The ceremony was largely held for the families of those lost after the Twin Towers were attacked. Perhaps others felt as I did while watching that empty stretcher, and the last steel beam, being carried off site: that we were saying goodbye to our way of life before the morning of Sept. 11.
It is time to move on — but to what? It is probably time to expect changes more profound than longer lines at airports and U.S. border crossings.
As reported in The News last week, the 67th meeting of the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association (GAMA) included a seminar conducted by retired U.S. Army General Dennis J. Reimer, among several other impressively credentialed speakers. We even had the privilege of hearing the U.S. Marine Corp’s 82nd Airborne Division’s “All-American” chorus.
We don’t often get to applaud the bravery of our country’s service men and women in such an intimate setting — but let the applause seem to be for the music (which was exceptionally good). They sang an ovation. Then they left to defend our country.
This was followed by Reimer’s talk on national security.
I wish everyone I know could have been present at his talk on how the events of Sept. 11 came to pass, and what we should expect in coming months.
As 33rd Chief of Staff of the Army and currently the Director of the Oklahoma City National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, Reimer has, throughout his career, often held many people’s lives in his hands. It was reflected in the gravity with which he spoke.
REFLECTIONSLike many people, Reimer saw the second plane strike the WTC tower live, as it was broadcast on TV, and over and over again as the networks themselves tried to make sense of it. “After a while, I couldn’t watch it anymore,” Reimer said. “It was surreal. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”
When the third plane hit the Pentagon, it became very personal for him.
“Why did this happen to us?” the general asked. “What does it mean? What can we learn from it?” He explored these questions in depth (The News, June 3) and provided more food for thought.
He stated, for one thing, that more information would be coming from the Homeland Security Council on steps that need to be taken to increase our security, which remains at code yellow.
These steps, he told the manufacturers, would require increased coordination between private and public sectors; sharing of information, possibly even between manufacturing companies; and partnership between the military and civilians, and between various levels of government.
“Keeping our guard up at all levels of society will be most important,” Reimer said.
What does this mean to you?
To me, it means striking a balance between paranoia and vigilance. I don’t want to feel like a plainclothes spy, but in this changed U.S.A., I would be much more inclined to report suspicious activities to the police than I was this time last year. I like to believe that they would be more inclined to follow up.
SACRIFICESBorn in the early 60s, it is hard for me to accept the sacrifices we may need to make, especially those involving our liberties. It is hard to even speculate what those might be.
Reimer stressed that we citizens must not lose sight of the facts that seemed obvious immediately following Sept. 11: that the United States has enemies who can and will attack, and that we citizens need to remain vigilant. Yet, he said, with each week that passes, we seem more inclined to slide back into that comfort zone we lived in before.
The further we slip back, the harder it may be to accept sacrifices made in the name of security. If imports are delayed due to increased port inspections, for example, it might affect the supply pipeline. Who knows — maybe we will need to readjust our just-in-time thinking.
On Sept. 10, if security was increased at airports to where it is today; if passengers were told they couldn’t carry nail clippers, had to have their laptops inspected, and/or had to remove their shoes; if the military were assigned to watch airport security checkpoints, and increased baggage-handling securities were mandated, a cry would have risen from the flying public and the airlines themselves that would have drowned out any warnings.
Today, we have no excuse to ignore the warnings. Let’s move ahead — but let us not forget what we have learned.
Checket-Hanks is service/maintenance and troubleshooting editor. She can be reached at 313-368-5856; 313-368-5857 (fax); firstname.lastname@example.org (e-mail).
Publication date: 06/10/2002