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Security doubts remain

Luke Busam | Thursday, September 11, 2003

Exactly two years after the Notre Dame community woke up to the living nightmare that was Sept. 11, 2001, the fear has not totally vanished. Time has begun to heal the wounds of that day, and for many on campus, the apprehension and unsafe feelings are beginning to dissipate.

For others, the time for caution is not gone.

Professor of Political Science and fellow of the Institute for International Peace Studies Daniel Lindley said, “Notre Dame is a high value target, especially football games. Notre Dame is a core symbol of Catholic identity and collegiate sports are a symbol of national identity. But I feel much safer in South Bend than a lot of other places I can think of. Keep in mind that there are thousands of other high value targets in the [United States]. For example, there are 123 chemical plants which, if attacked, could cause over a million casualties each.”

Many Notre Dame students have little concern about an attack on campus.

“I don’t feel at risk for an attack in South Bend or on campus. It’s not exactly a huge target,” said Matt Klein, a senior from Long Island, N.Y.

Klein, who spent his summer working in New York City, said that although he may feel safe at Notre Dame, the unease that descended on the city two years ago has still not faded. This summer’s electrical blackout, he said, only proved his assumptions.

“When I was in the blackout you could tell people were thinking there was more to come than a blackout. Obviously, though, I feel more at risk in the city than at my house in the suburbs. Terrorists aren’t going to attack something inconsequential like Floral Park,” he said.

Freshman Sarah Tebeest of Wayne, a town in northern New Jersey, said she didn’t think Notre Dame could be a target of attack. “I feel safer here than at home and I feel quite safe at home,” she said.

Students from other parts of the country further removed from the direct effects of the terrorist acts said they have begun to feel relatively safer at home, due to increased security and safety measures that have been taken across the nation.

Sarah Cancellare, a junior from El Paso, TX, said she had specific reasons for her feelings of security while at home. “I do feel safe at home. I think a lot has to do with the border patrol we have always had. There’s always been increased awareness in El Paso because of illegal immigrants and drugs. They’ve added weapons of mass destruction to their plate now and further increased awareness.”

Far removed from both borders and major cities, Colin Pogge, a junior from Iowa, said he feels relatively safe in his hometown of Des Moines.

“I realize that the nation at large is still in danger but I also realize that Des Moines is probably not a hot spot for terrorism,” he said.

Agus Galmarini, a freshman from Florida, echoed Pogge’s sentiment.

“I don’t think there’s anything there that’s worth attacking in Ft. Myers,” she said, adding, “I feel safe at ND. I can’t explain it, but I do.”

Not all members of the Notre Dame community agree that the United States’ efforts to combat terrorism have resulted in complete confidence in personal safety.

“I do not feel that the war on terrorism has made me safe. Safer yes, safe no. 9/11 was a wake-up call, and we’ve made progress with some degree of emergency preparedness, drug stockpiling, and disrupting al-Qaeda, but the Department of Homeland Security needs to get its act together and the funds for airport security are woefully short, among other problems,” Lindley said.

While students were mostly united in their lack of concern for their safety on campus or at home, they expressed differing views regarding the “War on Terror” and the Department of Homeland Security’s Terror Alert System. A number said they believed the “War on Terror” has increased American awareness and security. Galmarini said she had different beliefs.

“We haven’t found Saddam, we haven’t found Osama. I think it’s made us look more vulnerable actually. It’s very obvious that we haven’t accomplished what we set out to do,” she said.

Cynicism over the Terror Alert system was generally expressed. Students said it was unreliable, of little impact and colorful but meaningless.

Cancellare said the system had its merits, saying, “I think anything we do in that respect can make us safer. Focusing any intelligent group of people on one goal is a step in the right direction. We are making a concerted effort on something we weren’t making an effort on before. The system definitely makes people more aware of the status of terrorism and the potential threats on the horizon.”

While many students expressed a sincere hope that the government’s efforts to stop terrorist activity will prove successful, they did not express the belief that another attack is impossible.

“More than likely another attack will occur. I feel it will be difficult for it to be on the same scale as 9/11, but it’s not out of the question,” said Klein.