Robert C. Satire
Shortly after 1am this Christmas morning, President Bush issued a press release expressing his dismay and deepest condolences to the people of the United States over the untimely death of Kris Kringle, a.k.a. Santa Claus, in the skies over Washington, DC. He vowed to open a comprehensive investigation under the direction of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. When the Secretary was later asked to confirm reports that his office gave the final shootdown order, Mr. Rumsfeld denied any involvement. "We have procedures in place for these situations and everyone knows what to do. It's unfortunate that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but these things happen in war."
According interviews with officials and eyewitness accounts, at around midnight, the NORAD public relations desk was tracking the jolly old elf as it does every year when they lost contact. At first there was no concern since this had occurred several times throughout the night due to inclement weather over much of the country. About the same time however, over at the NORAD air defense desk, jets were being scrambled from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. They were investigating an unknown aircraft approaching the Temporary Flight Restriction Area over Washington, DC that was created after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
"Its radar signature read as a small private plane but its altitude, speed and erratic flight pattern indicated that it was way overloaded for that size aircraft," Major Snivly of NORAD advised. "We don't know how it got off the ground, but a normal landing under such a load would seem impossible. Thus it was a reasonable security precaution to determine the intentions of the track and formulate a response which could include the use of lethal force."
However, the aircraft entered the restricted space before the jets could reach it or establish radio contact. Per Executive order 09-666, they had no choice but to establish a weapons lock and again issue numerous warnings. There was no response. The protocols dictated that the aircraft posed a serious threat to The White House and Capitol below. The lead jet received clearance -- and fired.
On the ground, the first reports received by police were of burnt and broken toys falling from the sky. A cab driver was killed when his car was struck by a 400lb reindeer. Wood splinters rained down on an encampment of homeless vets just a few blocks from The Capitol sending many to the hospital for eye injuries. Bar patrons along 4th Street NE claimed to find a half-burnt Santa's cap rakishly cocked on the head of the newly unveiled statue of Vice President Dick Cheney across the tracks in Haliburtan Park. And the charred body of a large man was found in a dumpster behind the Republican National Committee headquarters on First Street. The coroner's office is still investigating.
[Robert C. Watson, 12/25/2004]