Posts Tagged ‘9/11’

This Sunday is the 15th anniversary of the day that forever changed the fabric of our nation.  The 9/11 attacks which killed 2,977 people touched the lives of every American.  While I personally did not know anyone who was a victim of the attacks, I spent the next 13 years experiencing the further effects of that day.  Prior to 9/11, it had been many years since I had seen the towers, even though I grew up seeing them on a very regular basis, from the New Jersey side, with the Statue of Liberty in clear profile with them.  The only time I have seen the area since has been from an airplane taking off or landing at Newark International Airport while heading out TDY somewhere for the Army.

My sister-in-law, whom I did not know at that period in time, lovingly changes her Facebook profile photo each year to that of her dear friend from school, Tonyell McDay, who lost her young life during those senseless attacks.  While I do not know anyone personally who died, everyone I know from that day forward either lost someone on 9/11 or during combat action in the years following.  9/11 is not a day that requires anyone to go more than two or three degrees of separation in order to connect any individual to someone directly affected.

In the days, weeks, months, and, early years after that day, there was a loud call from the citizens of this great country to come together in support of the survivors, the friends and families, as well as the recovery efforts in the time that followed.  Patriotism became a unifying banner across the nation as we identified the perpetrators of this horrific attack and began to take action to avenge the fallen.  As the days unfolded, we as a country experienced Patriotism in the truest sense of the word; it encompassed empathy and compassion for our Nation and those directly and indirectly affected by the attacks, and, in the sense of pride in our Armed Forces as we moved off to war to avenge this senseless attack.

In subsequent years that all-too-real, yet indefinable feeling has waned.  Not for the victims of the attacks or remembrance of the attacks themselves, but for the idea that is this great country as a whole.  For a very short period of time of the last decade and a half, the nation stood as what I can only imagine the Founding Fathers envisioned when they created the concept of what this nation should be.

Instead of building and improving upon that brief moment, we have let it slip us by, and we have squandered an opportunity born of tragedy.  I have been fortunate enough to witness the rise of some truly great leaders, both in the military and civilian world.  I speak of people capable of transformation, advancement and vision, yet, it does not seem as if it is possible for them to rise to the point, either from circumstance or personal belief, that they can move to the position where they can truly influence this nation on a different path; a path that will take us away from being a country that can only seem to come together as a result of tragedy rather than as a way of life.

As we draw closer to the 15th anniversary of this infamous day, we are being sucked further into the circus that is our run-up the the Presidential election, and I have to say that it is a bitter disappointment that we, as a nation, can only present to the world a shallow pool of candidates as a representation of a nation which at one time stood together in solidarity in the aftermath of tragedy.  Today we stand fractured with the narrative in control of a two-party system and a media which refuses to recognize that there are viable candidates beyond this crop of weeds that presents itself as a garden.

Patriotism is a feeling, an ideal, an intangible that means something different to everyone but has a common thread that runs through it which evokes a passion and emotion particular to each individual.  Unfortunately, in its inability to be defined, patriotism is  susceptible to the vitriolic narratives of party candidates, presented in a never-ending stream of sound bites to a gullible public by news outlets on a 24 hour loop.  We as Americans, are responsible for this because we are willing to accept what has been placed before us as our only options, latching on to the buzzwords which speak to the issues we see as personal to us, rather than demanding the service required by their offices they hope to achieve instead of leadership and service.

This Sunday we should reflect and remember, and pray if that is what you need.  As we do so, do not do it just for those we lost on that day.  Also do it for what we have lost since then, that brief period when we as individuals came together as one, regardless of the differences we possessed or the beliefs we harbored.  Open your heart and soul, clear your mind and really try to get in touch with that day and the emotions it evoked.  When you wake up Monday morning and get ready to start your week, as you read your paper, watch the news or listen to the radio, think about your reflection from the day before and ask yourself if this is the best we can do, are these people who are pushing our buttons to try and draw us to their side, the best we can do or is it okay to settle because they are all their is?  If you are even remotely capable of capturing a small part of what you felt on September 11th, 2001, then you will probably say that we are headed for disappointment instead of greatness, stagnation rather than excellence.

Remember our fallen and those who still suffer from that day and all the days since.  They deserve better from us, they deserve the us that rose from the ashes in the aftermath, not the us we have allowed ourselves to become.

BTAR

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I have been struggling this last year to write anything of worth.  I just do not seem to have it in me since I went out on retirement leave last October to put thoughts to words.  Writing my annual 9/11 piece seems to be just as difficult a process as anything else I have to to put down over the last few months.  Do not get me wrong, the thoughts are there in my head, the act of getting them down has been failing though.

