Archive for Sunday, September 8, 2002

Life changes, big and small, follow Sept. 11

September 8, 2002


We all heard it said in the days after Sept. 11, 2001: "This will change America forever."

For thousands of people directly affected by the terrorist attacks  through loss of a loved one or a call to active military duty  life changed dramatically.

But for the rest of Americans one year later, the horror of jetliners ramming the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon have meant subtler, more mundane changes.

Simple things like catching a plane, entering a football game or mailing a package became a bit harder and more tedious.

And though much of life has returned to normal for most Americans, beneath the surface, local terrorism experts say, Sept. 11's effects linger.

"On Sept. 10, 2001, it wasn't like people were completely ignoring the rest of the world, but things seemed pretty good and the world seemed like a pretty unthreatening place," said Philip Schrodt, a Kansas University political science professor who specializes in international politics. "That did change. I think there's this unease that even 12 months later is out there."

And, the experts say, the Sept. 11 attacks may have been only the beginning.

Little hassles

Steve Mona sees the results of terrorism every time he steps into an airport terminal.

CEO of the Lawrence-based Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, Mona flies 30 to 50 times yearly to attend events and meetings. Now, he arrives at the airport an extra 30 minutes or hour before his flight.

And he said he always seemed to be picked for random baggage checks  sometimes more than once per flight.

"The whole experience of traveling wasn't fun, but it's less so after Sept. 11," Mona said. "There's more attention around it. The mechanics of traveling are more difficult now. It's not the same experience, and I'm not sure it ever will be" again.

Kansas University football fans experience similar hassles waiting in line to enter Memorial Stadium. More security guards are on duty, and they're checking bags  something they rarely did before.

Brad Nachtigal, director of facilities and events for KU athletics, said he thought the heightened security would be permanent.

"I don't think there's any going back now," he said. "No large gathering, whether it's a stadium, arena or public forum, is going to be super-safe and super-secure. An individual who wants to do damage there is going to find a way."

At the Lawrence post office, Postmaster Bill Reynolds said the anthrax scares last fall had brought operating precautions that were still in place.

"There's a lot of changes I can't discuss," he said. But he said the post office is enforcing rules it's had in place for years, such as packages over 1 pound must be mailed at the post office, not left in a drop box.

"Most of the people who were mailing came down here anyway," Reynolds said. "As far as the major public goes, there's not much of a change."

Psychological effects

The Sept. 11 images from New York City, Washington, D.C., and rural Pennsylvania continue to haunt Americans. Network news stations will run those images again this week for the events' anniversary.

"Seeing those again and combining it with the baggage of the economy will bring up some of those same anxieties," said Sheldon Whitten-Vile, medical director at Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center. "My sense is it hasn't affected people as much psychologically now, although I think it's affected people economically, and that's affected people psychologically."

Joe Douglas, staff psychiatrist at Bert Nash, said he thought people in the Midwest had recovered mentally from the attacks. But that doesn't mean they think the same way they did before last fall.

"The world has changed, and the illusion of safety is partially broken," he said. "Along with this, I hope there's a sense the world is a somewhat smaller place than we thought. People here can feel a connection with humanity around the world."

Religious leaders say Americans also felt a connection to a higher power immediately after the attacks.

Most Lawrence pastors said church attendance had returned to its pre-Sept. 11 numbers after a huge spike last fall. But that's not necessarily the best measure of spirituality, they said.

"It had a deep effect on the people who are here, and it still does have an effect on them," said the Rev. Charles Polifka, pastor at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 1234 Ky. "It has made them consider some questions they may not have asked before. It's had a tremendous impact spiritually  just opening people to a realization of the value of life, the whole area of dealing with feelings of anger and feelings of helplessness."


Don Dalquest drove to the East Coast for vacation on Sept. 13.

"Every little town I went to, I saw these flags flying," he said. "It made my heart feel good."

Dalquest, commander of Lawrence's American Legion Dorsey-Liberty Post No. 14, said he thought the flag-waving patriotism that emerged after Sept. 11 had remained. He said the American Legion was asked to do more presentations about flag etiquette than it had been before.

"Even today, you see a lot of flags flying out and around," he said. "You see a lot of bumper stickers saying, 'We won't forget.' I can't say (the attacks) were good for America, but it got a lot of people back on the right track. Not since Pearl Harbor have we had this much outpouring and Americanism."

