Sept. 11, 2006 passed quietly on the Mills campus.
There was no outpouring of emotion or large display of American pride. A candlelight vigil, held in the chapel, was somber and respectful.
The Mills student news e-mail service contained only one mention of the significance of the day. It was a poem posted by a student which described the tragedy of Sept. 11 as insignificant in comparison to other world tragedies.
Out of 15 Mills students interviewed for this article, only two said classes they were in discussed 9/11 and related events; one was in International Relations and the other in Journalism I.
In the International Relations course, the discussion gravitated toward discussing the vulnerability of the United States those attacks exposed.
Natasha Trachtenberg, who flew home to Los Angeles on Sept. 12, said that she was “not worried about the safety at all. Sometimes I think the safety measures are a little excessive. Plus, every time they create one people [terrorists] find a way around them. But it seems to be working.”
The girls agreed that in the five years since terrorists flew hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Americans have accepted inconvenience, sacrificed personal liberties and paid billions of dollars for a security clampdown that touches virtually every aspect of their lives. And we’re still not safe.
As Trachtenberg expressed, out of 15 girls, only one felt so unsafe that she refrains from flying. All expressed irritation at the extra security measures.
“I also think the measures are excessive, the government wants to make the public feel secure,” points out freshwoman Abby Lebbert. “It’s a false sense of security, because [airport officials] can’t protect against everything.”
As authorities protect against box cutters, the terrorists try shoe bombs. Protect against shoe bombs, and the terrorists try liquid explosives. Protect airliners, and the terrorists blow up buses and trains. The list of possibilities is endless, but the government’s resources aren’t.
According to The New York Times, the nation has spent an estimated $299 billion domestically on the war on terrorism over the past five years to hire thousands more FBI and Border Patrol agents and buy high-tech devices to secure the nation’s planes, trains, ports, nuclear reactors and other potential targets. U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, added with have cost $437 billion more.
This small sampling of Mills students concluded that while Americand are not necessarily less safe than they were before Sept. 11, 2001, “Mills students as a whole are not particularly at risk, and we feel safe,” as Alissa Chasten summed up. But any accounting of the government’s performance shows missteps and gaps along with the successes.
Does this feeling of safety five years and thousands of miles from Ground Zero, account for the quiet Sept. 11 observances on the Mills Campus? Only further “anniversaries” can tell.