Tomorrow is the ninth anniversary of 9/11, one of the darkest days in American history. Everybody remembers where they were when they saw the planes hit the World Trade Center. Everybody, that is, but George W. Bush.

I could never be irreverent about the 9/11 tragedy. But the “official story” made no sense. For example, at a December, 2001 press conference Bush chuckled, “I used to fly myself, and I said, ‘There’s one terrible pilot.’” But for W. to have thought that, he would have had to have seen the first plane hit the towers live. Nobody did. Cameras weren’t trained on the WTC.

Bush described the crucial moment in the classroom. “Andy Card walked over and said, ‘A second plane has hit the tower. America’s under attack.’” In an age when nuclear missiles can get here in half an hour, I’ll never understand how Bush just sat there for seven minutes reading “My Pet Goat” with the kids. (Maybe he wanted to know how it ended?)

Explaining his puzzling inaction Bush said, “I grew up in a period where the idea of America being under attack never entered my mind.” Say what? When W. grew up the U.S. and the USSR had thousands of nukes pointed at each other.

We were so obsessed with a Russian nuclear attack, that in grade school we had frequent “drop drills.” If the teacher emphatically said “drop,” we kids instantly dived under our wooden desks. (As if a wood desk would help during a nuclear blast.)

One time, as I dived under my desk, I got a bad splinter. The school nurse jokingly blamed the Commies as she painfully removed it with tweezers. (Painful for me, although my whining might have been painful for her.)

Back at the press conference, Bush continued, “And I started thinking hard about what it meant to be under attack.” (At that perilous moment Bush gets all “existential?”) “But I knew that when I got all the facts, there would be hell to pay for attacking America.”

There was hell to pay, and we’re still “paying” i.e. Iraq and Afghanistan. As for “facts,” they made them up.

Nov. 22, 1963, is another tragic date in American history. But W.’s father, Poppy Bush, says he doesn’t remember where he was. And yet, only hours after JFK’s assassination, Poppy made a phone call to the FBI in Dallas with a tip about who might have done it! So maybe W.’s memory lapses are genetic?

As we all watched 9/11 on television, it seemed surreal when the towers imploded so neatly into their footprints and the steel turned to dust. I wondered how did Building No. 7 turn to dust when it wasn’t even hit by a jet?

Whenever I write about 9/11 I get e-mails condemning me for questioning the official story. Of course they’re often from people who insisted there were WMDs or that Saddam plotted the WTC attack.

And then there’s the 9/11 Commission. When Bush and Cheney finally agreed to testify they did so only if they weren’t under oath. (Why not?) And they insisted on testifying together. Weird. Then again, Charlie McCarthy never went anywhere without Edgar Bergen.

On this 9/11 anniversary our national emotion seems invested in the proposed building of “The Ground Zero Mosque.” It’s called that despite that it’s two blocks from Ground Zero and a mosque is a holy place devoted solely to prayer for true believers. This is to be a 13-story “Islamic Cultural Center,” open to New Yorkers of all faiths, and will include a culinary school and a basketball court! (To train terrorist chefs and point guards?)

But on Facebook and at Tea Party functions the project is described as a Muslim “Trojan Horse” from where evildoers will plot America’s destruction. Never mind freedom of religion, or that New York Mayor Bloomberg, many Christian and Jewish leaders, and even many of the victim’s families are in favor of it. Never mind that for 40 years, and without incident, there’s been a mosque four blocks from Ground Zero.

In Florida tomorrow, Pastor Terry Jones is going to stage a Koran burning despite a warning from Gen. Patreus that, “The display would be dangerous for U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan.” But Pastor Jones seems determined to have his 15 minutes of fame.

Sometimes as a nation we conveniently overlook the Constitution. After Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans living on the Pacific Coast were forced into “War Relocation Camps.” Currently, if some otherwise rational and freedom-loving people have their way, we may overlook it again.

Watching this emotionally charged debate on an anniversary of 9/11 makes me feel as though the murderers who killed 3,000 innocent Americans caused even deeper damage. I hope we can somehow find a way to remember 9/11 without forgetting who we are.

Jack can be reached at Jnsmdp@aol.com.

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