Posts Tagged With: terrorist attack

How 9/11 Changed Us: Mike Spann

On this 10th Anniversary of the September 11th attacks, I want to share this USA Today with you.  It’s from the same article as the three I’ve shared earlier this week.  However, this ones follows the story of Mike Spann, the first American casualty in Afghanistan.  

Mike Spann poses with his children Allison, 9, right, Emily, 3, left and Jake, 6 months, taken at their home in Manassas, Va., the day he left for Afghanistan in October 2001.

Mike Spann: First to fall in Afghanistan

A 32-year-old CIA paramilitary officer, Johnny “Mike” Spann goes to Afghanistan after 9/11 to fight the Taliban, the Islamist regime that provided al-Qaeda with a base from which to attack the U.S. He’s at one of the crucial battles of the war, then becomes its first American combat fatality — and an inspiration to his Alabama hometown.

By Rick Hampson USA TODAY

9.11.2001: More than most Americans, Mike Spann, a CIA paramilitary officer and former Marine officer, realizes life has been changed by the terror attacks. He knows the hunt for Osama bin Laden and the fight against those who sheltered him in Afghanistan will demand the skills of people like him.

9.19.2001: Spann e-mails his father, Johnny, in Winfield, Ala., his feelings about the coming war: “Support your government and military, especially when bodies start coming home. Our way of life is at stake. We must fight for it. … What everyone needs to understand is these fellows hate you. They hate you because you are an American.”

10.1.2001: Spann prepares to go to Afghanistan to fight alongside the anti-TalibanNorthern Alliance. He has decided to volunteer even though he is married (to a fellow CIA employee) and the father of three young children. He tells his father that after the attacks by al-Qaeda, which operated from Afghanistan with the consent of the Taliban regime, he owes it not just to his nation, but to his family.

10.18.2001: Shannon Spann, Mike’s wife, spends a typical night at home in Northern Virginia with the children. She helps one child with homework, reads the Bible and thinks about Mike’s safe return, writing in her journal, “I can’t wait until we’re all together.” She is caring for Mike’s two daughters from his first marriage — Alison, 9, and Emily, 4 — as well as her son with Mike, 6-month-old Jake.

11.24.2001: For weeks, Spann has been with the Northern Alliance, traveling through rugged and dangerous terrain, sometimes on horseback. With their military situation in northern Afghanistan becoming critical, hundreds of pro-Taliban fighters — most of them non-Afghans — surrender near the city of Mazar-e-Sharif.

11.25.2001: Mike Spann is interrogating POWs at a makeshift jail. He tries without success to question an English-speaking prisoner whom he does not realize is a fellow American: John Walker Lindh.

Moments later, a riot breaks out. Spann is killed in the fighting, becoming the war’s first U.S. combat fatality.

12.1.2001: Winfield, a Bible Belt town of about 5,000, mourns the loss of a local hero. Spann is remembered as an all-American kid who got good grades in school, went to church and on weekends drank a little beer and raised a little hell. Once distant, “the conflict has become very personal,” writes editor Tracy Estes in the local Journal Record.

12.6.2001: Spann is remembered at a church memorial service in Winfield. His daughter Alison is accompanied by her grandfather to the altar, where he reads a letter she’s written: “Daddy, I will miss you dearly. I will miss you, but I know you’re going to a better place. Thank you for making the world a better place. Love, your dear daughter Alison.” Later, she places the letter in her father’s casket.

12.10.2001: Spann is buried in Section 34, site 2359, at Arlington National Cemetery. Wife Shannon tells mourners that after the 9/11 attacks “he didn’t separate serving his country from serving his family. When Mike took the oath to defend the Constitution … he took that oath to our family as well. He just really thought it was his duty as a father to protect his children from terrorists.”

2.13.2002: The father of accused Taliban member John Walker Lindh is rebuffed when he tries to shake hands with Mike Spann’s father, Johnny. After his son’s arraignment in Alexandria, Va., Frank Lindh approaches Spann. But Spann does not shake his hand. Spann and Mike’s mother later tell reporters the defendant is a traitor. They believe their son died as the result of a prisoners’ plot of which Lindh must have been aware. A news video has surfaced that shows Spann talking to Lindh shortly before the riot.

