Verne Strickland / Blogmaster / June 3, 2012
A decade later, 9/11 still a 'reckoning jolt'
“It changed the agenda of Congress and made homeland security the new focus of the Congress. It changed the traditional thinking that oceans protect us here on the mainland of America,” he said. “… This was a profound reminder to me on how important it is that our government, president and Congress stand strong in securing the personal blessings and freedoms all of us as Americans enjoy.”
“This let us know that we are not indispensable. Before 9/11, there was no fear. This was the USA,” McLean said. “Now we realize that the almighty U.S. can be subjected to national crime.”
Tom Taylor, chief of Allenton’s Volunteer Fire Department for 22 years and currently a member of the Robeson County Board of Commissioners, says that since 9/11, the United States has not enjoyed the lofty world view it held on Sept. 10, 2001.
“We’re not looked up to as we used to be. Even in our own country there’s not the respect,” he said. “Young kids don’t even respect the police anymore. That’s something that didn’t exist when I was growing up.”
Taylor believes the country will be “all right,” but add that it “can’t let its guard down.”
“This (9/11) opened some eyes. It did mine,” Taylor said. “As a firefighter, that’s a day I will never forget. After all, it was firefighters who were the first to respond.”
U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, a Republican from North Carolina who was nearby when the Pentagon was attacked, said that the “devastating attacks” on Sept. 11 changed America.
“I don’t think anyone ever suspected an attack of that magnitude,” Jones said. “I knew about the threat of terrorism and I certainly didn’t expect anything of that intensity.”
After 9/11, homeland security became the No. 1 priority of the nation. McIntyre said that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security — which includes 22 agencies — was created as a cabinet level post. The Transportation Security Administration, which is responsible for regulating all forms of mass transportation, including air travel, was also created.
McIntyre and Jones both said that major security changes apparent to most Americans can be observed at the nation’s airports.
“In March of 2002, the Transportation Security Administration hired its first 80 employees, and their job was to screen luggage at airports,” McIntyre said. “Now there are 52,000 employees that supply security for all forms of mass transportation.
“Overall, improved security has worked well because there is now an expanded information-sharing system,” McIntyre said. “The intelligence community has worked together to thwart a number of terrorist plots within our borders and across the ocean where they originate.”
McIntyre said there is now more information sharing among federal state and local officials, as well as the general public.
“Never before has there been so much cooperation and cross-training among security agencies and law enforcement personnel at all levels of government,” he said. “Also there has been an advancement of technology to improve our efforts in fighting crime and improving our national security. As a nation we have been able to track down terrorists, not only in this country, but around the world.”
But do Americans now really feel safe?
“When I’ve been to the airport I’ve felt pretty secure,” said Tasha Johnson of Fairmont. “I think the economy is more of a problem than terrorism. The economy is worse than it’s ever been.”
Bo Biggs of Lumberton, a longtime political observer, agrees that Americans are now more concerned with economic and job-related issues than terrorism.
“Over the last few years, the fear of terrorism has started to wane,” Biggs said. “The country is now focused on other things. Homeland security is not absorbing the minds of the American people.”
But not everyone agrees.
“How can you feel safe when all of the media outlets keep telling you that someone says they are going to blow you up?” said Leonard Tootill, a Lumberton resident and retired U.S. Army veteran. “How can you feel safe when you can’t go down the street without being afraid of being shot?”
VS: Mr. Tootill, I'm certain you're putting too much faith is those 'media outlets'. They have you where they want you, and are sowing fear in your mind regarding imminent threats. Please take two aspirin and call me in the morning. Thank you.
“I think we’re a little more paranoid than we used to be,” said Phillip Stephens, chairman of Robeson County’s Republican Party. “Our awareness has changed in certain areas. I think we now realize how vulnerable we can be at times.”
According to a recent poll cited by the Journal of the American Enterprise Institute, fewer than 1 percent of Americans say say terrorism is the most important problem facing the country. The poll also indicates that many Americans still believe that the 9/11 attacks indicate that terrorism is a potential concern; worry about home-grown terrorism; and believe that there will be another attack on American soil, but not in their communities.
“I think people feel they are relatively safe, but I don’t think they are complacent at all,” Jones said. “I think it’s always in the back of one’s mind that if there was one attack on our country it could happen again.”
‘There’s always going to be that fear of airplanes, obviously,” Biggs said. “Airplanes are available for kidnappings or suicidal bombings. In an airplane you have a captive number of people and fuel that can be used as a means of destruction.”
During the years since the attacks, McIntyre says he has seen many changes across the country, some positive.
“Patriotism since 9/11 has taken off to even greater levels in terms of the widespread desire to promote America, protect America, and honor America and those who serve our country in every way possible,” he said. “Not only is there a greater respect for our firefighters and rescue and law enforcement personnel nationwide, but there is a renewed and deeper appreciation at all levels for the great sacrifices being made by those who serve in our nation’s armed forces.”
Charles Britt, emergency services director for Robeson County, said that since 9/11 there has been more training requirements demanded of volunteers and professional emergency services providers. Funding has also been made available for equipment that can provide for more efficient communications and coordination between law enforcement, firefighters, and other emergency services providers in an emergency situation.
Taylor said that training has become stricter for firefighters and other emergency services providers, many of whom are volunteers.
VS: “But volunteers can only do so much,” he said. “… We need leaders that put our country first.” Yes, Mr. Taylor. We'll vote on them in November.
McIntyre said that another change he has seen since 9/11 is more Americans volunteering their services to better their communities.
“People are volunteering in their communities more than ever,” he said. “Polls on volunteering show that volunteerism has risen 10 percent since 9/11. They say that 63 million Americans perform over 30 hours of volunteer services a year, and that’s $169 billion worth of services provided … There’s an enormous sense of pride at every level among Americans wanting to give back to their communities and make America the great country it is.”
— Staff writer Bob Shiles can be reached at (910) 272-6117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.