September 9, 2011

'Now it's in the back of your mind'

Security and liberty. War and worry. Our world changed forever when terror came to America.

By David Hench
Staff Writer

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The Transportation Security Administration has equipped the Portland Police Department with three bomb-sniffing dogs for use at the jetport and to a lesser extent along the waterfront and at other transportation hubs.

Even terrorism security loses its urgency over time, the same way the effects of community tragedies might fade.

"There tends to be an initial surge of activity, training and education, and at some point it will level off as other emergencies or issues arise," Sauschuck said. "Our awareness will always be high. You don't go through 9/11 and simply move on. But you are forced through necessity to reallocate and reprioritize resources and address issues in your community that are more acute right then."

In the 10 years since the attacks, the most significant changes may be in the way people regard each other, positively and negatively.

Americans pulled together in the aftermath. Flags were everywhere in a way that hadn't been seen in decades.

"The Vietnam situation was a damper on overt patriotism, however with the attack on 9/11, the submerged patriotic fervor burst forth again," said the Rev. William Doughty, a World War II veteran and chaplain for VFW Post 6859. It has subsided some, but it remains strong in the context of honoring those who have died serving the country, he said.

The attacks also have led to ongoing unease, if not fear.

"We recognize we are a nation under threat and it's almost impossible for Americans to think that's going to happen" despite frequent reminders in the news, he said.

Some residents worry that unbridled nationalism coupled with fear has led to intolerance of dissenting views and people who differ from the dominant culture.

"The last 10 years have seen a lot of pressure to conform, that while people may express their love of their country in many different ways, there's this idea that there's really only one way to be patriotic," said Zachary Heiden, legal affairs director for the Maine Civil Liberties Union.

Heiden believes one of the enduring impacts of the Sept. 11 attacks is an erosion of personal freedom that diminishes the overall society. Civil liberties groups across the country, he said, have documented that government agencies have conducted surveillance on peace groups, Muslim groups and environmental groups in recent years.

"That surveillance puts pressure on members of those groups to hide their associations with one another and curtail their activities," he said. "All of that made us all less free."

Most people, however, won't experience it directly, he said.

"I think it's maybe only tangible when it happens to you," he said.

Doughty believes that churches have played an important role in educating congregants that people who are different are a blessing, not necessarily a threat deserving of suspicion.

"Since you don't know who your enemies are, you're kind of suspicious of almost everybody," he said, "You can become intolerant if you don't work at it."

The passage of a decade also means that people entering college or the military today were just children when the towers fell and the Pentagon was attacked. Teenagers may have been aware of the angst swirling around them, but unclear of its historical significance.

For them, this is not a changed world. It's simply their world.

"I feel like things have changed a great deal for people like my son, who will never go through that feeling of comfortableness that we had," said Usinger, referring to his 15-year-old.

"I always had a feeling as an American I was safe. I never felt like somebody wanted to do something like that to us," he said. "Now it's in the back of your mind."

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:


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