7.15.2002: Lindh pleads guilty to charges with maximum penalties of 20 years. The plea bargain, which stuns a packed courtroom, averts a trial on 10 counts that could have brought life in prison. Lindh, 21, admits to U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III that he illegally supported the Taliban as an infantryman. Shannon Spann says that in pleading guilty, Lindh “agreed with the government that his conduct was terrorist activity.” But Spann’s father says his son and other Americans battling terrorists “have been let down.”

10.4.2002: At Lindh’s sentencing, Johnny Spann says Lindh bears some responsibility for his son’s death: “My grandchildren would love to know their dad would be back in 20 years. The punishment doesn’t fit the crime.” Ellis says he wouldn’t have approved the plea bargain if the government showed any evidence of his culpability in Spann’s death. A teary Lindh tells Ellis he had “no role” in it.

9.14.2003: A new biography of Lindh questions whether he was really unaware of plans for the prison rebellion in which Spann was killed. Mark Kukis writes in My Heart Became Attached: The Strange Journey of John Walker Lindh: “It seems impossible that (Lindh) would not have known people in the (prison) basement were armed and plotting a revolt when he sat before Spann, saying nothing that might warn Spann.”

12.18.2007: Mike Spann’s father says he opposes an attempt by Lindh’s parents to getPresident Bush to commute their son’s 20-year sentence and set him free.

5.28.2010: Alison Spann graduates from high school in Winfield, where she lives with her grandparents. People remember the words Alison wrote for her father’s memorial service, and that his death was not her last tragedy. Shortly after he was killed, her mother, Johnny’s ex-wife, died of cancer.

6.7.2010: Afghanistan passes Vietnam as America’s longest continuous war. In Winfield, people remember the war’s first U.S. fatality. Almost everyone appreciates Mike Spann’s sacrifice, but they disagree on whether the war should continue.

Spann’s father says it’s imperative to keep the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan before 9/11, out of power. Dale Weeks, one of Mike’s boyhood friends, isn’t so sure: “It’s time to start bringing people home. We’ve done about all we can do.”

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How 9/11 Changed Us: Matthew Ridout

A third of USA Today‘s stories of individuals since 9/11.  

Matthew Ridout watched the 9/11 attacks at his high school in southern Virginia.

Matthew Ridout: A conversion and a calling

A young man watches the 9/11 attacks on TV at his high school in southern Virginia and is determined afterward to serve in the military and to learn more about the attackers’ culture and creed. Those impulses propel him through the decade, taking him in unexpected vocational and spiritual directions.

By Rick Hampson, USA TODAY

9.11.2001: Matthew Ridout, a junior at Thomas DaleHigh School in Chester, Va., watches the 9/11 attacks on TV. Students in his classroom, which lacks cable, take apart a spiral notebook and make an antenna.

9.14.2001: Thomas Dale students observe a moment of silence for the victims of the attacks. Teachers and students weep openly as God Bless America plays over the public address system. Ridout, who has always dreamed of a military career, is both appalled and intrigued by the attacks. He wants to learn more about why those men committed such a crime, and what they believe.

10.5.2001: Ridout is at football practice two days before the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. His teammates are confident the U.S. will “kick ass” and be done in a few months. Ridout hopes they’re right.

1.30.2002: Ridout has visited a Marines recruiter to discuss enlisting after graduation. Although his family wants Ridout to go to college, the 9/11 attacks have made him feel it’s more important than ever to participate in the national defense. The attacks also have aroused his interest in Arab culture and Islam — in part because he wants to be an intelligence officer.

3.13.2003: Ridout worries about the impending invasion of Iraq. He believes Americans are blindly following the president into an unnecessary war in the name of patriotism. “Iraq will be our next Vietnam,” he tells a friend at track practice. His pal disagrees: “We’re going to be in and out.” After the invasion, Ridout decides to put off joining the military. He enters Roanoke College in Salem, Va., where he hopes to learn more about Islam.

1.12.2004: Start of second semester at Roanoke College. Ridout is enrolled inIntroduction to Islam.” As a Christian growing up in the Bible Belt, he knows almost nothing about Islam. But he thinks it might prepare him for a career as an intelligence officer.

