The September 11 attacks placed all kinds of characters—some sinister, some sympathetic—in the public eye, both making careers and ending others. It helped conspiracy theorists attract followings, terrorists earn life sentences, rescue dogs win medals, and patriotic country music stars gain crossover fans. Let's check in with some of the folks (and dogs) for whom 9/11 became a watershed personal branding moment, whether they intended it to or not.
John Walker Lindh
Then: Lindh received the nickname "American Taliban" after Afghan Northern Alliance forces captured him in Afghanistan during the first few months of our endless war there. Lindh, just 20 at the time, had been helping the Taliban army. At the time of his capture he had a beard and a severely parted man-bob and looked like an extraordinarily dusty Animal Collective enthusiast. President George W. Bush called him "some misguided Marin County hot-tubber" in keeping with his "I get everything wrong about everything" approach to life.
Now: He's in the federal ADX Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, serving 20 years.
Then: A French citizen, Moussaoui was arrested on an immigration a few weeks before the attacks and found possessing a bunch of different aviation-related items. Eventually he was convicted of conspiring to kill American citizens for his role as a fall-back "20th hijacker." Like the other members of that club, his services weren't needed. Always a bridesmaid.
Now: In the ADX Supermax, forever and ever.
Then: On December 2001, Reid—a British-born member of al-Queda—tried to blow up an airplane with a shoe bomb during a Paris-to-Miami flight. He was charged with eight terrorism-related crimes, plead guilty in 2002, and received a life sentence.
Now: In the ADX Supermax, forever and ever. In 2009, he went on a hunger strike. Every time we take our shoes off at the airport, we do it because of Reid. But his legacy's about to dim as the days of shoe-removing are coming to an end.
Then: A Chicago resident, Padilla supposedly attended Al-Queda Dirty Bomb Academy in Pakistan and traveled around that country and Afghanistan around late 2001-early 2002. Federal agents arrested him for being a material witness to the 9/11 attacks, and then he was detained as an "enemy combatant" under President Bush's orders. He got to hang out on a boat in South Carolina for the next few years, which wasn't as relaxing as it sounds. He wasn't charged with any crime until 2005, which was crazy.
Now: Padilla was sentenced to 17 years plus change at ADX Supermax. (Man, if you had some sort of 9/11 terrorist fetish, you would really go wild in that place.) He's also suing the government.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
Then: According to the 9/11 Commission, this Kuwaiti al-Queda member was the main organizer of 9/11. He also played a part the 1993 WTC bombing and many other terrorist attacks. His March 2003 capture portrait's the most embarrassing in 9/11 history, because it looks like he just woke up after a long night of too much Hypnotiq.
Now: He's still at Guantánamo Bay, still facing war crimes and murder charges, and still facing the death penalty. But at least nobody's waterboarding him anymore.
Then: The Austin-based radio show host and apocalyptic video-maker became one of the leading lights of the 9/11 Truther Movement, asserting that the government made 9/11 happen. Many radio stations subsequently dropped his show.
Now: Jones still has his radio show (syndicated nationwide by the Genesis Communications Network), still wages Infowars, and sells toxic tap-water merch.
Then: A former LAPD officer, Ruppert became a professional conspiracy theorist and used his website and newsletter, both named From The Wilderness, to promote 9/11 conspiracy theories. he gave lectures to scam-hungry college students, sold more than 100,000 copies of his government-blaming book, Crossing The Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil (probably to college students), and showed up in this 9/11 documentary. He also took on Alex Jones.
Now: From the Wilderness ceased publication in 2006. At the time, Ruppert moved to Venezuela and said he wasn't coming back, but eventually he did. Slate reports that he lives in California with some chickens and a box of "personal emergency survival supplies" in a house whose "upstairs hallway and office are adorned with photos of fellow conspiracy theorists."
Then: Borders was a new Bank of America hire and at her job when the first plane hit the north tower, where she worked. Her boss told her to stay working, but Borders listened to her gut and left in a hurry. (Note to self: Don't listen to your boss.) Then the tower collapsed. A photographer caught her in a nearby building lobby and took a picture of her while she was covered in dust. Hence she became "the dust lady."
Now: Borders went through tough times after 9/11, but she just completed a rehab program this year and calls the death of Osama bin Laden "a bonus" in her recovery. Whatever works.
Roselle, Salty, and Appollo the Guide Dogs
Then: Salty and Roselle were guide dogs who led their blind owners out of the WTC before the towers collapsed. Appollo was an NYPD rescue dog. All three won the Dickin Medal for animal gallantry, and Roselle got a book.
Then: Jefferson is the Verizon Airfone customer service supervisor in Chicago who talked to and prayed with United Airlines Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer, who told her about the passengers' efforts to fight back against their hijackers. Beamer's the man who said "let's roll."
Now: In 2006 she wrote a book about her experiences. It's pretty religious. Sometimes she gives interviews.
Then: Rees combined clip art and incisive commentary about post-9/11 paranoia, nationalism, and warmongering to come up with Get Your War On: a comic strip in which office workers traded cynical observations about how stupid our politics had become. In a former life, this author talked to him about the release of his first GYWO book.
Now: Rees ended the strip on George W. Bush's last day in office. But then he brought it back, because Bush's wars are now Obama's wars. Today Rees lives in the Hudson River Valley of New York, runs an artisanal pencil-sharpening business, creates wonderful things on the Internet, inspires Jamba Juiceheads, and makes live appearances.
Then: His song "Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue (The Angry American)," was inspired by the attacks and featured diplomatic one-liners such as "We'll put a boot in your ass, it's the American way." He subsequently got into a flaming match with the anti-war Dixie Chicks.
