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Lynn Spruill: Looking for an upside to 9-11

 

Lynn Spruill

 

 

We all lost something valuable that day. It was just a matter of the degree.  

 

Some of us lost loved ones and others of us lost our sense of security. Some of us lost our livelihood and others of us lost our faith. Some of us lost financially and others of us lost our direction. It was a day similar to Pearl Harbor but lacking an easily identifiable enemy that could be the subject of our wrath and retaliation.  

 

I usually try to keep the glass-half-full approach to things, but I have never been able to find much of an upside to this horror. Nothing in the past 15 years has happened to change my opinion of the tragedy. We didn't learn anything we didn't already know. We were just forced to react to it.  

 

Everyone has their own story of its impact. Most of us who were old enough to be aware know where we were when it happened. Similar to President Kennedy's assassination and the space shuttle explosion, we can relive that moment at its very mention.  

 

Fortunately, I wasn't scheduled to fly with Delta that day so the immediacy of it didn't leave me stranded for days as it might have had I been airborne. Many of my fellow pilots found themselves grounded at an unplanned destination for several days while air traffic plans, flight crews and airplanes were sorted out.  

 

I have been alternately angry and sad about it for these ensuing years. I have always believed it was avoidable. Because the information from our national security analysts and experts was not transmitted to those who could have prevented it, we used an outdated protocol to handle hijacking incidents.  

 

Our longstanding procedure for an airline hi-jacking did not anticipate a suicide mission. It was geared to respond to a hi-jacker wanting to escape to the safe haven of Cuba or somewhere outside the U.S. We were trained to comply and fly them where they wanted to go.  

 

Only later did we hear that airplanes and suicide missions were the chatter from those the intelligence community was monitoring. Had we simply changed that response pattern the twin towers would still be standing. Now, of course, no one gets in the cockpit through threat of force. It makes me think of the phrase of closing the barn door after the horse is out.  

 

The short-term impact was devastating but the longer term effects have been chilling on our national psyche.  

 

As time has gone on, those firemen and police officers, who responded to the destruction that day are suffering the effects of the toxicity they experienced. Our ability to travel has been complicated and the economics of our safety has altered where and on what we spend our resources.  

 

That terrorism has spawned an ever-increasing embrace of isolationism.  

 

9-11 became the catalyst for the nationwide appreciation we have shown for our first responders. Volunteer Starkville has been deeply involved in the 9-11 First Responder appreciation program for the past several years. This was the first time I had taken the opportunity to volunteer for the event. 

 

I confess I never fully appreciated its significance because the name was tied with 9-11. 9-11's local relevance was minimal since those first responders were East Coast based.  

 

When the name was changed to the First Responders Appreciation Day, the scales fell, and I could see that the 9-11 date was simply a good reminder of the need to thank those who run toward what the rest of us run away from. I take things too literally sometimes.  

 

It is unfortunate that it took the virtual act of war on our shores to make us formally and regularly acknowledge the daily contributions of first responders. Sometimes we have to be traumatized before we are compelled to take notice and say thank you.  

 

I was looking for a positive from our national tragedy so I guess our annual thank you to First Responders will have to be it.  

 

Lynn Spruill, a former commercial airline pilot, elected official and city administrator owns and manages Spruill Property Management in Starkville. Her email address is [email protected]

 

 

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