In my first year of civilian life I had hoped to write this one with just a little bit different perspective to influence my words.  After all I started this whole thing three, almost four, years ago to help clear the anger out of my head and do something a little more constructive with my limited creative side than simply allowing dark thoughts to take up space and fester in my head.  At the end of the day, if it were not for 9/11 and all that has changed because of that day I do not think I would have entered this medium as a form of therapy.  Chances are good I would have never realized that I needed some sort of outlet and like many other Americans would have lived a much different life.

Something I have come to realize in the 14 years since the attacks is that we not only need to remember what happened that day and those we lost, we need to also remember the person we were prior to that day as well.  We all changed, for some it was a significant change, while for others it was hardly noticeable. Some of us in the ensuing years have come to realize the type of person we really were, while others, too many others, have become lost in themselves and barely resemble the who that they were before the attacks.

Many, too many, of my Brothers and Sisters have chosen to end their story long before the last chapter is written.  It is commonly accepted that 22 Veterans per day end their lives.  22 souls who could no longer wander, trying to get back to who they were or come to grips with their experiences but were unable to.  It may be that for some, they either could not remember the events that led to their experiences nor the thoughts and reasons why they took those steps in the days and years after.  It is possible for many it is the polar opposite, they remember all too well how they were changed that day and forever are tied to their actions in the ensuing years, unable to make a break away from their personal changes or simply unable to accept them.

9/11 changed many things for many people.  Some of us stayed at war until we left the service; for many they remain at war even though they are a long way away from their days in combat.  The country latched on to a short-term, intense patriotism, supporting revenge, justice, vengeance or any other adjective to describe what has continued as a conflict without end.  I do not blame anyone for this, we all lost someone or something of ourselves that day and America is known as a nation you do want to have to defend your backyard from.  We need to remember that day because it is the day we all moved as a nation, from who we were to who we are now.

The lives of our current and future generations was radically altered in the days since 9/11.  After the initial closeness and drawing together, we have exploded outward and become polarizing and extreme.  The thing that initially brought us together in our grief, morning and collective desire for vengeance has also shattered our old way of life, turning it into something almost unrecognizable at times.  We always disagreed, but eventually there was some form of compromise for the country.  Now there is a hostile polarity from which compromise is only reached from a position of dominance and for the good of the party.  The ignorant have a greater voice than the wise, who are often labeled in the antithesis of what is considered an American.  People who believe everyone should have a fair shake at accessing anything as anyone are called socialist while people who would have you believe the belief system is the only way and it is how we should be governed are totally ignorant of the fact that is the same philosophy as those who decided to attack us that day.

We do need to remember.  The many lives lost.  The friends and families of those lost.  Those who witnessed the acts live or on television.  The heroes who lost their lives moving to the destruction to help others to live.  The passengers who chose a farmers field rather than to be used as a fourth weapon of destruction.

Most of all we all need to remember who we were before that day, individually and collectively.  We may not have been any better people than we are today, but we are all radically altered in the years that have followed.  Just a couple of months after the 15th Anniversary of 9/11 next year we will be choosing the next leader of the country.  We need to decide whether we want to continue the cycles and dynasties that we have allowed or if we want to try something new and see where it goes.

Remember the events of 9/11 and the people we lost that day and in years since.  History will judge our actions since then as a nation and whether that pivotal event portended our downfall or our ascension.  Patriots Day is a day of reflection brought about by noble actions in response to a most ignoble event.  Take a moment in your busy day today and think about that day, the memory is yours, reflection is good.  Time may close some wounds but it does not mean they are healed.

The Flag of Honor is comprised of the names of the fallen from September 11, 2001

Eleven years ago this Tuesday, the most heinous act of terrorism ever committed against the United States was perpetrated by 19 terrorists who hijacked four airplanes with the intent of flying them into significant American symbols.  The objective of the masterminds behind the plan was to crush the resolve of the American government and demonstrate to their extremist allies that America and the Western nations of the world were impotent to do anything about it.  They achieved their short-term tactical objectives and managed to crash three of the aircraft into symbols of America’s might.  The two flights that crashed into the World Trade Center complex destroyed thousands of lives beyond those killed directly in the attack.  The attack on the Pentagon did the same.  Buildings were destroyed, our resolve challenged and America was brought to a standstill as thousands of flights were grounded and forced to land immediately.  Our economy, which was attacked in the destruction of the World Trade Center complex, hiccuped as the private organizations and government agencies responsible for it moved into recovery mode.

