Complacency, Security, And 9-11

cross posted at

On September 11, 2001 I was sitting under the two tallest buildings in Los Angeles.

On purpose.

I was sent there as events unfolded by my news director at KFWB to “wait and see if something happens in LA.”

As we all know, nothing did. However, across the country everyone was on edge. That’s probably an understatement as you remember that day. We were over the edge.

As Nicole at Pink & Posh remembers,

“It was just an out pour of sadness and events and terror. Terror. She made it home safely with only scars on her feet because she couldn’t walk in her pumps any more and decided that being barefoot was a better option. Anything seemed like a better option that day.”

So my job at the time, as a reporter, was to figure out what happens next. As the country was working to grieve and to heal, I was working to find out how and if something like this could happen again. Where was the US vulnerable and what did we need to do to protect ourselves?

It was quickly determined the nation’s critical infrastructure: our ports, our water supply, our communications, electricity…all those things could be hit and our country could be crippled.

I set out to investigate two of these infrastructures: ports and water supply. To say the results were astounding would be yet another understatement. I’m not sure, at that point in time, having just been hit with the 9-11 attacks, we could have felt more vulnerable…but what I found made me hesitate to tell the public just how easily this could all happen again.

At the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which are our nation’s busiest and 2nd busiest ports, respectively, I could access tankers, major bridges, tank farms, and was unchallenged for hours as I slipped through holes in fences, unlocked gates, and from personal water craft. What’s important to note is the amount of the nation’s economy dependent on this port, and how commerce west of the Mississippi would halt if anything were to happen on these precious docks.

At LA’s largest aqueduct, I pulled a lock off a gate that was wide open, which I gave as a souvenir to my news director. No one stopped me. No one was around. No one seemed to care. LA’s water supply was wide open and waiting for an attack. I couldn’t even find a security guard.

I then sat down with Mayor Hahn and told him of my findings. He was as stoic as a politician can be in that situation, however just as deeply disturbed as I.

Since then, and I am proud to say as a direct result, millions upon millions of dollars have been spent in Los Angeles to beef up security. This went on as well across the country. From increased patrols (including aerial here in LA) to reinforced gates and cameras, to sophisticated security procedures, the critical infrastructure of this nation was shored up. And shored up fast.

But where are we now? So many years later and already seemingly forgetting about these threats. As it turns out, the Ports here in LA now tout their security on their website.

The water supply, after being declared secure on a national level, remains on high alert. As I drive by today you can still see the dozens of police cars, gates, and uniforms surrounding it’s perimeter.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano tells the Washington Post as a nation, they are doing everything possible to “reduce the risks” but individual Americans need to be involved as well:

“Well, probably not as prepared as we could be, and that is why this month, which just happens to be National Preparedness Month, we are really sending out the message about shared responsibility for individuals, it’s, have a plan; make a kit; get some of your training updated, or get some training if you haven’t had any before; go to, which is our website, which has some pretty straightforward things that individuals and families can do.”

Napolitano also touches on he quadrennial Homeland Security Review currently underway and due in December:

“I think it will probably show that, for a young department, we have come a long way, but we have a ways to go. We have a ways to go in terms of information sharing, partnerships with state and local law enforcement–both of those are big priorities for us.

I think we have some things that we can do better in terms of explaining to the American people why some things are the way they are, particularly, for example, in the travel environment.”

But even with reassurances from the government they are doing everything possible, concern still exists. Just today the Coast Guard was involved in an incident being labeled as a “miscommunication” near the nation’s capital. CNN reports:

“The U.S. Coast Guard promised a ‘thorough review’ after a training incident Friday along the Potomac River briefly triggered concerns about the security of President Obama on the eighth anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

Federal agency emergency operations centers were not aware of or notified about the exercise on the Potomac, and they began implementing response procedures, a federal source said.

Even the police department’s Harbor Patrol, which is responsible for patrolling the river, was not notified, law enforcement sources in Washington said.”

And as of 2006 only 5.6% of the containers coming through ports in the US are inspected as they enter the US.

Not very reassuring.

As Barbara at writes,

“Today I feel sad that our country seems to have forgotten that liberty requires vigilance – and gratitude for our country.”

Vigilance is important, and considering today’s stark reminders on news and all around us, perhaps we will remain as such.

Contributing Editor Erin Kotecki Vest also blogs at Queen of Spain blog


  1. Loved this! You are brilliant… Thanks for a great blog post on 9/11. We should all be concerned and thinking about doing good for our fellow man – but also about being vigilant.


  2. I cannot imagine what it felt like to be “waiting” for disaster to happen. I’m sorry. This is a great post and I’m honored to be mentioned in the midst of such brilliance. Thank you.

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