Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Remembering 9-11

The anniversary of the great tragedy has come and gone. I've read with interest the posts from Bilbo's Random Thoughts and the perspectives of a Pentagon employee. I also read this speech that was given by Main Bang author, John Carr.

These are my own memories of that day. In September of 2001 I was spending one of my days off from the air traffic control tower playing magician at Branson MO's Silver Dollar City (SDC). SDC is an 1880's theme park. In keeping with the time period, employees don't wear wrist watches, button down collars, tennis shoes and other apparel that is not time period appropriate. Included with the time period radios. None of the shops have radios. Throughout the day we heard bits and pieces of what had taken place, but most of the tourists were on vacation and not listening to the news or they were on their way to the park early and once inside...well, no radios.

By the time I arrived at home on the evening of the 11th, I had heard quite a bit on the radio(it's a 30 minute drive). Once home, I found out that the kids had seen these images repeatedly throughout the school day. They were 9 and 12 at the time. Chris and I decided that they had witnessed enough mayhem for one day and opted to leave the TV's off for the rest of the day. It was not until the morning of the 12th that I actually saw the unbelievable footage of the twin towers collapsing and the carnage that followed. I heard about the heroic work of my fellow ATCers as they cleared the nations skies of thousands of airplanes in a matter of a couple of hours.

Life changed that day. We changed that day. The world felt much colder. The world seemed more cruel. The world was less safe.

By the time I returned to work on the 13th, there were no airplanes in the skies. True to the paranoid nature of frontline supervisors, we staffed every available position with controllers and were on limited breaks...even though there were NO AIRPLANES in the sky! Security around federal facilities changed...for a while. We had a guard shack put up by the entrance to the tower. It was staffed with a rent-a-cop that didn't even have a phone, much less a gun! They installed a security gate and cancelled the guard, but the gate was never operational until the day it was taken down as construction changed the entrance area. Now we have a brand new, non-functioning security gate! We have parking stickers for our vehicles and management posted a notice for us to make sure that we actually displayed them when security would be visiting the facility.

I have a friend that is a magician and a federal law enforcement officer. Last summer he travelled from Miami to St. Louis for a magic convention. He was allowed to carry his sidearm on board the aircraft but had to leave his toothpaste behind! It was over the three ounce maximum size!

It seems that if we're not going to take security seriously (and the FAA is not), then let's stop pretending that we are. Why go through the motions of generating this warm fuzzy feeling when it's all a farce? At least let us know that we are not any safer today than we were on 9-10-01. The President's Homeland Security is a joke. It has turned into a government spy ring to spy on Americans. It has little oversight and fits in nicely with the stats from this Numeric Life post.

It's a little strange that six years after the incident, I am a little less trusting of my own government. I am extremely disappointed in a President that I voted for (once) because I believed him to be a man of integrity. Now I am certain that he would lie to Ms. Barbara if he thought it would make him look like a tough guy.

For the most part, I don't concern myself with the big picture. I'm pretty content to work on my little corner of the world. I'd like to make it a world that is a pleasant place to live. I just wish that the big picture was a better place for my kids.


1 comment:

Bilbo said...

Interesting views, John, and thanks for the link to my blog. I think it's interesting to hear the views of various people and what they experienced on 9/11...your ATC perspective is particularly interesting. Your point about security changing "for a while" is right on the money. Although today the security level at the Pentagon is very high and has been tightened up in lots of ways (not all of them especially useful, in my opinion, and more of an irritant to those of us who work there), it's nothing compared to the few weeks immediately following 9/11. I'd never been searched so many times in my life trying to get to work, and people actually stopped bringing anything to work with them (briefcases, lunch bags, backpacks, etc) because it slowed up their entry so much. On September 12, it took me almost two full hours to get through all the security and to my desk.

But we're still alive, and that's what counts. Great blog, John - always a good read. Thanks! Bilbo