National Press Club

First Sec'y of Homeland Security Describes Heroes, Mistakes

September 29, 2009 | By Heather Forsgren Weaver | HeatherForsgrenWeaver@gmail.com

Tom Ridge was governor of Pennsylvania for six years, nine months and five days and loved every minute, he told a Club Book Rap Monday. But when the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks occurred and President Bush asked him to come to Washington to create what would become the Department of Homeland Security, he couldn’t say no.

Ridge is the author of “The Test of Our Time: America Under Siege … and How We Can Be Safe Again.” He signed copies of the book purchased at the event to benefit the Eric Friedheim National Journalism Library.

Ridge wrote the book because he believed the first Homeland Security secretary “should write his thoughts down,” he said.

Ridge said he is concerned about complacency as time passes. He reminded the audience that it was eight years between attacks on the World Trade Center. The World Trade Center was bombed Feb. 26, 1993, killing six people.

While the books hails the DHS heroes he worked with, he also acknowledges some mistakes. For example, it was a mistake “to laud President Bush for his efforts on the War on Terror” when the threat level was raised for some areas in August 2004, between the two political conventions. It made it seem as if the threat level was increased for political purposes, he said. It was the first and last time he mentioned Bush in relation to a threat assessment, Ridge said.

In addition to running a security consulting firm, Ridge Global, Ridge is on several corporate boards and is involved in building the Flight 93 Memorial. Flight 93 crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pa., while Ridge was governor. He recalled flying to the site on 9/11 “looking for a debris field and it wasn’t there.” There was just a hole. He has only missed one anniversary, he said.

Frank Kane of the Book and Author Committee introduced Ridge. Ridge will participate in the annual Book Fair Nov. 17.