by Mark Cummuta

9/11 – Are We Different Now?

Sep 12, 20073 mins

How have the attacks on 9/11 changed YOU? 

I had a sobering thought after reading Michael Goldberg’s article on 9/11: that we haven’t truly changed. By that I mean, how many of us have individually understood how much our worldview has been altered by those acts of terrorism? 

We went from a period of unprecedented economic growth to an unprecedented attack on our homeland to war in an instant of four fireballs. Simultaneously, our country’s method of orderly political leadership was attacked by a completely different form of political determination: terrorism. 

The UN defined terrorism in 2004 as any act “intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act.”  Terrorism is illegal in most countries, and it is not an “alternative means of warfare” since it deliberately targets civilians to create fear and terror. 

Please note that I am not trying to argue for or against war, nor the politics of our current war. This is not the forum, nor is that my point. My point is that on September 11, 2001, the largest single act of terrorism in human history occurred on our soil, unprovoked, during a time of relative global peace.

In its wake we were thrust into a new world where ordinary people need to think like military strategists in their business and personal lives in terms of defensive perimeters, layered security and threat analysis. 

At a time when the US federal government is trying to emulate the efficiencies of corporations, the corporate world is becoming more aware of the non-business threats it must include in its disaster recovery and business continuity planning. 

On the day the United States was attacked, I was CTO for an Internet communications firm whose clients included a number of federal agencies and large defense contractors. During the attack, I had to convince our executive team what was really happening—that terrorists were essentially waging war on the United States.  Having served in the US Marine Corps, I knew what electronic warfare might entail, and I did not want our client connections to become a target opportunity. So I then proceeded to completely lock our systems down. 

Since that day, I’ve continually evaluated the security of whatever company I’ve worked for, its personnel, systems, facilities and clients’ trust. 

But time blunts the edge of pain and unseen threats become lower priorities, or worse, windmills and pink elephants. 

If you had a leadership role back on 9/11/01, what was your reaction during the attacks? What did you do?  Since that day, how has 9/11 affected the way you work and lead?  In your leadership role, do you consider non-business threats more akin to Paul Revere’s call to arms or more akin to Chicken Little’s dire shouts?