Exactly one year ago
August 9, 2020 – 1:11am, Hawaii-Aleutian Time
Four-hundred-and-fifty miles northwest of Honolulu, Hawaii
The black hands on Kenneth Gibbs’ watch read 10:45, August 9. Five minutes later it read 11:50, August 8. An hour and twenty one minutes after that he glanced at the device one last time. 1:11, August 9 again. A miracle of time travel? “If only,” thought Gibbs.
Head Coach Kenneth Gibbs and the players of the United States Olympic Men’s Basketball team were on their return flight from Tokyo. Hours earlier they defeated China to capture the gold medal at the XXXII Olympiad.
Gibbs, a historian by education, was a master of dates. What a fascinating phenomenon it would be if he could go back in time. He would change so many things. Especially on the date of August 9. Which August 9 would he alter first? 1945, 1974, 1990, 2014? Definitely 2014. But August 9 of the year 2020 was not to be denied and was having nothing to do with the silly notion of time travel.
The device on his wrist measured his heart rate and tracked his sleep as well. His pulse never varied more than a beat per minute from one date, to the previous and back again: 140. Slumber: zero in the last twenty-four-hour period. There must have been a defect in the instrument, as such readings would indicate someone quite ill. Almost terminal.
The date changes were not a phenomenon at all. They occurred by flying over the International Date Line and crossing from night to morning after the timepiece reached midnight. The entire experience was a hoax. An illusion created by nonexistent demarcations of time and location. Lines drawn by men over the centuries meant to separate and make something lesser or greater than the other. Much like other invisible lines drawn by men to do the same to people, not time.
Kenneth Gibbs considered himself a man of action and of language, not only a historian. Whether during his sixteen years in the Army or as a basketball coach, his place was leading young men on a battlefield or on a court of competition. Also, his words were the language of war and sport. Simple to deliver and in theory, easy to follow. “Defend, attack, cover, move, shoot. Kill,” he’d said often throughout his career.
Yet at the most critical times of his life, all he did was stare and say nothing. Paralyzed by grief, muted by fear. In the vernacular of combat, he froze. In sport, he choked. But today, August 9, 2020 was different. His history of freezing and choking was about to end. His days of living were about to end, too.
“Goddamn America. God bless the Crna Ruka,” Gibbs said. He raised his right hand. The barrel of his weapon was inches from Alphonso Detandt’s forehead. Without hesitation, Gibbs pulled the trigger of a Browning FN, model 1904 pistol. Serial number 19074.
The bullet hit dead center of the brow of the 31-year-old point guard from New Orleans. After entering the skull, the bullet shattered into hundreds of pieces. The frontal lobe died first. Detandt’s problem-solving skills and motor functions disappeared in a millisecond. The part of his brain that made him an all-star basketball player was history.
Next to expire was the parietal region. The sugary taste of a beignet from Café du Monde touching his lips was gone forever. Lastly, and simultaneously, the occipital and temporal lobes hemorrhaged out his sight and sound. No more images and rhythms of the combination of light and music coming from the jazz bars of Bourbon Street.
Detandt was dead before the bullet casing hit the aisle. No one on the aircraft witnessed the shooting, but hundreds of millions of people around the globe did. A minute later, another bullet entered a man’s skull. It was that of Kenneth Gibbs. The time and date on Coach Gibbs’ wrist as his dead hand fell to the deck of the airplane read 1:14am, August 9.
By 2020, the ruse of time travel was more deceptively perpetuated by technology. For in 2020, time and travel meant nothing. Everyone was everywhere at the same time. No one cared about clocks and maps. The automation responsible for the deception on August 9, 2020 came in the form of a computer worn on a wrist, a near supersonic aircraft and a camera paired to the social media platform Facebook Live.
There was no defect in Kenneth Gibbs’ watch. However, one major flaw existed somewhere. It resided in the heart of Kenneth Gibbs. A tragic glitch synced with his brilliant mind. Only fifteen souls would ever come to know and understand the two life-giving vital organs of Kenneth Gibbs. It took the soul of an entire nation to figure out his life-taking Black Hand.
August 9, 2021 – 8am, EDT
Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC
Sara Gujic is the chairperson of what is informally known as the 8/9 Commission. One year later to the date of August 9, 2020, Gujic is leading a two-day briefing before the Senate and House Homeland Security committees, the Senate Cyber Security and Emerging Threats subcommittees and House Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence subcommittees. Six other 8/9 Commission members have joined Gujic to answer questions regarding their specific areas of expertise.
Also in attendance are members of the President’s National Security Council and the directors of all seventeen U.S. intelligence agencies. The briefing is also being broadcast live to over 100 million Americans.
The 8/9 Commission is officially named “The National Commission on the Terrorists Attacks of August 9, 2020 from Within and Upon the United States.” The task force was formed to provide as detailed an account of the events leading up to that tragic day as well as the aftermath of the days, weeks and months following.
Sara Gujic is sitting at the center of a table in the Kennedy Caucus Room. She clicks “Play” on her computer.
“Goddamn America. God Bless the Crna Ruka.”
“Coach, what the hell are you doing?”
