In the months leading up to the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, The Scene asked readers to share their thoughts on the events of the day and how they reshaped our individual lives, molded our collective conscience, and changed the world as we know it.
More than 100 of you responded, many anxious to read the opinions of your fellow alumni. Excerpts from those letters filled the print edition of The Scene, and you can read all letters in their entirety exclusively in The Scene online. (See "Sections in this Article", below.)
Submissions ran the gamut from support for American troops to indictment of the current administration, calls to arms and calls to peace, spiritual awakening and emotional apathy, friends lost and babies born, close calls and what ifs, fear and anger, thanksgiving and hope.
It was with hope in mind that The Scene asked Lane McGaughy, Atkinson Professor of Religious and Ethical Studies, to reflect on what the events of that day bode for the future of community, culture and civilization. An excerpt from his interview appeared in the print edition of The Scene; you can access his full reflection from the menu below.
Following is a copy of a letter I wrote on the terrorist attacks which was published in the Oregon State Bar Bulletin for November, 2002.
The sentiments expressed by the judge in the Korematsu case, which are quoted in my letter, are even more timely and important today. And they are reinforced by the recent decision of the United States Supreme Court in the Hamdan case.
Those who, like us, were a continent away from the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, can hardly appreciate the horror and emotional trauma experienced by those who were more immediately affected. And it is impossible to express in words our feelings for those who lost their lives or their loved ones, either in the attack or in the subsequent rescue efforts. But we can be alert to the possible consequences if our government, either for vengeance or concern for security, takes measure that jeopardize the very freedoms of its citizens that we claim to be protecting.
Such actions as surveillance without probable cause, arrest on mere suspicion, detention incommunicado and without charge, denial of counsel and trial by executive fiat, bring to mind the words of a federal judge in the setting aside the judgment in one of the World War II Japanese exclusion cases: “As historical precedent it stands as a constant caution that in times of war or declared military necessity our institutions must be vigilant in protecting constitutional guarantees. It stands as a caution that in times of distress the shield of military necessity and national security must not be used to protect governmental actions from close scrutiny and accountability. It stands as a caution that in times of international hostility and antagonisms our institutions, legislative, executive and judicial, must be prepared to exercise their authority to protect all citizens from the petty fears and prejudice that are so easily aroused.” Korematsu v. United States of America, 584 F. Supp. 1406@1420 (N.D. Cal., 1984)
I was at home working when 9-11 was on TV, so I saw it happen at first. When the first plane hit, I thought it was accidental. My life is about the same, more security at airports. Yes, the world has changed! Unstable, dangerous. Advice to me — Don’t trust anybody. I’m ok – It doesn’t keep totally. I was against going to Iraq
On my wall hangs a large certificate with the gold Seal of the President and signed by President Bush which reads: "In recognition of Distinguished Service on September 11, 2001, presented to Stuart McIntyre for your dedicated service to the White House and the Executive Office of the President following the attack on the United States of America."
I wasn't actually at the White House when the terrorists struck. I was heading out the door to go to the White House that day, catching a last glimpse of CNBC, when the TV camera focussed on the smoke coming from the 1st tower of the World Trade Center. Then I watched in horror as the second plane struck its target. Soon thereafter I stepped out on my balcony to see the black smoke coming from the Pentagon. I did not make it that day to my office in the White House complex.
A working colleague of mine didn't make it to the White House either; he was in his car driving beside the Pentagon when a plane flew into the side of the Pentagon and he saw the impact right before his eyes.
Five years later he and I still work for the National Security Council in the Executive Office of the President. I enjoy my work there and at the Department of State. None of us worries much about possible risks. We just do our jobs as best we can.
The experience of 9/11 has for me only strenthened my belief that we must work ever more closely with other govenments and their peoples while remaining vigilant.