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Noted in Passing: This passage from Tom Clancy’s 1994 Debt of Honor

The streak of light startled Sato, and he flinched somewhat from surprise rather than fear, then saw the missile heading for his left-inboard engine. The explosion was surprisingly loud, and alarms told him that the engine was totally destroyed, but he was a mere thousand meters away from the white building. The aircraft dipped and yawed slightly to the left. Sato compensated for it without a thought, adjusting trim and nosing down for the south side of the American house of government. They would all be there. The President, the parliamentarians, all of them. He selected his point of impact just as finely as any routine landing and his last thought was that if they could kill his family and disgrace his country, then they would pay a very special price for that. His last voluntary act was to select the point of impact, two-thirds of the way up the stone steps. That would be just about perfect, he knew . . .

Nearly three hundred Ions of aircraft and fuel struck the east face of the building at a speed of three hundred knots. The aircraft disintegrated on impact. No less fragile than a bird, its speed and mass had already fragmented the columns outside the walls. Next came the building itself. As soon as the wings broke up, the engines, the only really solid objects on the aircraft, shot forward, one of them actually smashing into and beyond the House Chamber.

The Capitol has no structural steel within its stone walls, having been built in an age when stone piled on stone was deemed the most long-lasting form of construction. The entire east face of the building’s southern half was smashed to gravel, which shot westward-but the real damage took a second or two more, barely time for the roof to start falling down on the nine hundred people in the chamber: one hundred tons of jet fuel erupted from shredded fuel tanks, vaporizing from the passage through the stone blocks. A second later it ignited from some spark or other, and an immense fireball engulfed everything inside and outside of the building.

The volcanic flames reached out, seeking air and corridors that held it, forcing a pressure WHVC throughout the building, even into the basement. The initial impact was enough to drop them all to their knees, and now the Secret Service agents were on the edge of real panic. Ryan’s first instinctive move was to grab his youngest daughter, then to push the rest of the family to the floor and cover them with his body. He was barely down when something made him look back, north up the tunnel. The noise came from there, and a second later there was an advancing orange wall of flame. There was not even time to speak. He pushed his wife’s head down, and then two more bodies fell on top to cover them. There wasn’t time for anything else but to look back at the advancing flames- -over their heads, the fireball had already exhausted the supply of oxygen. The mushrooming cloud leaped upwards, creating its own ministorm and sucking air and gas out of the building whose occupants it had already killed- -it stopped, not a hundred feet away, then pulled away as rapidly as it had advanced, and there was an instant hurricane in the tunnel, going the other way. A door was wrenched off its hinges, sliding toward them but missing.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • John Venlet March 15, 2022, 12:09 PM

    Well, Washington D.C. is today’s Sodom, so there’s that.

  • Just saying March 15, 2022, 1:12 PM

    For a man supposedly touched by Christ’s salvation, you surely have a dark and malevolent fascination with the works of Satan. It appears again and again in your posts, the great deceiver may have touched you instead.

    • James ONeil March 15, 2022, 7:44 PM


    • TheUnfryableTurducken March 16, 2022, 5:56 AM

      He’s trying. (Very.) And after several geological ages in purgatory working off that Bob G Gig karma he’ll be strumming a harp and poetasting in the Fields of the Lord… Whereas sanctimonious twats like you are bound for Hieronymus Boschville and a fish market at midday’s worth of metaphorical reincarnation. Just Saying.

  • John Venlet March 15, 2022, 1:34 PM

    For a man supposedly touched by Christ’s salvation, you surely have a dark and malevolent fascination with the works of Satan.

    I do not think the destruction of Sodom was the work of Satan. Nor do I think the destruction of this world will be a pleasant affair.

  • Gordon Scott March 15, 2022, 2:30 PM

    I read this book several times, as I did all of Clancy’s yarns. I remember thinking that the author conveniently located Jack Ryan and family in the tunnels, outside the fireball, when most likely his family would have been in the gallery, and Ryan in the cloakroom behind the speaker’s chair. But hey, authors get to do stuff like that.

    I do miss Tom Clancy.

  • Gordon Scott March 15, 2022, 2:34 PM

    Oh, and Just Saying:
    Our host had the fires come for him. A little black kitten woke him up, and he escaped the fires–not unscathed, but he escaped.

    You probably didn’t know that, Just Saying.

  • LostMyPlunger March 15, 2022, 4:48 PM

    ’tis a consummation devoutly to be wish’d.

    Still, if one is going to dream then should dream bigger. Much bigger.

    And then I’d send a drone after Lot and his Daughters too.


    Just Because. Plus why the Irishman wore two watches.

    And then I’d bulldoze the Pillar of Salt.

    That’s a one-coffee 8am rant. Just wait until Putler nukes the Nespresso pod plant.

  • John the River March 15, 2022, 6:02 PM

    An out of control fire feeding on fuel and sucking air is difficult to describe, a fire that roars, a fire in whos presence and ten feet away blisters your skin, skin that hangs in sick folds from your hands and arm. Pain, you are looking at pain.
    A fire that melts or blisters all the plastic or vinyl on your car twenty feet away. A fire that destroys your home and everything you have created or acquired in twenty-two years.
    Gerard knows and I know. I sincerely hope that no one here ever gets to know that.

  • Fletcher Christian March 15, 2022, 6:41 PM

    What a crying shame that it is extremely unlikely the USA will ever have a president like Jack Ryan. Expert in foreign policy and economics, and well-versed in the culture of an intelligence organisation that is itself far better than the real-world CIA. The last six, from earliest to now:

    A peanut farmer with virtually no knowledge of the world outside the USA.
    A bit-part actor – admittedly, turned out surprisingly well.
    A Texan ignoramus, bought and paid for by Big Oil.
    A serial adulterer and perjurer, with an even nastier wife.
    Another Texan ignoramus, bought and paid for by Big Oil.
    An affirmative-action President.
    A low-rent TV presenter, otherwise known for managing to bankrupt a casino and never paying his bills.
    And now – a senile septuagenarian, who did basically nothing in his forty-odd years in the Senate.

    Can’t you do any better than that?

    • Vanderleun March 15, 2022, 7:01 PM

      Nope. That’s a busted flush of bitter tears.

  • Namah Loess March 16, 2022, 4:45 AM

    I read it at 30,000+ feet in 1995 and it really stuck with me. When I heard about the towers on that day, this was the first thing I thought of. I wonder how much this book influenced those bad guys.