“Dad! He’s got another gun. Kill him!"
“Honolulu Control, this is Bombardier, November, niner, eight, seven, come in.”
“November, niner, eight, seven, Honolulu Control, go ahead.”
“Honolulu, niner, eight, seven. Requesting emergency landing, runway two six right. We are 340 nautical miles out.”
“State your emergency niner, eight, seven.”
“We have eight dead passengers on board. Repeat, eight fatalities. We are requesting immediate clearance to land.”
“Niner, eight, seven, copy. Eight fatalities. Squawk seven, five, zero, zero, if required. Change to channel 121.5.”
“Honolulu, niner, eight, seven, Emergency channel 121.5. Radio check?”
“Niner, eight, seven, Honolulu Control. Five by Five. Niner, eight, seven, are you being hijacked?”
“Honolulu, negative, repeat negative, we have not been hijacked. First Officer Williams and crew are in control of the cabin. I am in control of the aircraft.”
“Niner, eight, seven, please maintain course and speed and await further instructions.”
“Honolulu, copy that.”
“November, niner, eight, seven, Honolulu Control.”
“Honolulu, go ahead.”
“Niner, eight, seven, please confirm on your flight manifest, General Orlando Quinn is among your passengers.”
“Honolulu, General Quinn is on board. He is alive. Repeat, General Quinn is confirmed alive and uninjured. As are the remaining passengers and crew. We believe the general may have been the shooter. First Officer Williams has possession of his firearm. He ordered the general and the other passengers to the rear of the aircraft. Fatalities are seven players of the Olympic basketball team and the team’s head coach. Now 290 nautical miles out. Request permission to land.”
“You are cleared to land runway two six right. Be advised. Two F-22’s from Hickam en route to your intercept. They will provide escort until you have entered the circuit.
“We’ve received orders from NORAD and you will be met by ground escort upon landing. Do not taxi to the terminal. Please follow to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Army CID regional office will be on station upon arrival at Hickam. Upon landing change channels to 121.9. Copy?”
“Copy. Will contact Honolulu Ground on 121.9 after landing. Cleared for landing runway two six right.”
“Niner, eight, seven. Honolulu out.”
Sara Gujic clicks “Pause” on her computer.
“Ladies and gentlemen, that was every word recorded from inside the cabin and cockpit of Flight 9 8 7, on August 9, 2020. Flight 9 8 7 was an aircraft on loan from the National Basketball Association. The flight departed Tokyo on the evening of August 9 and was scheduled to land in Los Angeles eleven hours later.
“The passengers on Flight 9 8 7 included the men of the US Basketball team, its head coach and the father of the team’s star player. The father was Army Major General Orlando Quinn, deputy director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in St. Louis, Missouri.
“It is those words and the tragic events of that day which brings us together, a year to the date later. The first four lines were recorded on Facebook Live. The remainder is the complete oral communication transcript taken from the cockpit flight recorder between the pilot and Honolulu International Airport.
“On August 9, 2020, America was under attack. However, unlike September 11, 2001, domestic terrorists – American citizens – carried out these attacks. The result? Hundreds of innocent civilian deaths and casualties in cities across the country. The destruction of critical government assets and potentially disastrous exposure to enemies, the likes of which the country has not endured since World War II and the Civil War. Concurrently, on August 9 and the days following, America was being defended. But not by our national intelligence community, elite military units or law enforcement.
“A small, unsanctioned, clandestine team of twelve men and three women devised a counter-terrorism plan so deceptive in its design and effective in its execution, America was spared the loss of hundreds, if not thousands of additional lives. Probably many more over the course of the days and weeks following August 9. Maybe another civil war. All fifteen were ordered to take life, to kill. They did so knowing a nation’s freedom often depends on just that. They were also prepared to sacrifice their own lives if necessary. Nine of the fifteen did so.
“Esteemed members of Congress and Americans everywhere, the goal of this commission over the next two days is to provide a detailed briefing without political biases or conjecture. We will present the facts as we discovered them. We as a nation must judge how those facts came to be and what we must do to prevent repeating the tragedies that befell our nation on August 9, 2020.
“The work of this commission was classified at a Top Secret – Acknowledged – SAP level. The purpose was to not compromise the integrity of our investigation and the report itself. In short, prior to today, only a handful of people was aware of this commission’s findings. Under executive order from the president, I am authorized to make public the now-unclassified contents of our report without redaction.
“At the request of the president, everyone in this briefing received the full 612-page investigative report written by this commission. I apologize for its length and depth of detail but we left no stone unturned. The same report is available for download free to every American citizen at www.89.gov.
“Also at the president’s request, we received instructions to write a second report but in a narrative form. Much shorter, but more engaging, more insightful hopefully. A ‘novel’, if you will. One written to capture the attention of every American. The objective is to tell the compelling account of August 9 and not the mountain of details, people, dates and places.
“I will present this story over the course of the next two days. The historical references of dates, people, events and places are, to the best of our knowledge, correct. It is only in the dialogue of this narrative where we took some artistic liberties. We ask you to trust we have done our best to be as accurate as possible, with some assumptions applied.