4.19.2004: Last day of classes. Ridout completes course work for “Intro to Islam,” which has been a revelation. He’s attracted to what he sees as Islam’s focus on peace, tolerance and justice. He’s surprised by how much Islam has in common with Christianity, yet finds it free of some Christian doctrines he can’t accept. He wants to learn more.

10.4.2005: The beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Ridout’s first as a Muslim. He formally converted in his dorm room one day in March, reciting the Islamic profession of faith: “There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his messenger.”

9.13.2006: Ridout is disappointed by his campus’s tepid response to the fifth anniversary of 9/11. He helped organize remembrance ceremonies, but only a few people showed up.

5.5.2007: Ridout graduates with plans to work for Habitat for Humanity in Columbia, S.C. There, for the first time, he’ll begin attending Friday prayers at a mosque.

12.1.2008: On his 24th birthday, Ridout reports for boot camp at the Navy’s Great Lakes training center near Chicago. He has joined the Navy Reserve, realizing a longtime goal of serving in the military. He hopes the flexibility of the Reserve will allow him to continue his study of religion.

9.13.2010: Ridout begins classes at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut. He is pursuing a master’s degree in religious studies and hopes eventually to get his doctorate and teach college. He feels his conversion to Islam led to a deeper curiosity about religion.

10.15.2010: Ridout learns from a fellow Navy reservist that another unit will go to Afghanistan next year. He is asked whether he knows anyone in his own unit who would want to volunteer. He says yes: “Me!” Although he opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq, he thinks intervention in Afghanistan — where Osama bin Laden was based — is justified. Ridout has been in the Reserve for two years and hasn’t experienced discrimination because of his Muslim faith. But most who meet him — a white man from the Bible Belt — don’t suspect what his religion is.

5.5.2011: End of second semester at Hartford Seminary, where Ridout has completed a year’s work toward his master’s in religious studies. He hopes to return in 2012 to finish work toward his degree. But he’ll spend the next year with his Navy Reserve military police unit in Afghanistan, where as a petty officer 3rd class he’ll guard detainees — many of them Muslims like himself. He remembers the harm done by U.S. military jailers who abused prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq; he says that can’t happen again.

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How 9/11 Changed Us: Welles Crowther

A 2nd of USA Today‘s personal snapshots of life after 9/11.  This one follows the family of a young man who helped many people escape the North Tower before its collapse.  

Welles Crowther: Man with the red bandanna

The family of a man lost in the 9/11 terror attacks wonders how he died, and what he was doing at the end.A red bandanna, which gives rise to a legend, helps answer those questions.

By Rick Hampson, USA TODAY (<= click for full article)

9.11.2001: Welles Crowther, a 24-year-old equities trader, is working on the 104th floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center when the first hijacked airliner hits the building’s twin. He leaves a reassuring phone message for his mother at home in Nyack, N.Y. After that, nothing. His parents are left to wonder: How did he die? What was he doing at the end?

11.1.2001:Ladies’ Home Journal publishes a first-person account by Judy Wein, an AON Corp. vice president who was injured and narrowly escaped from the south tower on Sept. 11. She writes: “A man with a red handkerchief over his face seemed to appear out of nowhere and pointed to the stairs. ‘Anyone who can get up and walk, get up now,’ he urged the other people on the floor.” But she cannot identify the man. Crowther was a volunteer fireman who always carried a red-print bandanna in his back pocket. But his family and friends, who’d have made the connection, don’t see the article.

3.19.2002: Crowther’s remains are found near firefighters and emergency workers killed at a command center in the lobby of the south tower. Notified three days later, his family will note the significance of the date he was found: 19 was his lucky number — the one he wore playing varsity hockey at Nyack High School and lacrosse at Boston College.

5.25.2002: A New York Times article about the upper floors of the Trade Center on Sept. 11 says a “mysterious man appeared at one point, his mouth and nose covered with a red handkerchief” to help rescue several women from a dark, smoky stairway. One, Ling Young, says that she was steered toward safety by the man; that he called, “This way to the stairs!”; that he followed her down the stairs, carrying a woman on his back; that when they reached clearer air, he put the woman down and went back up the smoky stairs. But no one can identify the man.

