Yahoo! is asking Americans how September 11 changed them. Below is an account from a reader.
On September 11, I had gone to work as usual. I was working as a librarian for a small school in western Missouri. Morning began with my usual struggle with the school’s reluctant LAN, which was based on a linux server, and connected through a MORENET router; the outlying elementary connected to the high school via dial-up connection. One of the high school students came in yelling, “We are being bombed!” High school kids will yell just about anything, so at first, I thought it was a joke.
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When I got to the elementary for morning classes, I calmly set my students to work on their normal morning class work; as it turned out,that was the recommended response. We were told to keep the students busy, and not to allow them to become overly emotional about the situation.
Three classes of very excited youngsters later, I had time to look at the internet to see what was happening for myself. Internet Explorer was so jammed with transmissions, I used Netscape as a browser in order to see the video clips of the event for myself. Another staff member had family traveling by air on the east coast; she was beside herself. It was a strange, terrifying morning; followed by days of continued strangeness.
Living in the Midwest, neither I nor anyone I knew well was directly impacted by the destruction of the two towers. Oh, we all felt the economic distress. Too many businesses had their home offices in the twin towers building for that to be ignored; but I think the greatest impact for me was the increased emphasis on security.
Libraries and schools were already coping with monitoring and filtering internet use. Filtering was being debated in library circles, but was essentially mandatory in schools –it is now legally mandatory– because it was tied into funding.
The events of September 11, and passage of the PATRIOT Act had significant impact on confidentiality of such things as library book checkout records. Whether or not such items were protected from legal examination had been already in question for some time. With the passage of the PATRIOT Act, many libraries decided not to keep records of patrons’ use of library materials other than the books they might have checked out at any given time. In my college classes in 2003, it was even debated what impact this might have on access to information contained in a student’s permanent record.
Although the events upon that day were tragic, devastating to many, they impacted me personally far less than the legislation passed during those grim and terrible hours in September.