“As I said earlier, the audio file I played for you was recorded on August 9, 2020. A video of the first moments is out for public view, but we felt no need to include it as most people watched multiple times. To show it again would be gratuitous.
“And though the recordings are from August 9, 2020, our story has a much deeper history. Included is the date August 9, 2014. A day six years earlier, when a tragic death, violence and chaos erupted in a previously unknown town outside of St. Louis, Missouri. A town called Ferguson.
“In 2014, two simultaneous events took place in Ferguson, changing America forever. One personal, tragic and secret, the other public, widely-documented and criticized. As a result of the 2014 events, two parallel destinies emerged and ran so closely together as to be undetectable without far greater investigation.
“One, a destiny of two families. The other, of an entire nation. Six years later, on August 9 2020, those parallel destinies turned abruptly on each other and exploded into what we all now refer to as ‘8/9’.
“This briefing will be delivered in five parts. Part One will be a complete accounting of August 9, 2020 itself. This will include, I’m afraid, disturbing verbal testimony and additional video recordings. Evidence most of America has not heard or seen prior to today. A day on which billions across the globe celebrated the conclusion of the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. An event meant to demonstrate a world at peace, but violently interrupted by a series of lethal attacks that stunned our nation into a state of paralysis.
“Part Two; we will tell America about the key characters involved in both the attacks upon and the defense of America. We will share their stories, and their histories. We found one of the shortcomings of the 9/11 Commission Report was its failure to tell us why 9/11 happened. That commission reported extensively on the planning and operational aspects of the 19 hijackers. The 9/11 report also included detailed descriptions of how scores of First-responders knowingly put their lives in grave danger by heading into the destruction, not away.
“But again, the report did not tell us why. What sickness inspired the murderers to carry out such horrible attacks? They did so willingly, knowing September 11th would be their last day on earth.
“How did our first responders, with families, loved ones and futures, cast aside those binding elements of society and find the courage to run face-first into certain death? We believe by sharing the backgrounds of those involved with August 9, we can answer the questions of why the men and women did what they did.
“Part Three, we will present our findings on a group known as the Crna Ruka or the Black Hand as translated into English. This includes the formation, objectives, command structure, strategies, financing and recruitment of members. Right up to the final day of the Olympics. A day the U.S. Basketball team won the gold medal, and then most of that team lost their lives.
“Part Four will be the immediate aftermath of August 9, 2020. The days and few weeks following what some refer to as the longest day in American history. For, in effect, it was. The events we will describe to you began on August 9 in Japan where the date was still August 8 in America. Within a span of thirty six hours, one date on the calendar seemed to last an eternity.
“The final part will be only the beginning of our epilogue. Our final act remains unfinished. Are we stronger and more unified? Have we learned our finest and final lesson on the subject of America once and for all? That our great nation was constructed for two underlying principles and while mutually dependent upon each other are not equally weighted.
“To embrace, encourage and celebrate our differences but not at the expense and priority of defending, with our lives, the unifying and common values which make America truly unique and exceptional.
“This commission will take questions throughout this presentation if further clarification is needed. We have also opened up a bank of 200 recorded phone lines for citizens to have their questions heard. We have teams of operators standing by to screen questions for appropriateness, availability of time and verification of callers. Questions can also be texted to ‘892020’. Before we begin, any questions from the Senate or House committee chairpersons?”
“Madam Chair, sorry to dive into the details so early, but Crna Ruka is obviously not English. Please explain to those who may not know what that phrase means. Also, how do you properly pronounce it?” asked the chairman from the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
“Sir, the phrase is Bosnian, my native language. Its literal translation means ‘black hand.’ The best way I can describe how to pronounce it is to imagine the letters T and S in front. The word begins with a nasal ‘TS’, like a sneeze and ends with a guttural ‘chirna’. ‘Tschirna.’ I hope that helps. You can use Google Translate for a better listen.
“Crna Ruka was the name originally taken by a secret paramilitary organization formed in the early 1900s. Members of this clandestine group planned and successfully assassinated a royal figure. That one murder led to one of the deadliest conflicts in world history – World War I. We will refer Crna Ruka and its English equivalent frequently throughout the next two days. In the context of our report, sometimes the Bosnian version is appropriate. The same is true for the English version.
“In fact, we will share many foreign words, phrases and complete sentences. You will also learn of different names, both proper and informal, honorifics, titles, pejoratives, slurs, code names and nicknames.
“For in the end, this is foremost a story about language. How we identify with those we love and those we don’t. About interpretations and misinterpretations. In the end, our story comes down to a single word and that word’s legacy and currency.
“For your convenience, we have published a list of all foreign language words and phrases used in this report. We also provided a list of all the relevant individuals in the order of their appearance. You will find both in the appendices of the full report you have in front of you.”
“One more question before you start. The president and vice president; why are they not here?” asked the chairwoman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.
“Ma’am, they are indisposed at the moment and apologize for not being able to attend. Let us begin.”
8/9 Commission Chairperson Gujic begins by displaying photographs of all the primary characters on television monitors positioned throughout the room. Everyone present and watching at home instantly recognizes those pictured. Included is a picture of Sara Gujic herself.