5.26.2002: “Oh my God, Welles, there you are!” Alison Crowther reads the Times story and realizes the unidentified hero was her son, who since elementary school had carried a bandanna — a habit he picked up from his father, Jefferson. She overnights Ling Young, who’s mentioned in the story, a photo of her son. Young confirms that the man, who’d taken off the bandanna to speak to her, was Crowther. “You don’t forget a face like that,” she tells Alison. Two weeks later, the TheJournal News of Rockland County, N.Y., identifies the man in the red bandanna as Crowther. It quotes Young as saying that although he saved others, “he didn’t save himself.”

Spreading word: Jefferson Crowther holds a photo he took of his son, Welles. He says his job is to tell as many people as he can of his son's bravery on Sept. 11.

6.23.2002: Alison and Jefferson Crowther have lunch at home with two women Welles helped, Judy Wein and Ling Young. Young is still in a wheelchair, recovering from burns. They drink water from Lourdes, the pilgrimage site in France, which Alison says helped her deal with despair over the loss of her son.

6.8.2003: Crowther’s parents remove a red bandanna to unveil a bronze plaque dedicated to their son at Empire Hook & Ladder Company No. 1 in Nyack. Crowther joined his father as a volunteer at the fire company when he was 16. Ling Young attends the ceremony. “This brings back memories,” she says. “I’m glad I found him and know who he is.”

12.15.2006: Crowther becomes the first person to be posthumously made an honorary member of the New York Fire Department. “Under the most hellish of situations, he … saved all those lives,” Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta says.

10.20.2007: The annual Red Bandanna Run, a 5K run around the campus of Boston College and the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, raises funds for the Welles Crowther Memorial Trust. Crowther graduated from BC in 1999. There’s also an annual Red Bandanna Skate in his hometown. “When children and adults hear Welles’ story, it changes them,” says his mother, Alison. “It brings such a light into their soul — it’s a beautiful thing for us.”

8.8.2010: The Welles Crowther Memorial Trust gives $1,000 to send Joshua Colas, a seventh-grader from White Plains, N.Y., to the World Youth Chess Championships in Greece. On Dec. 15, Joshua will take the national seventh-grade title in Orlando. Two days later, he will become the youngest African-American chess grandmaster by defeating Leonardo Martinez at the Marshall Chess Club in New York.

9.12.2010: Musicians from some of New York’s greatest orchestras take the stage at Grace Episcopal Church in Nyack with red bandannas tied around their arms or tucked under their instruments and perform a concert in memory of Crowther. The concert, in its ninth year, aims to help heal painful memories with Bach, Debussy and Schumann … “music with a message of hope,” Alison says.

2.25.2011: Alison and Jefferson Crowther visit a new exhibit in their son’s honor at the preview site for the 9/11 memorial museum in New York. The exhibit features photos of Crowther, a recorded interview with his parents … and one of his signature red-print bandannas.

WATCH A VIDEO ABOUT WELLES CROWTHER, HERE.  

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How 9/11 Changed Us: Mychal Judge

We’re nearing the 10 year anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks.  I know that it’s hard for many of us to grasp that an entire decade has passed since we stood frozen in front of TVs, watching the horrible events happen over and over on relentless news clips.  When I asked my students last year if they remembered where they were when the attacks happened, I was shocked when a couple answered, “Yeah, but it’s kind of hazy.  I was only 8.”  Even more significantly, my youngest brother was born in a post-9/11 world.  Just as many of my generation will never know what it was like two live during the Cold War, when the geo-political order of the world was one of two super-powers at opposite poles, my brother will never know a world in which we’re not encouraged to live in constant fear, and where the one sole superpower takes a drastic step and implements a policy of preemptive warfare as a defense.   

…But enough of my own blabbing.  The main thing that I wanted to share is a USA Today article that offers an interesting perspective on the look back at the past ten years.  It tells the story of the last decade through the lens of about 15 individuals.  For the next five days I will post one of those stories.  

