By Brian Livingston / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
Today marks the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and the impacts of that day are still impacting the lives of Americans.
Those impacts can be found in large metropolitan areas and in smaller cities and counties like those of Meridian and Lauderdale County. The difference is that unlike the large metropolitan cities like New York, Atlanta, and Los Angeles, the threat of a terrorist attack here is highly unlikely. Nevertheless, the funding for training and the implementation of Homeland Security offices throughout the United States ensures 9-11 will not be forgotten.
Tom Williams, executive director for the Meridian Airport Authority on Highway 11 South, said although many air travelers have gotten accustomed to more thorough baggage checks and more stringent airline guidelines governing what can and cannot be carried onto an airplane, they still are mindful of what caused this heightened security effort.
"That day was the start of real terrorism awareness in this nation," Williams said of 9-11. "We had smaller attempts by foreign terrorists to disrupt our lives but none were remotely as successful as this one. It made everyone stop and think then and it still makes everyone pause for a moment now."
The Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) was born out of the attacks. Now, every mid to high volume air hub has TSA agents in place to check passengers as they board flights, many of them just short commuter jumps to major airports, in an effort to never see another airplane taken over by terrorists.
"For anyone who has flown lately, they certainly have experience first hand the changes in airport security from the front door all the way until the board the plane," Williams said. "And in many cases the security doesn't stop at the plane. All through the traveling experience there are increased security measures in place to detect and prevent 9-11 from happening again."
The awareness of terrorist activities goes far beyond the airport. Law enforcement agencies have been on the receiving end of unprecedented opportunities to train their officers to better prepare them for the unthinkable.
"We are more aware as a law enforcement agency," said Ward Calhoun, chief deputy for the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department. "We have had training that we didn't have available to us before and the technology has changed and improved greatly."
Calhoun said the chances a terrorist cell or organization would choose Meridian or Lauderdale County as a potential target are slim. He said Meridian just doesn't fit one of the operational goals of an attack. Nevertheless, Calhoun believes the smaller agencies across the nation are better prepared if an event should ever arise.
A byproduct of the training and technology is that law enforcement agencies can share information more freely and the instruments of technology are now more readily available than they would have been otherwise.
"One of the things that came out of the attacks is that we can use much of our training and technology in fighting other types of domesticated crimes," Calhoun said. "If there is a silver lining to come out of the attacks, that would be it for us."