The day our world changed forever

Monday, September 9, 2002
Mike Hendricks

Wednesday is the one- year anniversary of the most deadly attack ever by outside forces on United States soil, including Pearl Harbor. The horrifying events of that day changed our lives forever. It was the day our bubble of insulation and protection burst. It was the day we lost our innocence. How are we today and what does the future hold?

For the most part, life in the Bread Basket of America has returned to a reasonable semblance of normality -- although life will never be exactly what it was pre 9-11. It was one of those seminal moments in history where everyone remembers exactly where they were, who they were with and what they were doing, like the assassination of President Kennedy.

On November 22, 1963, I was in my fraternity house, preparing to go to my 1 pm French class when one of my fraternity brothers came running down the hall, yelling "The President's been shot, the President's been shot." We all ran to the television in the living room of the House, just in time to hear Walter Cronkite tell the country that President Kennedy had been pronounced dead. I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember thinking how glad I was to be with friends when a tragedy of that magnitude occurred.

It was the same a year ago Wednesday. I was with the one person out of everyone in the world I could have chosen to be with, the love of my life. We were unaware of what was happening at the time but as soon as she got to work, she called to tell me that two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center. I turned the television on just in time to see a film clip of the President receiving word while he was waiting to address a classroom full of students. When I got to the college, I took my class to the Student Center so we could watch what was unfolding on the big screen. We had barely gotten into our seats when word of Flight 93 crashing into the ground was reported.

There was a sense of disbelief and intense sorrow on the faces of my students and tears welled up in the eyes of both men and women as the gory and tragic details of the day became known.

A year later, some aspects of our lives have changed significantly. The Airlines are in serious financial difficulty because so many people are choosing not to fly. Those who do are exposed to intense security at major terminals and the wait and the ensuing hassle to pass through security has increased significantly. The flying public was tolerant of this in the beginning because they certainly wanted to feel safe when boarding an airline. Unfortunately, a recent report involving undercover CBS employees caused a great deal of distress and concern. Several employees carried sharp objects concealed on their persons as they went through security and none were discovered. A few of them had lead-lined their suitcases to insure that x-ray machines could not see what was in their luggage.

These were also passed through and all employees were allowed to board. Despite all the cosmetic precautions being taken, it appears to be as easy to smuggle weapons on board an airliner as it ever was.

Because we live in the Heartland, away from major metropolitan areas and, consequently, potential targets of the terrorists, our lives have probably been negatively impacted much less than others.

People in major metropolitan areas must go about their day with the same kind of apprehension that people do in London, Dublin, Jerusalem, the West Bank, and other favorite targets of terrorists. I'm sure it goes through a person's mind, at least fleetingly, that today might be the day for another attack and the building they work in might be the next target. Sort of the same feeling I used to have as a Tulsa police officer. A brief encounter with one's emotions that says today might be your last day on the job and on the planet.

Examples of patriotism abound in our region of the world. More American flags in people's yards and on their porches, more flags flying from cars, more flag decals on vehicles, suitcases, bags, and backpacks. But we must be vigilant that our patriotism does not go too far. Some of you may believe it is impossible to be TOO patriotic but it isn't. Our Constitution reflects the concerns of its' framers that government must be monitored and regulated, and that checks and balances be in place so that no branch is ever able to gain ultimate power and authority. Constitutional safeguards concerning our life, our liberty and our freedoms must be upheld at all costs and any infringement must be met head-on. It is, in fact, these freedoms that makes America the greatest country in the world, a country that everyone else wants to come to. If we suspend these rights in the name of Super patriotism, we become no better than our enemies.

Several area residents and officials, including Mike At Night, can be heard on Nebraska Public Radio thisWednesday, September 11th as NPR is devoting all its programming to recollections and predictions emanating from that horrible day that impacted on every one one year ago.

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