Like most Americans, I spent part of the 10th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks watching old footage of the attacks. Several things struck me looking back on those 102 minutes in time. It’s easy to see things like mistakes made, when you have the advantage of hind site, but at the time, everyone was operating under the normal procedures for emergency situations for the pre-September 11, 2001 world. We, however, no longer live in the same world we woke up in, on that Tuesday morning 10 years ago.
We had been taught that in a hijack situation, you cooperate with the hijackers, and you would most likely be freed when they got where they wanted to go. Of course, it had been quite a number of years since an airplane had been hijacked in the United States…and we had become complacent…assuming that it would never happen again…but we were wrong.
We had been taught that in emergency situations, stay where you are and help will be sent to you. It was all we knew. In reality, for anyone below the impact floors, evacuating immediately would have been the best thing to do. There was almost an hour from strike to collapse of World Trade Center Two…even longer for World Trade Center One. No one ever considered that the building could collapse, so many people were told to stay put. Listening to the recordings, makes me think about how awful those dispatchers must feel, knowing that the people they told to stay put, died because they didn’t evacuate the building. I’m not blaming the dispatcher, they were taught to keep people calm and in place until help comes to them. I also realize that there were people who were injured or otherwise incapable of getting out, and help had to come to them, but the able bodied citizen needed to be told to get out and take anyone they could with them.
I was struck with a renewed sense of shock when the towers fell. It seemed to be in slow motion, and very surreal, almost as if it wasn’t so, but was just a bad dream, like the dreams people have sometimes about falling, and they they wake up. Even though I knew it happened, and have lived with that reality for 10 years, it still didn’t seem possible…or real.
The rules all changed on September 11, 2001. We now have to each assess the situation we find ourselves in, and take the proper action for that situation. There is no norm. The new kind of terrorist and the new kind of war are the new norm, and they are sneaky and devious. We must be ever alert. Our survival could depend on it.