The website of writer & artist Dan McNeil


20th February, 2021
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The attacks of September 11th 2001 raised many questions, not least being who was ultimately responsible for the tragedy. This text suggests that a less conventional view of that grim day and its aftermath may provide a more coherent explanation. JG Ballard’s The Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy Considered As A Downhill Motor Race and Alfred Jarry’s The Crucifixion Considered As An Uphill Bicycle Race may give readers a useful lead.

Bin Laden was the starter.

Unable to travel easily, he organised both of his visiting teams by remote control.

As befitting the inauguration of the first aerial relay race over the eastern seaboard of the United States, Bin Laden chose the twin towers of the World Trade Center as the main relay points of the race. His American Airlines team took an early lead, its first aircraft making contact with the north tower at 0846. Unfortunately, Bin Laden neglected to advertise the race beforehand. This oversight caused the local crowd to initially believe that the 0846 contact was an accident.

Bin Laden’s United Airlines team got off to a bad start.

Its first aircraft trailed the American Airlines team by over fifteen minutes, only picking up speed towards the end. However, once the aircraft made contact with the south tower, the crowd – realising that the race was properly underway – became extremely vocal and patriotic, despite the increasingly poor visibility.

The south tower completed its relay in record time, crossing the chequered square at 1005. The north tower was a distant second, not crossing until 1029.

The second aircraft in the American Airlines team made contact with the Pentagon at 0940, but only a relatively small section of this building was able to cross the chequered square. Race officials later declared the Pentagon relay to be void.

The second aircraft in the United Airlines team reported unforeseen technical problems at 0958 and had to make an unscheduled pit stop, thus failing to obtain any race points. Its intended relay destination remains unknown.

In the final analysis, Bin Laden’s American Airlines team narrowly won the race on points.

The home team was organised by Bush, its President. He was apparently given no advance notification of the race, which meant that his plane was on the ground when the race commenced. Unable to personally participate in the race, Bush instructed a number of representatives to be sent aloft, but the race was over by the time they arrived at the course.

Bush retired to the country for the remainder of the race and the subsequent counting, only visiting the course later that day to give an upbeat concession speech.

The race had three staring grids: Boston, Newark and Washington, where all bets were placed on the visiting teams. The complex course included the states of Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey, Ohio, West Virginia and Virginia. This course is considered to be one of the most hazardous in aerial relay racing, second only to the Kamikaze-Pacific, discontinued in 1945.

Commentators remain puzzled over several aspects of the race, one being the nationality of the visiting teams. Bush maintained that they were from Iraq, despite the race attendance sheet confirming them as Saudi Arabian. Saudi Arabians are long-standing friends of the home team, which makes their lack of courtesy in this event all the more curious.

Some commentators theorise that Bush secretly declined Bin Laden’s race invitation, having been unnerved by his very close race with Gore in the Florida 2000. Others suggest that Bush inadvertently slighted Bin Laden in some way; certainly, Bin Laden’s apparent failure to notify the race officials of his plans led Bush to claim that the race was illegal.

Most commentators believe however that Bush simply ignored Bin Laden’s invitation because he wanted to conserve his energies for a more strenuous overseas race – but that is another story.

© Dan McNeil 2005 / 2021
[An original version of this story first appeared in Outsider Ink, 2005. This version appeared in Fugitives & Futurists, 2021]