September 11, 2011 marks the 10th anniversary of the devastating attacks that forever changed the course of American history. Our members reflect on the impact that day had on them both personally and professionally. AFGE 7th District National Vice President Dorothy James represents federal employees in Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin.
On September 11th, 2001, I was a National Representative for District 7, hired by my past supervisor, Robert (Bob) Nelson. I worked from my home in Farmington Hills, Michigan, and serviced AFGE members throughout the state.
On that memorable day, I was working on a case at home when I saw the crash of a plane into one the World Trade Center’s twin towers. Although the TV was on a news channel I momentarily thought, as millions of other must have, that this channel had to have been running a film clip, or there was a terrible accident attributed to pilot error. Not until the second plane crashed into the second tower did it become appallingly evident that this was not Hollywood and it was unlikely that two pilots could have made the same mistake.
Shocked and stunned, I made calls to family and friends to confirm that I was not hallucinating. Some thought that I was, others saw it themselves and those who did expressed total disbelief. Although the incidents of 9/11 have been viewed hundreds of times, the penetrating emotions of fear, hatred and disgust remain permanently etched in our nation’s conscience.
9/11 changed our way of life. It has prompted travelers to be suspicious of each other; it has left flying passengers angry with long lines, metal detectors and clothing removal. Infants and the elderly are not spared intrusive screening.
9/11 changed the way Americans view those of Middle Eastern descent. All eyes quickly turn to the flying passengers with the olive complexion and dark hair and an uneasy feeling occurs as they are being carefully scrutinized. Middle Easterners have been extremely vocal about racial profiling and were outraged when they were not permitted to build a mosque in the vicinity of the Twin Towers.
A new agency, the Department of Homeland Security, was created to minimize the terrorist threat to the American public. This has resulted in billions of additional taxpayer dollars for new personnel and highly developed screening equipment.
On the flip side, AFGE has benefited from the creation of DHS. We prevailed as the winner of an election to represent the more than 40,000 Transportation Security Officers. This was the largest election campaign in the history of AFGE.
Are we safer now than we were before 911? It depends on who you ask.