Now: He's still around, and politically he makes no sense! He's been a Democrat who has praised Barack Obama as "the best Democratic candidate we've had since Bill Clinton." But then he registered as an independent right before the 2008 election and said he admired Sarah Palin. But then he praised Obama again.
Thomas Ewan Franklin
Then: A staff photographer for The Record in Bergen County, N.J., Franklin took the photo (Raising the Flag at Ground Zero) of firefighters raising the U.S. flag amidst the ruins of the fallen towers.
Now: Franklin still works at the Record, which is pretty amazing given what's happened to the media industry and the economy over the past decade.
Then: The mayor of 9/11. What a leader, huh? Just led all over the place. Then he cleaned up all the rubble in only 29 hours, all by himself.
Now: He's founded a security consulting firm, become a partner at the Bracewell & Giuliani law firm, run for president, gotten divorced, gotten new glasses, and given millions of dollars' worth of 9/11-themed speeches.
The 9/11 Commission
Then: These guys (and one woman) were charged with figuring out exactly what happened on September 11.
- Thomas Kean (commission chair): The ex-president of Drew University and former New Jersey governor is retired.
- Lee H. Hamilton (commission vice-chair): A former Congressional rep from Indiana, Hamilton chairs or serves on the boards of various nonprofits and political outfits. He endorsed Obama for president.
- Richard Ben-Veniste: Since 2002, he's been a partner at Mayer Brown LLP.
- Max Cleland: The former Democratic U.S. senator from Georgia, triple amputee, Vietnam vet, was a vocal critic of the Bush administration and resigned from the commission. In 2002, the campaign of his Republican Senate opponent, Saxby Chambliss, ran an ad putting his image alongside those of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. The ads must have worked, because Chambliss won.
- Fred F. Fielding: The former White House counsel is chair of the National Legal Center for the Public Interest.
- Jamie Gorelick: A former deputy AG in the Clinton administration (and lady!), Gorelick remains a practicing lawyer.
- Slade Gorton: The former Republican senator from Washington, named after one of the best glam bands of the 1970s, chairs and serves on the advisory boards of various organizations.
- Bob Kerrey: The ex-senator from Nebraska took Cleland's place after Cleland resigned. He became president of New York City's New School and was serving at the time of the Great Student Occupation of 2009. He almost became president of the MPAA last year.
- John F. Lehman: A former secretary of the Navy. Doing the advisory board thing.
- Timothy J. Roemer: Some people thought that Roemer, a former congressman from Indiana, would be picked to run as Obama's VP, but it didn't happen. Instead he served as ambassador to India for a while.
- James R. Thompson: The former governor of Illinois is the only ex-executive of that state who's still alive and not in prison or going to one.
Then: McKinney was a Congresswoman in Georgia who said George W. Bush may have known about the attacks before they happened and allowed them to proceed so that defense contractors could profit.
Now: McKinney lost her seat and is now a vidalia onion for the Green Party.
Then: A counter-terrorism advisor during the Bush and Clinton administrations, Clarke criticized the war on Iraq and the Bushes' handling of al-Queda threats leading up to the attack (i.e., totally ignoring all of his efforts to warn them that al-Queda might become "a problem" if something weren't done). He appeared before the 9/11 Commission and apologized to victims' families.
Now: He writes books, is a consultant for ABC News, heads a strategic planning and corporate risk management firm, and teaches at Harvard.
Then: Stroman spent the first few days after 9/11 looking for anyone who seemed "Arab." He ended up shooting three people—Vasudev Patel (Hindu, from India), Wagar Hasan (Muslim, from Pakistan), and Rais Bhuyian (Muslim, from Bangladesh). Bhuyian survived his attack but was blinded in one eye; Patel and Hasan died.
Now: Stroman was sent to death row and was executed in July 2011. Bhuyian had become a vocal opponent of the execution. Someone should make a movie.
Johnny Micheal Spann
Then: A CIA paramilitary operations officer, Spann was the first American casualty of the Afghanistan War. He'd just questioned John Walker Lindh before being attacked by Taliban fighters.
Now: He's buried in Arlington National Cemetery. A memorial star on the CIA Memorial Wall honors his memory.
David Hicks, aka Muhammed Dawood
Then: An Australian, Hicks was sold to the U.S. military for $1,000 after being captured by the Afghan Northern Alliance (Little known fact: Afghanistan's two main exports are heroin and Australians). He was taken to Guantanamo after being labelled an enemy combatant and convicted of providing material support for terrorism in 2006. Then things happened and he took an Alford plea (the same kind of weird plea deal that the West Memphis Three got) and went back to Australia to serve nine more months.
Now: He's married to a human rights activist and lives in Sydney. In October 2010 his memoir, Guantanamo: My Journey, came out.
Then: The widow of Flight 93 passenger Beamer, Lisa Beamer wrote a book, Let's Roll!: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Courage, to deal with her husband's death. She also started a foundation named after her husband.
Now: Fox calls her a paragon of grace, though not everyone agrees.
The Jersey Girls
Then: The lobbying efforts of these four New Jersey 9/11 widows—Patty Casazza, Lorie Van Auken, Kristen Breitweiser, and Mindy Kleinberg—helped lead to the creation of the 9/11 Commission. The widows were part of the 9/11 Family Steering Committee, which was part of the 9/11 Families Movement.
Now: Breitweiser writes for HuffPo, van Auken's a bee keeper fighting for bees' rights, and Cassazza and Kleinberg have stayed out of the public eye for the past few years.
[Images of Reid, Moussaoui, Guiliani, 9/11 Commission reports, Worley, Beamer, and the dogs (top image) and Lindh, Mohammed, Keith, Franklin's photo, Clarke, and Hicks via AP. Image of Borders via Getty]