Sept. 11, 2001, is one of those dates everyone remembers precisely where they were and what they were doing. When the horrifying images of jetliners crashing into New York’s World Trade Center towers began to stream across every TV screen in America, people on the East Coast had just begun their workdays while those in the West were still rolling out of bed. Being in California, I was among the latter. But having suffered complications from lower back surgery gone awry, I was chiefly confined to a prone position. Like our nation, my recovery would prove to be a long, painful and arduous process that continues to this day.
Of course, my personal ordeal pales in comparison to those of the thousands directly affected by the tragic events of 9/11. But my spine troubles have called for two qualities families of the victims, survivors and rescue personnel have demonstrated in spades - resiliency and resolve. From that I find inspiration to overcome my own challenges, which is a tribute to them.
My closest link to the losses was having made the acquaintance of WTC Security Director Douglas Karpiloff, who perished that dreadful day 10 years ago, during a tour I had taken of the facility the prior year. Myself and the group of other security professionals present marveled at the impressive systems and measures that had been put in place to protect the towers. It was probably the most elaborate and comprehensive security of any commercial structure in the world and made the WTC seem invincible.
Like many stories that emerged during the aftermath of 9/11, Karpiloff’s was one of irony and fate as twisted as the wreckage that remained at the site. Having overseen the multimillion-dollar security upgrade in response to 1993’s WTC car bombing, Karpiloff was set to retire and onsite the morning of 9/11 only to help his successor get up to speed. He poured his heart and soul into 30 years of service for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and witnesses last saw him trying to help others as the towers collapsed.
Karpiloff and so many other thoughts and emotions bombarded my mind when I first visited Ground Zero in November 2001. Seeing the giant, still smoldering pit that had been such a prolific symbol of the American way of life was staggering. All the surrounding photos, flowers, candles, letters and other tokens of honor and sorrow on display intensified the unforgettable, nightmarish experience.
Shortly after 9/11, having reconciled the confusion of what had transpired, the overwhelming feelings I was left with were anguish and anger. As a member of the media I was afforded a platform to channel that rage and express my viewpoints about the situation. But much more importantly, I was an agent of the security industry - and that empowered me to contribute directly to the effort to help keep Americans safer.
As security professionals this is a mission we all share, and in which we take tremendous pride. Rightly so because, sad as it may be, life in the post-9/11 world means security technologies, systems, services and skills are more critical than ever before. Those capabilities combined the attributes of vigilance, determination and dedication have allowed our industry to play a key role in preventing anything approaching the magnitude of 9/11 from taking place on U.S. soil 10 years after the catastrophe.
True the sometimes grim reality is there is only so much we can do since funding can limit the extent of our solutions, antiterrorism tactics intersect and overlap but ultimately exceed the reach of security on the evildoer continuum, and random and/or spontaneous acts of violence can be unpredictable and virtually impossible to prevent. Nevertheless, there remains so much we can - and must - do.
While it’s true we have been fortunate not to have experienced a comparable incident the past 10 years, I certainly don’t consider it, as some do, to be luck. It is largely the result of a strategic, committed and unified effort. Regardless of which strata of the security industry you fall into, know you are vital to this cause and to be commended for its success. Now let’s get busy repeating the feat for the next 10 years.
Editor-in-Chief Scott Goldfine has spent more than 12 years with SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION. He can be reached at (704) 663-7125 or [email protected]