Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Remembering John O'Neill

Wick's World


September 7, 2017

Labor Day usually has little to do with labor and a lot to do with the end of summer and the State Fair. It is almost replaced in importance by the upcoming anniversary of what is simply known as "Nine-Eleven."

One of the most intriguing heroes to die in the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center was a retired counter terrorism chief at the F.B.I. named John O’Neill. It was late August 2001 and John O’Neill, a 25-year veteran at the F.B.I., had his fill with both the agency and the Bush Administration. The World Trade Center needed someone to head up security and he had just received an offer to take the position. It paid three times the current government salary on which he had been struggling to live a James Bond style life.

O’Neill, widely known around the F.B.I. as the nation’s foremost expert on Osama bin Laden, had recently encountered a wall of resistance from the U.S. State Department regarding his investigations of al Qaeda and terrorism. It is alleged the Bush administration and U.S. corporate oil interests had a deal going with the Taliban to build a pipeline across Afghanistan. This was going on even as the State Department was negotiating the handing over of Osama bin Laden by the Taliban in exchange for economic aid and recognition of the legitimacy of the Afghani government. This distressed O’Neill to no end as he was certain al Qaeda was in the final stages of an attack on U.S. soil and no one was listening to him.

O’Neill’s dream was to someday head the F.B.I. He had been in awe of the organization since he was a young child. He grew up watching his hero, Efram Zimbalist Jr., starring in the television series "The F.B.I." The problem for O’Neill was that he had rubbed too many people the wrong way while working his way up the ladder since first joining the bureau in 1976. He felt his dream would never be realized. So it came as no surprise that O’Neill found himself sitting in an office in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, under attack by the very organization he had so obsessingly pursued.

It is still unclear just exactly how O’Neill, called by Frontline as "The Man Who Knew," died that day. He made it out of the tower before it collapsed and was seen standing out in front of the building on the sidewalk, speaking by cell phone with his son, assuring him he was alright. The official version of what happened next states that an F.B.I. agent (are these guys just conveniently hanging around?) saw O’Neill walk off toward Tower Two minutes before it collapsed, never again to be seen alive. His body was found and identified in the rubble a week later, a victim of his nemesis Osama bin Laden.

The man either died a hero trying to rescue people inside Tower Two, or he died a hero silenced by his own government that felt he knew too much. To this day, many never-ending conspiracy theories swirl around the events of that fateful day.

Unfortunately for O’Neill, the "fallen hero" story does not end here, but rather at the gravesite. It seems O’Neill had one thing in common with the al Qaeda leader, he had a harem. Although O’Neill only had one wife, three women showed up at the funeral, meeting each other for the first time. He not only had a wife in New Jersey that he never got around to divorcing, he also had partners in Chicago and D.C. and a girlfriend he was dating in New York City. Here’s a case of a guy rolling over in his grave before he was actually in it.

An interesting repercussion of John O’Neill’s sordid relationships is that he took on the political affiliation of whichever party the current partner he was with belonged to, so consequently he would alternate from being a moderate democrat to being a moderate republican.

Despite all of the tabloid material about O’Neill’s private life that surfaced after his death, O’Neill still deserves "fallen hero" status. After all, having to deal with several spouses or lovers simultaneously should be an achievement complicated enough for any individual to pull off.

I’m very happy with having one wife with whom I celebrated our 43rd wedding anniversary last night. The $160 dinner grew to nearly $250 after spending three and a half hours at one of St. Paul’s finest restaurants. We were having such a good time that we forgot to feed the parking meter. John O’Neill, you should have been so lucky.


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