There remains a sense of emptiness in Lower Manhattan where the World Trade Center once stood. The location, which is a large plot of land, is fenced off and continuously under construction. The site, often referred to as Ground Zero, serves as a testimony to just how far terrorists are willing to go in order to get the attention they are seeking. In 2001, nearly three thousand people, including employees, firefighters, and police officers, were killed in a matter of moments as the United States experienced the worst terrorist attack on native soil. Not even the most powerful and prosperous nation is invulnerable to attacks on such a large scale, as was proven on September 11, 2001.
With regard to the United States and its many levels of vulnerability, terrorism within the country has proved to heighten the awareness of its citizens and government. It has successfully demonstrated its degree of impact on the overall civil liberties of all citizens everyday.
Terrorism is both a tactic and strategy that has been used since the beginning of recorded history. A terrorist group, such as al-Qaeda, is usually small, secretive, and on the weaker side of opponents. Since they operate on a small scale, it is difficult for a government like the United States to form a strong defense organization against them. Terrorists often do not consider themselves terrorists because what they believe they are doing is the right thing to do, whether for religious or political reasons.
A terrorist attack is effective most of the time because it is used to harm innocent people and impose fear (on them) until the terrorists get what they are seeking. Also, it is effective because an attack can result in fewer people to travel or buy merchandise, ultimately harming the economy and normal way of life for the citizens. For example, the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States caused the grounding of all flights across much of the world and the closing of the stock market for almost a week. Attacks on such a large scale as the one performed by al-Qaeda on the US in 2001 do not occur as often as the smaller, less conspicuous plots, which are easier for terrorists to succeed. The purpose of a terrorist attack is to draw attention from the citizens and governments around the world to their cause by committing acts of violence. The violence is intended to affect an audience beyond the immediate victims. Terrorists carefully choose their victims to symbolize what they oppose in order to gain publicity. Seldom do terrorists attack randomly without an underlying message for the people or their government.
Some of the most famous terrorist attacks in the United States include the September 11 attacks in 2001, the Columbine High School Massacre on April 20, 1999, and the Oklahoma City Bombing on April 19, 1995. The Columbine Massacre was a school shooting plotted by two students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, which resulted in the death of twelve students, one teacher, and a lasting impression on school security. The killers committed suicide right after the attacks and left no suicide note, so the reasoning behind the attacks still goes unanswered. This particular attack shows how a person can 'fly under the radar' without anyone suspecting a thing, causing a sense of angst among the whole school.
The September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States were a series of coordinated suicide attacks by al-Qaeda. A total of four planes were hijacked on the morning of September 11, two of which crashed into the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center complex, one that flew into the Pentagon, and one that prematurely crashed on a farm in rural Pennsylvania. Just under 3,000 people were killed as a result of the attacks, and 9/11 remains the worst terrorist attack in history on US soil. This act of violence on the US was brought upon by al-Qaeda due to political and religious differences. 9/11 resulted in the involvement of the United States in a 'war on terror' throughout the Middle East. The terrorist attacks also caused Americans to fear the possibility of dying whenever they travel on planes, trains, subways, etc. It was a shock, because most citizens had no idea who al-Qaeda was pre-9/11 and the people who were targeted were just doing daily routines, such as working at the office. The World Trade Center and the Pentagon were targets mainly because they were iconic symbols for freedom, liberty, and everything this for which this country stands for.
In Oklahoma City, on April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh carried out a terrorist attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. McVeigh parked a rented truck full of explosives in front of the building and set it to detonate at 9:01 am. When the destruction ended, 168 people perished and 680 were left wounded. The purpose of the attack was to send a message to the FBI for the way they handled the 1993 Waco Siege in Waco, Texas (a 51 day standoff between FBI agents and Branch Davidian members), which resulted in the death of 76 people. What is striking about the Oklahoma City bombing is that the perpetrator served in the US army for a couple of years, which made his attack ironic. It just goes to show that almost anyone can be a suspect when it comes to being a terrorist. This led to the increased awareness that terrorists can strike at any given moment and can very likely be home grown. Both the Oklahoma City bombing and Columbine Massacre are considered to be acts of domestic terrorism.
Present Day Terrorism
On the morning of January 8, 2011, Jared Lee Loughner shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords at point-blank range and fired randomly at the crowd of people around her at a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona. He killed 5 people and severely injuring 7 others. This act of domestic terrorism was directed towards the U.S. government because the killer believes that it is trying to brainwash and control everyone. In one of his Youtube videos, Loughner said, "If you call me a terrorist then the argument to call me a terrorist is Ad Hominem". Loughner is a good example of how people with extremist beliefs can take things too far, imposing fear on all citizens in the country.
