A plan laid out six thousand miles away 20 years ago affects Ketchikan to this day.
The First City awoke early on Sept. 11, 2001 to a new existence.
That morning, national television stations featured the blow by blow of the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City.
Stations’ news crews responded to the first strike and were on the scene for the second. Two commercial jets had been commandeered and deliberately flown into the center’s Twin Towers.
The first might have been a horrible accident, despite the day’s clear skies. But, the second raised all manner of speculation.
Then a third commandeered jet crashed into the Pentagon, and a fourth into a Pennsylvania field. The Pennsylvania airliner had been commandeered, but passengers onboard challenged the hijackers and prevented it from reaching its intended target — the White House.
Shortly, Al-Qaida took credit for the morning’s events. President George W. Bush declared that the United States would hunt down the culprit ultimately responsible. During President Barack Obama’s administration in 2011, a team of U.S. Navy seals fulfilled that promise, dispatching Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
As a result of the attack, Alaskans, including those of us living in Ketchikan — not to mention, the world — changed our habits.
In one example, we began to adjust to the federal rules implemented as a result of the creation of the Transportation Security Administration.
Before 9/11 we flew out to or in from points north and south after contacting only an airline ticket agent. We simply showed up at an airport, acquired a boarding pass from an agent and went to a gate to board a jet. Upon boarding, we handed off the ticket. At our destination, often family and friends waited for us at a gate and walked through the airport corridor to baggage claim to assist in collecting our luggage.
After 9/11 we are asked to present identification along with a boarding pass to TSA officials, take off jackets and shoes, empty pockets and purses of metal objects, place carry-on possessions in tubs, and remove all electronics and liquids from their cases — the latter is limited to containers of 2.5 fluid ounces or less. Then we walk into a full-body scanner, raise our hands above our heads as if we have been apprehended by law enforcement, submit to a scan, and, if we are lucky, avoid being patted down by a TSA official. If not, we are taken aside and continue to be checked for security reasons.
Then, when at our destinations, we find that family and friends must wait at baggage claim or outdoors for us.
The object is to ensure that no airline passengers carry weapons or anything that could be used to create a munition while on a flight.
It is similar for other modes of transportation. While the Alaska Marine Highway System doesn’t require body scans, identification is needed in addition to a ticket.
Security also has been increased at the Port of Ketchikan, where before 9/11 we could move freely. Presently, when cruise ships are docked, specific areas of the port are off limits.
The security checks also include state and federal courthouses now.
This is second nature to some of us too young to remember what it was like before 9/11. But, for those of us who do recall the time of greater freedom to come and go and maintain the privacy of our carry-ons, the events of Sept. 11, 2001 will forever be etched in our minds. When we travel (or visit the courthouse), we are cognizant of how what happens thousands of miles away can change our lives, and not necessarily for the better.
We are worse for the events of 9/11. There is often a sense of suspicion and lack of trust. We’re constantly reminded that we might not be safe. When airports are cleared because of a possible security breach, we are delayed and asked (told) to revisit TSA checkpoints.
We considerately comply — for not only our own safety, but that of others.
And it’s in the care for others that perhaps we find the saving grace from Sept. 11, 2001.