Mia Phillips, a fourth-grader at Broken Arrow School in Lawrence, has felt that patriotic surge. She said she'd come to reflect more on the meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance, which is recited daily at her school.

"I think about liberty and justice for all," said Phillips, wearing a T-shirt decorated with a tiny American flag on a recent school day. "That's very important."

Going too far?

But critics say the new patriotism also has opened the door to an overzealous American government that violates civil liberties.

The concerns led a group of Lawrence residents to reactivate a local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. David Burress, one of the organizers, said the Patriot Act, which gives the federal government increased surveillance powers, threatened American democracy.

Among the issues of concern: background checks on student records, wiretapping, secrecy surrounding the arrests and detainments of terrorist suspects and federal investigators reading e-mail.

"In any of these issues, the attorney general (John Ashcroft) has gone far beyond the historic example of the Constitution," Burress said. "The Patriot Act is an unpatriotic act. It represents all the impulses of people who hate democracy."

David Gottlieb, a KU law professor, agreed that civil liberties have taken a hit since Sept. 11.

"The possibility that information could be misused by the government is greater now than it was prior to Sept. 11," Gottlieb said. "The concern is whether it's going to constrain what people are willing to say to each other and the privacy they have."

But Dalquest, the American Legion commander, said some liberties must be sacrificed to ensure safety.

"Of course there's a line," he said. "But things like a national ID card  where's that going to hurt people on their civil rights? You have to give up some of those things if you want safety. It'd be great if we didn't have to do that. But you have to wake up. There's bad people out there."

International impact

Huseyin Sevay felt like a spotlight was suddenly shined on his religion after Sept. 11.

The Kansas University doctoral student from Cyprus attends prayer services at the Islamic Center of Lawrence, 19th Street and Naismith Avenue. Though some Muslims felt uncomfortable after the attacks and many feared retaliation, Sevay said Lawrence opened up to the Muslim community.

"We haven't had any big problems," he said. "People have communicated with us. I see it being good in the long term. I has opened up understanding. I see a lot of hope."

Now a year later, Sevay said, life has returned to normal for Muslims here.

"I cannot say exactly how 9-11 has affected my faith," he said. "I never felt defensive about it. It forces you to realize you have to question things and be involved."

The attacks' aftermath has taken its toll on KU's graduate student population. Though final numbers won't be released until later this month, Diana Carlin, dean of international programs, said KU would have about 80 fewer international students this fall compared to last year.

Some students didn't want to come back, and others who left for the summer couldn't get their visas renewed, she said.

And KU is facing expensive implementation of a new database system to track international students and report changes in their status to Immigration and Naturalization Services.

"Eventually it's going to hurt," Carlin said of the new requirements. "The way our potential students are being hassled, other countries are competing for them. Once we lose our students, getting them back here will be very difficult."

What's next?

When Ron Olin, the Lawrence police chief who team-teaches a KU course on terrorism, saw the first World Trade Center tower burning, he turned to his wife.

"It finally started," he said.

For those who study international relations and terrorism, the Sept. 11 attacks weren't entirely a surprise. And Olin said he wouldn't be surprised by another attack.

He said local law enforcement agencies  who now keep an eye out for terrorists in addition to catching speeders  will be especially alert Wednesday.

"I'm going to be sitting on pins and needles," he said.

But, he admitted, another attack could come at anytime.

"I think there's a real danger of complacency on this issue," Olin said, "and I think it would be very foolish and short-sighted not to understand this is a war that's going to last more than a generation."

Felix Moos, a KU anthropology professor who teaches with Olin, agrees that another attack is sure to come.

He said the current war on terrorism was too broad. He estimates only 40 people were involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. The more effective way to fight terrorism would be to focus on understanding what led the terrorists to become so fanatical, Moos said.

Moos has proposed that ROTC units on college campuses begin training students to be more than military experts. They also should be taught about various regions of the world and the languages and cultures of the inhabitants.

Schrodt, the political science professor, said many Americans saw Timothy McVeigh's Oklahoma City bombing as a major catastrophe. Now, the magnitude of that event has lessened.

"This could well end up being the same thing  this was al-Qaida's big show, and we'll think of this five years from now like we do about Oklahoma City," he said. But "if something else happens, this could be the start of a major change in America."

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