Trucks at Work

Defying the shadow of terror

Ten years. It seems so strange that one of the grimmest of grim days in our nation’s history will soon be a decade behind us.

Already, there are countless television programs, print magazine articles, and online stories marking the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

And though there is much critical (and often negative) analysis of the paths America strode in the decade that’s followed the thousands of murders committed that day, many still pause to salute and share comfort for what transpired on 9/11 – even trucking magazines half a world away from us. [A special “thank you” goes out to FleetWatch andPatrick O’Leary for that effort.]

September 11 also served as a wake-up call for all Americans to significant threat posed by terrorists, and it’s something most of us haven’t forgotten. Indeed, according to a recent online survey by The Harris Poll, large majorities of Americans believe the U.S. will experience a terrorist attack in the next decade.

Harris surveyed 2,073 adults online between August 23 and 25 this year and found more than four in five U.S. adults believe it is likely the U.S. will experience a terrorist attack by a foreign citizen (84%) or a foreign organization (84%) in the next ten years, while almost two-thirds say it is likely there will be an attack by a foreign country (64%).

But it's not just foreign entities Americans are worried about. Eight in ten U.S. adults (79%) say it is likely there will be a terrorist attack by a U.S. citizen associated with an organization and seven in ten (70%) say there will be an attack by a lone U.S. citizen not associated with an organization.

Harris also found that almost everyone surveyed (95%) says they remember clearly where they were when they heard about the events on September 11 for the first time, with 84% saying they remember very clearly.

[Below, you can watch some of the video interview with President George W. Bush detailing some of his personal memories from September 11.]

Indeed, two-thirds of U.S. adults (68%) say the events of 9/11 changed their behavior in some lasting way. In fact, two in five (38%) say they appreciate life more and that number jumps to almost half of those who were in New York City or Washington, DC on the day of the attacks (46%).

There’s one other vital American characteristic that’s risen above the ashes of September 11, though; indeed, it’s one that – despite the horror engulfing so many thousands of lives at the time – shined brightly on the tragic day now 10 years gone: defiance.

No sooner had the hijackers taken control of the planes that stewardesses were calling their operations centers on their cell phones to relay as much information as possible about the criminals controlling the aircraft – their seat numbers, what they looked like, bits and pieces of personal data gleaned from carry-on baggage.

That critical information – transmitted in many cases right up until they were killed – gave the FBI and CIA important clues that helped them unravel the plot and firmly pinpoint Al Qaeda organization and Osama Bin Laden as the group behind the terrorist attacks.

And, of course, there are the passengers and crew of United Flight 93. As they learned via cell phones what was happening, they knew they were doomed. Yet rather than passively accept their fate, they attacked America’s attackers.

What a shock that must have been to those heinous criminals, to have trained for a year or more with the belief that the passengers would meekly stand aside and let them carry out their hideous plan, only to instead find themselves attacked instead. It’s clear at least some of the hijackers on Flight 93 died at the hands of the passengers, before the ones at the controls deliberately crashed the plane in Shanksville, PA.

Yet that hard-won lesson is not forgotten. In every attempted hijacking since – shoe bomber wannabe Richard Reid comes to mind here – passengers took on their attackers at the drop of a hat.

Indeed, one airline security expert (whose name I’ve forgotten) once said that the perhaps one of the most vital takeaways from the September 11 attacks is that passengers are now “allowed” to fight back. They don’t have to sit back and let terrorists take over the plane, as policymakers once counseled them to do.

As a result, potential terrorists must now factor aggressive resistance from their intended targets into their plans – and I am sure that gives more than a few of them pause. Indeed, it’s caused many attacks to fail.

And that’s something we should remember despite the dark memories of September 11: there may be widespread concern and fear of terrorism among Americans, certainly, but there’s also widespread defiance of it as well.