In what should have been a foretelling of the years to come for Al Qaeda, the brave people on board Flight 93 were not satisfied with what appeared to be another notch in the terrorists gun.  They instead fought back, attempting to wrest control of the aircraft from the terrorists.  The brave sacrifice of the people on Flight 93 resulted in their crashing into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvannia, rather than hitting their unknown ultimate goal.  The flight path of the plane would have taken it to the Washington, D.C. area.  The brave sacrifice of the passengers, epitomized by the phrase “Lets Roll!” was a demonstration of resolve and sacrifice.  The bravery of the passengers, thousands of first responders and volunteers in the days, weeks, months and now years, during and in the aftermath of the attacks is the foundation for our Global War on Terror.

As we approach the 11 year anniversary of 9/11 and not long after our war in Afghanistan, public opinion has waxed and waned on our involvement in the country.  There have been numerous reasons as to why this may be the case, that however is something we will never be able to settle.  What we can do, however, is on 9/11 take a moment to remember those lost on that day and since.  We can remember the feeling we had as we watched the attacks happen, we should all remember what we were doing on that day and how we felt.  It is an indelible part of our lives, and it was the day that an organization, not a country or state actor, declared war on us and our way of life.

There are many who feel that after 11 years we should already have moved forward as a nation, sitting back on our hindquarters waiting for the next attack to happen.  Some feel that the death of Bin Laden last year should be symbolic of the end of the war on terror and is indicative of the fall of Al Qaeda as an effective terrorist organization.  We have moved away from teaching our children history as it actually happened, even the ugly warts sitting beneath the surface, and instead have embraced the media driven soft soaping and political party obfuscation.  It is a rare day when the horrific images of that day are shown publicly, as they were in the aftermath.  Instead, you generally only see them in the days before and after the anniversary.  We owe to our children and future generations to teach them what happened on that day, and if possible the events that led up to it.  They deserve the truth, pure and unadulterated, not the history that has been written by the victors of the political sentiment of the day.

Take a few moments this Tuesday and remember, as an American, what you were doing and how you felt.  Remember those who died that day and know that no matter how imperfect or unpleasant it may seem, that there is a line of people out there doing their best to keep the fight where the enemy really is and off our shores.  Eleven years of sacrifice should serve as a lesson of American resolve and the truly heavy price our “freedom” comes at.

This is going to be the first in a series of posts related to the Department of Homeland Security and other measures which came into being post-9/11.  The intent is to be informative as to the reason why some of the organization was done, the role of some of the organizations, and an explanation as to the differences and similarities between Homeland Security and National Security.  I will also try to address the “All hazards approach” to Homeland Security, the role of government in it at all levels as well as the responsibilities of the individual citizens of our country.  There will be no specified timeline or number/topics for this series.

When I first started this blog several months ago I had recently completed my degree.  In August of 2011 I completed a Bachelors of Art in Homeland Security.  This degree plan dovetailed very nicely with my chosen career in the military and I felt that it would give me some academic credentials to go along with the practical, and very real-world experience I have gained throughout my career.  I was pleasantly surprised at how much I did not know about Homeland Security and National Security despite the fact that I had been a serving member of the military for so many years. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS from here on out) has only been in existence since the 21st century.  In fact it was signed into existence post-9/11 in a series of Executive orders and Homeland Security Presidential Directives (HSPD) by the President George W. Bush.  This was the first restructuring of government organizations since the Central Intelligence Act and National Security Acts of 1947.

On 8 October, 2001, President Bush signed Executive Order 13228, Establishing the Office of Homeland Security and the Homeland Security Council.  Starting on the 29th of October, 2001, Bush began a series of Homeland Security Presidential Directives (HSPDs)  which layout the framework for our Homeland Security initiatives.  As of today there are a total of 25 HSPDs with the most recent one being signed in 2009.

HSPD-1 is the original document which laid out the organization for the Homeland Security Council, which at that time was a separate organization under the President, which reported directly to him on matters that they felt dealt within the realm of Homeland Security as the developed them.  Certain portions of HSPD-1 have been superseded since 2001 as the Homeland Security Council and the Director of Homeland Security are now positions on the National Security Council.  The Director of Homeland Security can still report directly to the president in matter of Homeland Security, by-passing the NSC, allowing the Director to advise without the added layers of bureaucracy that would come with the NSC.