The first that I would like to share is fittingly enough about Victim 0001.

HOW 9/11 CHANGED US:  PERSON BY PERSON

By Rick Hampton and Martha T. Moore, USA Today

The terrorist attack on America 10 years ago is one of the few events in U.S. history big enough to claim its date as its name. But Sept. 11, 2001, did not change the nation as abruptly as Dec. 7, 1941, or as dramatically as July 4, 1776. This time, there was no declaration of war or independence, just a warning that if we altered our ways, the terrorists would have won.

And so we entered a new era slowly, incrementally. Day by day. Person by person.

A decade later, we can see the changes in our nation by looking at the changes in our people — some who were close to the cataclysm, some far from it.

What follows are the stories of 20 such Americans. They suggest 9/11 was like a rock thrown in a pond, its impact rippling out until all the water is roiled.

Told as a series of snapshots in time, these 20 stories form a pointillist narrative of how America got from then to now, through invasion and investigation, reconstruction, rehabilitation and revival, tightening security at home and constant warfare abroad.

In their tales, we hear an echo of our own concerns about the next terrorist attack, the struggle between liberty and security, the pat-down at the gate.

When the stories begin on 9/11, two of the subjects are still in high school. Another, in his sixth decade, is carried dead from the World Trade Center. In the years that follow, we come to understand a bit of the orphan’s grief, the warrior’s courage, the priest’s faith, the convert’s curiosity, the zealot’s recklessness.

We go on a widow’s first date and share a bereft couple’s surprise that, against all odds, they have something to bury of a lost son.

We learn what motivated the first American to be awarded the Medal of Honor in the Afghanistan War, how a fireman who survived Ground Zero enlisted to fight in Iraq and what happened once he got there.

A daughter, in losing her mother, discovers her true calling. One mother fights to clear her son’s name; another discovers that hers was the mysterious “man in the red bandanna” who led fellow office workers to safety at the Trade Center.

The ripples of 9/11 spread far from where the four hijacked planes crashed in New York City and Arlington, Va., and near Shanksville, Pa. They affect the post of poet laureate of the state of New Jersey; the right of a public worker to burn a sacred book; and possibly even the movement to legalize gay marriage.

A photo of a spontaneous hug helps decide the 2004 presidential election. A former captive of Muslim terrorists in a distant land lives to see most of her captors destroyed — and to help some of those who survived.

In such a decade, plans often come to naught. A patriotic teenager who wants to learn more about his nation’s attackers ends up accepting their religion. A young woman, moved by 9/11 to enlist in the Army and discover herself, suffers debilitating wounds that make her wonder who she really is.

A Pentagon worker looking forward to an active retirement is so seriously burned that she can neither climb stairs nor lift her 12-pound bowling ball.

This is what it was like in the decade after Sept. 11, the date claimed by catastrophe, the door from then to now.

The Rev. Mychal Judge: Victim 0001

A photographer documents firemen carrying the Rev. Mychal Judge’s body from Ground Zero on 9/11, producing an image that some will call an American Pietà. In death, Judge’s legend grows, new facets of his life emerge, and some call him a saint.

By Rick Hampson, USA TODAY

9.11.2001: The Rev. Mychal Judge, a Franciscan priest and New York Fire Department chaplain, rushes to the World Trade Center, where he dies amid falling debris after administrating last rites to a fallen firefighter. He’s listed as Victim 0001, the first recorded fatality in the attacks. A photographer snaps a shot of ash-covered firemen carrying the priest’s body from the wreckage, producing what will prove to be one of the tragedy’s most enduring images.

9.15.2001: Judge’s funeral is held at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi , across the street from a firehouse that lost seven firefighters. Mayor Rudy Giuliani calls Judge a saint. The eulogist, the Rev. Michael Duffy, says Judge used to tell him to ask him what he needed. When Duffy did, he’d reply, “Absolutely nothing. … I am the happiest man on the face of the Earth.”

11.12.2001:New York magazine reports that Judge was gay, although apparently — as a Roman Catholic priest — celibate. New York Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen says, “I actually knew about his homosexuality when I was in the Uniformed Firefighters Association. I kept the secret, but then he told me when I became commissioner five years ago. He and I often laughed about it, because we knew how difficult it would have been for the other firefighters to accept it as easily as I had. I just thought he was a phenomenal, warm, sincere man, and the fact that he was gay just had nothing to do with anything.”

