Sept. 8, 2014

Adam Farley
afarley@uccs.edu

There was a time, not long ago, when people could go to the airport and wait patiently for passengers. Today, tragically, that is not an option.

It’s been 13 years since the attacks in New York City and Washington D.C. that have branded the date Sept. 11, 2001 in world history. Today, there may be as many students at UCCS that do not remember the world “pre-9/11” as there are those who do.

As such, it’s time for reflection on the impact of that day.

Every year at this time we’re inundated with seemingly obligatory tributes and memorials to the victims of 9/11, delivered with varying degrees of sincerity by talking heads that cover foreign entanglements and domestic politics in the same breath.

The commercial breaks and jovial banter between these segments present the events as unrelated, despite the effects penetrating our everyday lives. That is to say, although we remember 9/11 for a few days on the anniversary of those tragic and world changing events, we are beholden to them every day of the year.

They are inescapable, even in a campus bubble.

Just like the end of World War II laid the foundation for U.S. global hegemony, and the end of the Cold War sealed the deal, 9/11 was the beginning of an era. Almost all of the hot topic issues debated so furiously today can be traced back to 9/11.

Privacy, surveillance and transparency have been punctuated by the likes of WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden, but their soapboxes were built by the undesirable realities that necessitated the kind of dubiously constitutional responses implemented after 9/11.

The capability for a government agency to read emails is supposedly cause for revolt, but no one seems to mind that campus information technology has the same capability.

A significant portion of students in the engineering school will end up in the defense industry dealing with issues of robotics, drone warfare and as yet undeveloped technologies that seek to identify the “enemy” sooner and increase the distance from which they can be engaged.

The so-called militarization of law enforcement is another direct effect of 9/11, be it from a heightened alert status or the proliferation of surplus military equipment.

Campus Public Safety, like all law enforcement agencies, must walk a thinning line between protecting the campus community and profi ling or over responding to a situation.

It may serve to remember that these effects are double-edged swords. They are as profound and pertinent on the anniversary of the attacks as they are every other day of the year, but events like this are always shrouded in the unknown.

Decision and policy makers do the best they can with what they’ve got, instances of corruption notwithstanding. But when an event such as 9/11 occurs it is humbling to remember that no one really knows the best course of action – not governments of the world and not the armchair quarterbacks that condemn them.

Everyone is just fumbling around in the dark trying to come to grips with a new, undeniable reality.