Columbine has virtually changed every school in America. Before the massacre, most high school students were allowed to leave school grounds during school hours and return when need be. Doors to the school would remain unlocked throughout the day and almost anyone could walk right off the streets into the building without notice. In the post-Columbine world, schools have changed dramatically. More and more schools are adopting a dress code policy, which limits problems due to clothing styles and the possibility of concealing weapons into the building. Surveillance cameras have since been installed throughout most schools, covering each hallway and now locked doors. Visitors of the school are now required to go to the main office and sign in. Some schools even have security guards in order to keep the school safe. No longer are students given permission to exit the school at anytime throughout the school day unless a special note is provided to a faculty member. There are a number of changes that have been made to not only schools, but also government buildings in order to insure that they remain secure. Columbine made the world realize that terrorists do not have to be foreign people with extremist beliefs, but that they can be homegrown and unsuspecting.
After the September 11 attacks, the focus on domestic terrorism shifted more towards international security, which included securing the United States' borders and making sure that a similar attack never happens again in the country. Special organizations have been implemented to spot these would-be attackers before they strike. The U.S. PATRIOT Act was signed into law by former President George W. Bush on October 26, 2001. The Act allowed 'Big Brother' to have fewer restrictions when it came to tapping phone lines and intercepting e-mail communications. It also made medical documents and financial records more accessible for the government. After 9/11, the definition of 'terrorism' was broadened and elaborated more to also include domestic terrorism. So far, the United States has remained successful in keeping the country secure from international terrorism, but terrorists are finding new and unique ways to make their point and stand out among all other news. One method being used by terrorists is to recruit people from the United States, the most unlikely suspects. This thought looms over the citizens' minds each and everyday since the next attack, if there is another one, is unpredictable. Everyone is a possible target of a terrorist plot.
Survivor & Witness Interviews
Bruce Katz worked on the 71st floor of the North Tower in the World Trade Center complex. He was twenty floors below the impact zone where the first plane hit. At first, he had no idea what had occurred, but it quickly became apparent so he evacuated the building with his coworkers. In an interview with Bruce, when asked how 9/11 changed his life, he stated, "After a near miss of losing your life, you tend to appreciate what you have. My wife was affected more; for months she would wake up in the middle of the night and reach over to make sure I was there". Bruce's statement clearly underscores how the affects of terrorism can cause citizens to fear for their lives during daily routines.
Dustin Gorton is a Columbine survivor and a friend of the two killers. During the massacre, he was in the cafeteria eating lunch with his friends. He and his friends ran to a storage closet shortly after the attack began. They remained in the closet for several hours until SWAT evacuated them out of the high school. In an interview with Dustin, when asked if he had any idea that his own friends would commit such an act of terror, he stated "They were smart. Very. Laid out plans for the future, never told anyone of their attack plans. Never gave a hint that they intended to commit mass murder. They fit into what the rest of us were doing, and kept their noses clean so they were off the radar". In response to the question of how close of a friend he was with Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, he stated, "Can I call them my friends for doing something like that to me? We were school friends... or so I though". Dustin serves as a good example for how one can be easily oblivious to an oncoming terrorist attack such as the one that took place at Columbine High School by his own two friends. Dustin went on to tell me how lucky he is to be alive and how surviving the Columbine Massacre has changed his life for the better, making him appreciate life and all that comes with it.
Michael Mogavero was working in Tower 2 of the World Trade Center for Morgan Stanley at the time of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. When he witnessed the other tower get hit by a commercial airliner, he quickly evacuated his office, only to see it get hit by a plane shortly after exiting the building. As his office collapsed down on him, while he took cover under a city bus, reality had yet to set in. Michael personally knew five people that were victims of the terrorist attack; two of his coworkers, Lynn Morris and Joseph Doyle, and three firemen, Mike Cammaratta (21 years old), James Giberson (his neighbor), and Scott Davidson (a family friend). In an interview with Michael, when asked how 9/11 changed his life, he responded, "9/11 has definitely changed me as a person. It has definitely made me more patriotic... more aware of my surroundings and grateful that I was spared at such a young age, unlike many of my friends. If they (the terrorists) decided to crash into Tower 2 first, as opposed to Tower 1, I wouldn't be here today to write this to you. That's definitely something to think about". At the time of the attacks, Michael was only 23 years old and probably one of the youngest workers in the World Trade Center. He stated that he was still at an impressionable age at the time, so 9/11 hit hard for him. For months after the attacks, he slept with his shoes on in case there was another attack. Michael's story speaks for itself in showing how citizens are impacted by terrorism.
After the Columbine Massacre and Oklahoma City bombing, the government was forced to invest in higher security for government and public buildings. This includes road blocks in front of the buildings, preventing any vehicles from pulling up too close to the building. Also, in school buildings, there are security guards and increased video surveillance. This is nothing compared to the economic impact brought upon by 9/11.
The September 11 attacks resulted in many things. Almost every flight was grounded that day, causing massive delays for the airline industry. The stock market closed for a week in fear that more attacks were immanent and also because the World Trade Center housed several bank and insurance companies. Investment companies such as the Dow Jones suffered from record drops in points on the stock market. $1.4 billion in value was lost in US stocks and $2.8 billion in wages were lost preceding the attacks. For terrorists, this would be considered a success due to the severe impact it had on the US economy and way of life for Americans post-9/11. The government now imposes strict traveling laws, making getting around that much more of a hassle and a difficulty. Much of American tax dollars now go towards securing the borders and insuring that another attack never happens again.