Among the most significant changes to the federal bureaucracy was the significant reorganizing of existing departments to include the combination of many agencies, the movement of several from their original Table of Organizations and the redefining of the responsibilities of many of them.  Significant to note is that originally the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was moved directly under DHS, losing its appointed Secretary position (this was a restructure again in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast region).  One move that initially sparked some controversy was the assigning of authority for the US Coast Guard (USCG) from the Department of Defense (DoD) to DHS.  Technically, the USCG is still part of the DoD, but due to the unique mission they are assigned, their coastal patrol and defense of our shores is a function that falls directly under the DHS.

Among the key failings in government that allowed the 9/11 attacks to happen was the inability for our intelligence agencies to collect, gather, analyze and disseminate the information which could, possibly, have prevented the attacks.  One of the major missions of DHS which has been lost to the public view in the decade since it was created is as the clearing house for all intelligence which affects Homeland Security.  DHS has become the fusion center for information generated at all levels of government.  Each state and US territory has created, and is required, to have some office of homeland security matter, which then helps the flow of information that is generated at the local level up to the federal, as well as a means of information making its way downward to local authorities.  There are currently over 50 major and smaller centers which consist of all levels of law enforcement, emergency management and intelligence personnel with varying levels of security classification.  This method allows for the protection of the source while ensuring the information generated makes it to where it belongs.

Now that there is some context to the creation and role of DHS it should be a little easier to understand the differences between Homeland Security and National Security.  The two are neither exclusive nor inclusive of each other and they in no way reflect what Hollywood has habitually portrayed the two as being.

Lets start with the oft touted term of National Security.  Simply put, National Security is protecting that which affects our global reach and interests throughout the globe.  It includes our strategic goals militarily such as insuring democracy has a role and people are not threatened by their state (i.e., genocide as happened in the Balkans).  It also includes the assurance that global shipping shall remain free and unencumbered (this is just one example where NS and HS coincide in effort and definition).  National Security is a broad and not easily defined term, but in its most base examples it deals with protecting the global reach of America and that what reaches our shores is what we want to reach them (goods and services vice terrorism).

Homeland Security is a bit easier to define and give examples for, but it does blend with National Security on many levels.  Homeland Security has its roots at many levels of the government, but is center around Planning, Preparation, Recovery, and Mitigation.  Homeland Security uses the “all hazards approach” as a means of achieving these four goals.  All Hazards allows for a cross purpose to combating disasters within our borders.  Whether the disaster be man-made as in a terrorist incident, natural as in extreme weather or earthquake, an attempt to derail any of the Critical National Infrastructure or any of the smaller yet no less devastating emergencies that can happen, “all-hazards” is an attempt at giving the tools necessary at all levels of response.  Through grants, training, certifications and disaster exercises, first responders of various disciplines need to work together in order to move a disaster into the Recovery phase and begin Planning with Mitigation steps to avoid, defeat or adequately respond to the next potential disaster.  The four phases are a constantly evolving series of steps that begin with the implementation of the Plan prior to or in response to an event.  There will be further explanation of this in a future posting

In considering the definition of Homeland Security further, the blur between it and National Security falls most greatly into the reception of global goods into our Ports of Entry, immigrations and customs issues and protection of our critical national infrastructures such as: ports; power grid; agriculture; roadways; railways; airports; and, our skies.  That is not the extent of the list, but it is the most commonly identified infrastructures.  One that is included but rates a mention of its own is our cyber-security.  As the 21st century has been moving on, our critical infrastructure, to include the internet itself, have grown increasingly reliant upon the movement of data across the Global Information Grid.  Our efforts to secure and mandate security have not grown in proportion to the threats and several agencies and organization have claimed the role as their sole responsibility.  At the heart of the matter it is a DHS issue, but it will probably require some sort of cyber disaster before the role of lead on the issue(s) is assigned to one authority.  DHS will more than likely face the fallout from the all-hazards response.

Hollywood does not do the differences between National Security and Homeland Security any justice.  repeatedly in movies and on television they destroy the meaning behind the terms and the roles they play in our security as a nation.  Sometimes this is done as a political statement by the producers or writers, other times it is done in simple ignorance because national issues make for good film.  The so-called fair and balanced media does no better as acts they report on are skewed to their agendas and ideologies rather than educating the masses they reach so easily.  To be fair, our government and DHS especially do not do much to get the information out to the public.  It is there, provided you know where to look or are in the community of responders, but it is not collaborative, nor is it easy to find unless you know where to look.  That is one of the things I hope to change in this series of postings.