Loss of Innocence
Oct 1, 2001 12:00 PM,
IT ISN’T THE NORMAL ROLE OF A TRADE PUBLICATION IN OUR industry to comment on world politics and events. There has been so much said and so much more to say about the terrorist attacks in the U.S. last month that I hesitated to mention the subject in the pages of S&VC. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to talk about it as our collective pain in this shared horror touches us, in our day-to-day lives in the industry, as well as everyone else around the world, and has dominated all of our thoughts.
The horrifying events of September 11 will forever be a part of the American consciousness. For most Americans it was the very first time that the illusion of safety and security in our country was shattered. Many were and still are asking the question, “Why did they do this?” But I am asking the question, “Why were we so terribly unprepared?”
Maybe it was our optimism as a nation that lulled us into a false sense of security. Possibly it was our belief in the system that has always protected us and the belief that the might of our nation would be enough of a deterrent against this kind of thing ever happening here. Sadly though, it becomes clearer that in many cases warning signs were either missed, ignored, or at best, misinterpreted.
While it is true that it is nearly impossible to stop a hijacked plane from slamming into a target, there is no doubt that the hijackers could have been stopped in their tracks before they even began planning. Former Secretary of State Alexander Haig said it best: the legislature of our country had tied the hands of the FBI and the CIA, meddling in areas of security that they had no experience with and no business being involved in, robbing funding and undercutting their work. Such meddling will probably cease. Were we more careful about our intelligence after the bombing of two American Embassies in Africa? Were we more aware after the first World Trade Center bombing? Were we more vigilant after the U.S.S. Cole was hit? Maybe we were, but clearly not nearly enough.
It is always easy to criticize in hindsight, but that is not my aim here. The writing was on the wall for terrorist action in the United States for many years. All we need do is look back at footage of the Iran hostage crisis in the 1970s, U.S. flag burnings in Libya, the deaths of our troops in Somalia, and the violence in Israel to see warning signs. If we look at the way other countries in Europe and the Middle East have had to deal with terrorists, it is almost inconceivable that we did nothing to protect ourselves.
What we have found to be true when looking back at our own history is that it takes a tragedy to galvanize the people and the government into action. Pearl Harbor is the big example here, but there are even more subtle examples, such as that intersection near your house that didn’t have a crossing light until someone got hit and killed there. We all must do a better job at valuing life at any cost.
We can be proud of our recent actions as a nation in pulling together to support one another. Still, things will never, ever be the same again.