose of these scenes is to share with Americans the magnitude of the threat and the fragility of the peace and prosperity that we take largely for granted. The day started at “Ground Zero,” the World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan—the site of one of the most devastating foreign attacks on American soil. At 8 am on the morning of September 11, 2001, the New York City schools opened for business. A few minutes later, hijackers commandeered two commercial airliners and launched them toward the towers. The entire attack took just over 30 minutes. The result was 2,974 innocents from over 90 countries murdered. That was the result of just two planes loaded with jet fuel. In contrast, if the attack had been a single ballistic missile with a small nuclear warhead launched from another continent, in that same time (just about over 30 minutes flight time across the globe for a ballistic missile) the result would have been dramatically different.
In the next scene, I am standing at the edge of the rim of the affects that would be achieved by a small nuclear weapon detonated over downtown Manhattan—about a mile away on the opposite end of the Brooklyn Bridge. In the event of nuclear attack everything you see behind me in the photo would be gone. Wall Street vaporized. The immediate causalities would be 500,000 to a million or more. The cost of the destruction and recovery would be in the many trillions of dollars—perhaps the cost of one hundred 9/11s.