Did Technology Fail Us In The Terrorist Attacks?
On a bright, picture perfect late summer morning, I popped the moon roof on my Celica, clicked on the radio and headed out on my 45-minute jaunt to the office in Hoboken, N.J., which sits on the banks of the Hudson River opposite lower Manhattan.
It was one of those days that makes you smile, makes you thinkas a former professor of mine used to saythat “its great to be alive.” None of us had the slightest inkling that day that we would not feel like smiling again for many days to comeor that some of us would never again be able to ruminate on the virtues of being alive.
When I saw the mushroom cloud over the still distant World Trade Center, my first shocked thought was: “Dear God, please dont let this be nuclear.” I thought of my son and others close to me, realizing that if this was a nuclear blast that I, and probably they, were already lost. I kept going.
I soon found another radio station and began to hear reports of what had happened. While I was relieved to learn that we hadnt experienced a nuclear attack, that relief was short lived. Fears began to rise in me as I realized that, despite the cautious remarks of the radio broadcasters, this was no accident.
When I finally reached Hoboken, I could see that the World Trade Center was engulfed in choking black billowing smoke. The huge towers, not yet collapsed, loomed directly ahead of me, just across the river. Radio commentators solemnly talked of desperate people jumping 70 or 80 stories to their deaths. I prayed I wouldnt be able to see that. That prayer, at least, was answered.
As I walked the few blocks to my office, I saw a city in the throes of shock, stunned disbelief, anguish and grief. People wandered in the street, not knowing what to do, where to go or what to say. Some were sobbing openly. Many in this city commute daily to the World Trade Center area and many of those now on Hobokens streets, I knew, had friends and loved ones in those ill-fated buildings.
Life would never be the same.
In the days since that awful attack on our nation, we at National Underwriter have written much about what it would mean for insurers and for this industry. My thoughts, naturally, focused on the role that technology might have played in preventing this and the other assaults that took place that summer day.
How is it, people began asking, that not one, but four airliners could be hijacked simultaneously? How did the hijackers get weapons past the security checkpoints? Why werent they detected and caught by airport security technology?
The answers to these questions are still being sought, but some things we do know. A number of the airport security experts who were interviewed after the attacks said it would have been fairly easy to slip weaponsparticularly the knives and box cutters that were apparently usedpast the airport screening devices.
If the knives werent metal, for example, there would be no detection, although the weapons could be just as deadly as metal ones. In my research, I uncovered an even more disturbing fact. Airlines routinely allow people to bring knives with blades that are up to four inches long onto airliners!
On my key ring is a small, but sharp utility knife with a two-inch blade that flips out. It looks harmless enough. I bring it with me on airline flights routinely and have never been stopped or questioned. When you consider doubling the blade length, however, were talking about what could be a lethal weaponespecially in the hands of terrorists.