To many of us, the most striking thing about the crowds that gathered in front of the White House and at the former World Trade Center site in New York last week on the news of the successful U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden was how very young the people were.
Many of them looked to be college-age, and they led what was for a night a kind of national celebration, what one woman called “the close of that chapter” that opened 10 years ago, on September 11.
“This is full circle for our generation,” Maureen Hasson, a 22-year-old recent college graduate told The Associated Press in Washington’s Lafayette Square, across from the White House. “Just look around at the average age here. We were all in middle school when the terrorists struck.”
There were others in the crowd who came, well, not exactly to celebrate, but to see for themselves this terrible chapter closed: An older man, carrying a framed photo of his son in military uniform, a son killed in combat in Afghanistan; a middle-aged couple, the husband limping from wounds suffered in Iraq.
“What started with the towers falling on 9/11 is what inspired my son to enlist in the first place,” another man, Kevin Graves, told the Contra Costa, Calif., Times, of his son, Joey, who died in Iraq in 2006. “This is a resolution. I am extremely proud of my son and all the young men and women who went there to fight for us.” But last week’s news, he said, provides no relief, “not at all.”
In fact, the response across much of the world was far more muted than any of us might have imagined almost a decade ago, when the horror and anger over such murderous actions gave way to worries over the possible spread of religious fundamentalism and concerns over supply chain security.
A decade later, after failed attempts at more terror attacks on the United States and successful attacks in Indonesia, Madrid and London, populations in Middle Eastern nations themselves have provided the strongest rebuke possible to these ministers of death. What some call the “Arab Spring” seems a loud call of hope for modern, democratic societies.
And the world of trade and transportation, the pillars of the modern world that also were attacked a decade ago, also have moved on and are stronger than ever.
There is a legacy of September 11 every time we see a family with young children removing their shoes, placing toddlers’ backpacks on X-ray belts at airports (my heart broke when I had to tell my then 4-year-old daughter to remove her jacket and step into the screening area).
But supply chain security has come far in the past decade. The release by Wikileaks of one suspected terrorist’s dossier shows great concern at the terror group over maritime security. And last October’s attempted parcel bombings in Yemen showed how far terrorists are wiling to go to find cracks in security barriers, but it also showed those cracks to be exceedingly small and matched by the intelligence the trading world has developed in its layered security protections.
For the shipping and trade community, that security has been a decade in the making.