Happy 9/11????

Source: National Archives

What does one say on 9/11?  Does one celebrate or remember?  One remembers.  Each and every year thereafter.

9/11 has so much meaning to so many people.  Do you know where you were when the Twin Towers collapsed?  Of course, you do.  It was a life defining moment, just as JFK’s assassination was for me and my parents’ generation.

I was eight, in Santa Monica, on my way to CCD class from the Franklin Elementary School.  I was on Montana Blvd, and learned about the assassination from the crossing guard.

On 9/11, I had just left a Mass High Tech breakfast at the Vista Hotel in Waltham, MA.  A friend called, telling me that a plane had just flown into the World Trade Center.  Confused and disoriented, I asked “Which  World Trade Center?”, as Boston has a World Trade Center directly across from the Logan.  I got home in time to see the second plane fly into the World Trade Center and the towers collapse.  The wonders of the communication age.  And this was “before Twitter” and smart phones with cameras.

It was a gorgeous, clear blue day.  In fact, I may have seen AA Flight 11 and UAL Flight 172 take off, while walking my dogs in Christopher Columbus Park, which is directly across from Logan.   Certainly, I had been on those flights going back and forth to California.  Now when I see a beautiful clear blue sky, or see planes taking off out of Logan from the park, 9/11 always comes to mind.

I am a person who deals with crises through information, always chasing the why-where-when-how.  For the next few days, I was glued to the television set.

A friend in New York City told me that Manhattan, with its 1.6 million inhabitants, had become a ghost town.  Another friend used every mode of transportation possible, to get home to Westport, Connecticut, from Washington, D.C. where she had attended the annual Carlyle Group meeting.

Subsequently, I learned that a client had been at a “closing breakfast” for a deal at the Rainbow Room in Rockefeller Center, and had witnessed the second plane flying by and then into the World Trade Center.

I was amazed by how many connections I had to the victims.  It was not six degrees of separation; it was one.  And I can’t tell you the number of business meetings I’ve had in the World Trade Center, and the immediate surroundings.  Even a wedding at the Windows on the World Restaurant.

9/11 severely impacted my business, especially since it came on the heels of the collapse of the internet-related market.  But that was the least of my concerns at the time.

The terrorists were clever.  They violated all the Rules of Engagement, and caught us completely off guard.   They showed each of us how vulnerable we are.  They used the advantage of the element of surprise.  A ploy that works once, not twice.  And you have to be willing to die along with your 2,753 victims.

I was surprised and touched by the empathy and sympathy shown by the rest of the country.  When I visited Albuquerque and Taos, New Mexico, people were genuinely shocked, saddened and concerned.  They understood intuitively that we, as a country, and our way of life were all attacked.  This is the same part of the country, that under any other circumstance, expresses disdain for New York, its values and way of life.

Subsequently, we have gone through other traumas, including the 2008 financial meltdown.  This focused attention, in a very negative way, on the financial industry and New York City.  Though this trauma was self-inflicted.

Now we’re living with the ramifications of September 11, as seen in the impingements to our Fourth Amendment rights to privacy.  You may find Private Manning and Edward Snowden to be a hero or a traitor.  I, for one, believe that we have the right to know the degree of surveillance that has resulted form the Patriot Act, and other secret, or lesser known government laws, rules or actions.  We, as a country, seem willing to accept the impingement on our rights as a trade-off.  We give up our rights for the illusion of increased physical safety.

Americans have fought hard for our freedoms, and now take them for granted.  The government is saying “Trust me.”  I hope we can.  The current situation will test all of our values and beliefs as we grapple with the extent of government intrusion into our lives.

A naïve response would be “I have nothing to hide, so it’s fine with me.”  A more thoughtful response is that we are all aware that in the wrong hands, all of this data collection has the ability to destroy our Republic and way of life.

Surprisingly, in my experience, it’s the current and former military, as well as law enforcement  professionals, who are most concerned about the incursions to our Fourth Amendment Rights.

People who refuse to own automatic toll responders, because it enables the tracking of their movements, have a whole new and much deeper and complicated set of concerns.   Now, the act of carrying a cell phone that is ‘on’ enables you to be tracked.

Where do you stand on the Fourth Amendment impingements by the NSA?  Are they appropriate?  Are Private Manning and Edward Snowden heroes or traitors?  What is your resolution to this dilemma?