As I write this, the nation is focused on commemorating the 10th anniversary of the horrible events of Sept. 11, 2001. A decade later, we still feel the aftershocks of the terrorist attacks in so many ways.
One of my avocations outside of managing DC Velocity is working with an amateur theater group. On the weekend of the anniversary, I had the privilege of acting in a play written shortly after the events, "The Guys" by Anne Nelson. Based on the author's experience, it is the story of a New York City fire captain who lost eight men when the towers collapsed. Unable to write the eulogies he must deliver, he seeks help from a writer. Their conversation reminds us of the courage of those men, and reveals the living and breathing human beings they were. In one monologue, the writer, Joan, reflects on how little we may know about the people we see every day, with families and foibles and humor and love. "We have no idea of what wonders lie hidden in the people around us," she says.
In an earlier monologue, and more to the point here, she muses about how the effects of the attacks spread like ripples from a pebble dropped in water. The most important of those, of course, were the human costs.
But the consequences have also been huge for the particular part of the world we write about in this magazine. We have seen enormous change in operations, regulation, and, in particular, security measures directly stemming from the attacks. That the terrorists used aircraft—part of our vast transportation infrastructure—has meant many of the counterterrorism efforts have focused on transportation and logistics. The Transportation Security Administration, C-TPAT, transportation worker identification rules, import cargo screening measures, and food tracing and tracking initiatives ... all stem from the 9/11 attacks.
And it is certain that terrorists still see aircraft, ships, trains, and trucks as either targets or weapons. It was less than a year ago that authorities intercepted explosives in cargo shipments from Yemen on planes operated by UPS and FedEx.
The financial cost of the security regimens has been enormous for both taxpayers and the private sector, and much of that spending and practice is questionable. The costs have extended, too, to deep intrusions on civil liberties that a decade and a month ago might have been seen as unacceptable.
The hard question—one that I doubt we can answer in a toxic political environment—is how we can balance appropriate security measures and spending while preserving economic good sense, civil rights, and individual human dignity. "We've lost a lot," Joan says in "The Guys." We need leaders with the courage to insist that we don't add to the loss ourselves.