Ten years after the United States experienced one of its most tragic events in history, people are still trying to find a sense of normalcy.
Indianapolis Airport Security Director Reggie Baumgardner worked in a New Jersey airport when United Airlines flight 93 from Newark crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. He says the nation still has not recovered from that day.
“We got word over the radio and you could see smoke in the distance. I’ll never forget seeing the smoke,” he said. “It was a very eerie feeling getting back to the airport because that was the first time since I’d been there that nothing was really going on, it was very, very quiet.”
At the Indianapolis International Airport, Chief Operating Officer Mike Medvescek watched as planes scurried to land anywhere they could, including an additional 70 commercial planes at his field alone.
“I’ll never forget when the tower controller came back to us and said ‘you can go wherever you want the airports closed.’” Medvescek said. “And that was an eerie feeling because most of us were here for about three days.”
Security at airports, and around the nation changed that day. Indianapolis went a step further, becoming the first city to build a major airport after the terrorist attacks. And passengers flying through the new facility today say they feel safe.
“I feel safe because the search and things that they go through the cameras, all of that is looking at everything that every passenger brings into the airport and brings onto an airplane,” Fred Steele from Minneapolis said. “I think from that perspective it feels a lot safer.”
“I got a ticket for $150 round trip to Berlin from Chicago, and I took that trip one month after,” Jennifer Hoyer of Orange County, Calif. said. “So I felt safe. I know things like that happen and unfortunate for us it happened here in the U.S. but I feel safe with what we’re doing.”
9/11 Effects on Indiana Muslims
But Islamic scholars in Indiana, like Faiz Rahman, the former president of the Bloomington Islamic Center, say the feeling of safety has not translated as directly to Hoosiers’ views of Muslims. Rahman says it’s important to note Islam and Christianity say similar things about the all-powerful nature of a God, including this passage from the Koran, which describes God as the owner of the universe.
“Two versus here that talks about the power of God, and gives a description of what He can do. God is the owner of the whole universe.”
“A lot of people in society figure out that when somebody wrongly thinks that just because those terrorists used to be of Islamic faith that I must be as a Muslim apart of that,” Rahman said. “That’s just not the right thing to think about.
“I’m an immigrant, but I live in this country because I really like it I love it, but I also criticize a lot of things about it just because I want it to be better.”
IU Sociology Professor Fabio Rojas will celebrate his birthday on September 11th, as others mourn the day. He says the terrorism of the last ten years has radicalized people – a fact evident in the slaying earlier this year of Al-Queda’s leader.
“The American government was able to track down and kill Osama Bin Laden almost ten years later,” he said. “So from a military perspective terrorism is not a very smart tactic, but from a symbolic perspective it’s a very strategic thing to do because if you kill innocent civilians that will attract attention.”
Rojas says directly following the attack many people of Middle Eastern decent were singled out by the Department of Homeland Security for having Islamic names, even if they had no ties to terrorism.
But David Kane, Indiana’s Transportation Security Director, insists that was borne out of information.
“In some cases, people will question ‘why are you doing that’—it’s rooted in something intelligence or its rooted in events,” he said, “but there are not decisions that are just made in a vacuum.
Though experts say many of the stereotypical depictions of racial profiling have receded, many Muslims still feel vilified. But Faiz Rahman says if improvements can continue, the lessons of 9-11 may well help the state.
“I think just like any other immigrant community, in this country there is a need of reaching out telling people who they are and in fact my experience post 9-11 was really good in one sense,” Rahman said.”
The new “normal” looks different that it did a decade ago. But if time heals all wounds, the scars left on Hoosiers who watched the attacks from afar may be on the mend.