Residents adapting to altered way of life

Five years after 9/11 attacks, security and fear still run high

Posted: Sunday, September 10, 2006

With her Alaska cruise complete, Rosemary Nehls arrived at Juneau International Airport on Saturday afternoon to fly back to Tucson. That meant the obligatory stroll through an X-ray machine, which was promptly set off by her outfit.

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"It feels bad to be singled out at the airport for a button, but at the same time, it's just something we live with," Nehls said. "I know some people hate what we're doing, and think of it as government interference, but what else can you do? Somebody else come up with a good idea to avoid terrorists, and see if it works."

Monday is the five-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the dawning of the so-called "war on terror." But half-a-decade later, is the country any safer?

President Bush said as much Tuesday in a speech on the war on terror. But many Juneau residents disagree.

"He's not out there starving. He's not out fighting the war," said Richard Asporga, standing outside Southeast Artworks on Saturday inside the Nugget Mall. "We're not either, but you can see that it's not perfect here. It's safe for today, because we didn't get bombed today. You can get bombed tomorrow. There's no way to stop terrorists. All you can do is be ready, have supplies if need be."

Paul and Philis Beran were at the University of Alaska Southeast on Friday night for a speech by Iraqi humanitarian relief worked Rana Al-Aiouby.

"I'm not sure I feel safer," Philis said. "We've created so many enemies, and so many people that don't like the United States. We are sort of isolated. However, we travel quite a bit. We have children in bigger cities, and we do have concerns for them."

"When Sept. 11 happened, the world, by and large, was awestruck and sympathetic," Paul said. "It's no longer that way today.

"I don't feel like we've looked at the root causes," he said. "We've just gone out with guns and said people that don't agree with us are wrong. It's been a very sad and superficial response."

Airport security has been the most visible response. The Transportation Security Administration, now a part of any trip to the airport, was created in November 2001 as part of the Aviation and Security Transportation Act.

TSA has about 140 screeners spread throughout Southeast Alaska. The agency has spent at least $2.5 million upgrading technology and X-ray equipment at the Juneau airport, said Keith Whitehead, TSA liaison in Southeast Alaska.

TSA still finds pocketknives in baggage, and discovers unchecked firearms daily, he said.

"If we back away at this stage, how are we going to continue to protect our loved ones and the ones we care about?" Whitehead said.

"The reality is, once they've been screened here, they can go anywhere in the U.S. without anybody examining their luggage," he said. "Obviously we're only as good as our weakest link, whether that's in Juneau, out in Adak, or over in Southern California, New York, East Coast, wherever."

Four weeks since liquids and gels were banned from carry-on luggage, the TSA staff at the Juneau International Airport is still confiscating toiletries from one out of every five passengers, supervisor Tera Bunton said.

Juneau passengers tend to accept extra screening immediately after a terrorist attack or scare, she said. That tends to fade in the weeks after.

"Sometimes people don't equate Juneau with the states down south," Bunton said. "It's a little bit different for them because they're so removed from the hustle and bustle of everything. The farther away we get, people forget the reason why we're doing it."

TSA staff will wear blue wristbands with the inscription, "Never Forget," on Monday.

St. Ann's Parish Hall, at Fifth and Gold streets, will host a Taize prayer service, vigil and remembrance from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Monday.

Taize services, popularized in occupied France during World War II, include repeated lines of music - Psalms and other scripture. Six songs, each one about 15 minutes, will be performed at the hall. Rebecca Grimes will be the main cantor, and Doug Smith is the pianist. Those who wish to rehearse are invited to come by the church from 7 to 8:30 p.m. today.

"Taize has always been a depoliticized way to pray," said Father Thomas Weise, rector of the Cathedral of the Nativity. "There are so many buttons that get pushed at political rallies, and they're pretty raw around Sept. 11. There's not going to be homilies or speeches. We're not going to condemn this or that. We're just going to pray."

Capital City Fire/Rescue will hold six-minute memorial services Monday at the Juneau station, 820 Glacier Ave., and the Glacier station, 1700 Crest Ave.

At 9:55 a.m., firefighters will gather at each station for the daily flag-raising. At 9:59, the Juneau station bell will be sounded in the fireman's toll - three sets of five strikes. That was the exact time when the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed.

A minute of silence will be observed at 10 a.m., and the firefighters will be dismissed at 10:01.

No formal event is planned at the Sept. 11 memorial at Riverside Rotary Park in the Mendenhall Valley. The park's Sept. 11 Memorial Brick Plaza was commemorated last year, and the park has hosted memorial services every year since it was dedicated on Sept. 11, 2002.

Brent Fischer, co-designed of the plaza, will lower the U.S. flag to half-staff.

• Korry Keeker can be reached at

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