3.16.2002: Judge is grand marshal of the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the first time the honor has been bestowed posthumously. When the lead float honoring Judge arrives at the reviewing stand, President Bush and Mayor Richard Daley stand at attention as a bagpipe band plays Amazing Grace. The crowd then chants, “USA, USA!”

4.15.2002: Burt Kearns, a former tabloid TV producer for A Current Affair and Hard Copy, created a website to advocate for the canonization of Judge. “He died a martyr,” Kearns says. “Everyone I talk to thinks he’s a saint.”

4.26.2002: Speaking at St. Bonaventure University in southwestern New York, a leader of the Franciscan religious community criticizes the “rush to canonize” Judge. The Rev.John Felice, who accepts a medal awarded to Judge, says: “There is a rush to canonize Mychal these days, and I think it is a mistake. In making saints out of people, we often shove them away from our experience and place them on a pedestal. He was a very human, flawed, complex person, just like the rest of us. His real legacy is to teach us that such is the stuff of greatness.”

6.26.2002: President Bush signs The Mychal Judge Act, marking the first time the federal government has extended equal benefits for same-sex couples. It allows domestic partners of fire and police force members, including chaplains, who are killed in the line of duty to collect their federal death benefit.

2.20.2003: The father of an autistic child says the boy’s condition improved after his parents prayed to Judge. Scott Brown says his 4-year-old son, Matthew, did not speak well, wouldn’t respond to certain noises and could hardly look people in the eye. After the family prayed to Judge that God loosen Matt’s tongue, “the positive outcome … was almost instantaneous,” says Brown, a Newport, R.I., firefighter. “For someone who was so silent and would never make eye contact with you, he’s like a different child. … I can’t help but to say that it is miraculous.”

2.24.2003: Critics of a gay-organized St. Patrick’s Day parade in Queens object to organizers claiming Judge as one of their own. Pat Hurley, a Queens resident, tellsNewsday, “I knew a lot of people that knew Father Mychal Judge and they never saw any inkling of his being gay.” Judge was a member of Dignity, an organization of gay Catholics that is not recognized by the church hierarchy.

4.17.2006: The documentary Saint of 9/11, narrated by actor Ian McKellen, premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. The subject is Judge. The film begins with an interview in which Judge said, “You wonder what your last hour of life could be. Will I be doing something for someone, trying to save a life?” Shortly before he was killed, Judge administered the church’s last rites to a firefighter. A fellow Franciscan says, “This is how Mychal would have prayed to have the last minutes of his life transpire.”

9.2.2008: A new biography of Judge says he did not reveal his homosexual orientation to firefighters because he felt he had to be whom they needed him to be. “The very fact he could inspire them to believe (in Christ) caused him to fear that if he broke that spell (by revealing his sexual orientation) they would feel betrayed and lose their faith,” writes author Michael Daly, a friend of Judge’s. The book says that in his later years, Judge had a romantic relationship with a male Filipino nurse 30 years his junior. The book also describes Judge’s tense relationship with, and disdain for, New York Cardinal John O’Connor.

4.15.2009: New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, in his first homily after assuming office, mentions Judge in the same sentence as two American saints, Elizabeth Ann Seton and Frances Xavier Cabrini. He says that Christ is alive in the church’s “consecrated religious women and men,” such as Seton, Cabrini and Judge.

5.11.2011: Judge’s 78th birthday. His resting place at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery in Totowa, N.J., has only a simple horizontal marker, but the grave site stands out from the others in the Franciscan order’s plot. It’s adorned with figurines of fat friars and firemen; rosary beads; flowers real and artificial; and various pins, including one that reads, “Brothers in Faith Shall Do Great Deeds.” The plot is near the cemetery gate on Union Avenue. Less than a mile away, at 486 Union, is the apartment where two of the 9/11 hijackers lived. Their visitors included Mohammed Atta, who piloted a jetliner into the north tower, where Judge died.

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