As the bulk of the American workforce hits middle age, many of us cannot forget the events of Sept. 11, 2001, when a group of al-Qaeda members flew two planes into the World Trade Center in New York City and one into the Pentagon in Washington D.C. They also attempted to fly another into the White House, but thanks to the brave efforts of those on Flight 93, that plane was brought down long before its intended destination.
Our managing editor was born just 75 miles north of New York City. His father worked for the New York Botanical Garden before taking a job at Michigan Tech. Our editor had been to the top of the Trade Center once, but swears he has no memory of the experience.
Even though the events of that fateful day took place some 1,154 miles away from our building, the events that transpired were, for this generation, their John F. Kennedy assassination. They can name where they were when they first heard. Often, they can even describe what they were wearing at the time they were first informed of what was happening.
9/11 carries far more significance than just being a memorable day. It was the day that many young Americans were awakened to the fact that terrorism is truly global.
Sure, we had our share of FBI building bombings, both in New York City and Oklahoma City in the past, but the difference in each of those attacks was that the perpetrators were American-born. In the case of 9/11, the perpetrators were foreign born. As we found out later, they were trained both abroad and here as well.
9/11 also changed the nature of air travel. Before the attacks, airport security was far more lax. As long as it was in your bag, it seemed you could carry almost anything onto a plane. After 9/11, everything from Swiss Army Knives to aerosol cans to a can of Coke could be a weapon. Men were arrested with bombs in their shoes or even their underwear.
We, as a country, also became more aware that bombers could, and later did, target other areas where large groups of people gather, such as parks and sporting venues. It used to be that fans could carry nearly anything they wanted into a baseball park. Now you need to open your bag at the gate, and could be rejected entry if your bag is too large.
In many ways, we as a country have overreacted in the wake of 9/11, but in other ways, we are actually much safer because everyone has to abide by the new rules.
We mourn the lives of those lost on, and those still suffering the long-term affects of, 9/11. We should also take some solace in the fact that though it may take longer to see a baseball game or board a plane, the reality is, we should know that we are able to honor them, thanks to their efforts to try to help those of us in need that day.