Alternate History

9/11 in 1987

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On August 26, 1987, President Ronald Reagan declared the upcoming September 11 as “Emergency Number Day” in recognition of the emergency workers of America as well as the success of the 9 - 1 - 1 phone system. In his proclamation, he called “upon the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.” While most citizens made no more plans than an office party or a "thank you" to local firefighters or police, a lone man living in a cabin in Montana made note of the important date.

Theodore Kaczynski was a Harvard graduate in mathematics with a Ph.D. from University of Michigan. He had served two years as an assistant professor at Berkeley from the age of 25, but resigned to take up a self-sufficient lifestyle using survival techniques. Though bright and promising, Kaczynski had been distant with everyone through his life. As a child and young man, he had been through several studies related to autism or impotent rage, but Kaczynski seemed a normal, if quiet, intelligent guy.

While in his cabin, Kaczynski worked to study ways to become autonomous. The very little money he needed he made by working odd jobs such as at his father and brother's foam rubber plant, where he would be subsequently fired for harassing an ex-girlfriend fellow employee. As his life-experiment continued, it became obvious to him that he could not live this way with the increasing encroachment of modernity all around. In 1983, he walked to one of his favorite spots of wilderness to find that it had become a paved road. Later, he said, “You just can't imagine how upset I was. It was from that point on I decided that, rather than trying to acquire further wilderness skills, I would work on getting back at the system. Revenge.”

Kaczynski studied sociology, political philosophy, and began a career of sabotage even before the road. When he came upon that, Kaczynski knew reform for the modern industrial, technological world was impossible. He decided that society needed to be woken up; the alarm would be bombs. In 1978 and '79, he had mailed explosive devices to Northwestern University and American Airlines, though none had been injurious. As the FBI took over the case from the US Postal Inspectors, they dubbed him UNABOMB for UNiversity and Airline BOMber. More universities and a computer rental store were added to his list of victims, culminating in 1985 with four attacks and the death of Hugh Scrutton, the computer store owner. In 1987, he struck again at a Utah computer store, then decided to settle in hiding for a moment. However, upon word of Reagan's Emergency Day, Kaczynski decided to show the world the real emergency: itself.

Lining up over a dozen simultaneous attacks, many of which were delivered through the mail, Kaczynski also hand-delivered several packages in the early morning from a re-painted rental truck. Near noon, he drove the truck to the Stanford Research Park in Palo Alto, CA. Kaczynski left the truck loaded with homemade explosives on a timer, which exploded in the early afternoon, killing 28 and destroying research in the resulting electromagnetic pulse and fire. He disappeared into San Francisco and made his way back to his cabin while the country descended into panic.

As news coverage swallowed the networks and bolstered the ratings of the new Cable News Network, people looked for leadership. President Reagan addressed the nation that evening and again on September 20, putting forth the Homeland Security Act and the often-questioned Patriot Act for Congress that next year. Kaczynski would remain quiet, writing his manifesto, but his cabin would be raided by FBI in April, tipped off by his brother David recalling letters and clippings from Ted about the dangers of technology. Given a highly publicized trial, Kaczynski would give his ideas of the problems with modern society, but his argument was drowned out by the horrors of his attack. Kaczynski would be specially executed in 1989, just after his unfinished manuscript was published but scarcely read.

Security became a prime issue for Americans, suddenly seeing it everywhere in post offices, lines with guards at all museums, monuments, and public buildings, and, especially, at airports. Reagan's VP Bush would handily win the 1988 and 1992 elections riding on the support of government during this time. CIA and FBI investigations would develop new techniques of watching for suspicious activities, such as deporting Ramzi Yousef in 1992 who had entered on questionable credentials and ordered chemicals in New York, arresting anarchist Timothy McVeigh in 1995 after buying inordinate amounts of fertilizer in Kansas, and deporting a number of Arabic men in 2000 that had taken flight lessons after CIA warnings of an airborne attack.

While many critics note that America has become something of a police state, secure feelings and a call for change gradually filtered into the public, evidenced by the 1996 election of Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton. After being blamed for the Recession, the Democrats would fall to a Republican takeover in 2002, leading to the landslide election of George W. Bush in 2004.

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