This story originally appeared Sept. 13, 2001, in the Lewiston Tribune.
The worst impact of the terrorist attack on the United States will be the things we do to ourselves, says D. Richard Wyatt of Lewiston, a retired U.S. Naval Reserve captain.
“Unfortunately, we will lose a lot of freedoms in the future because of it.”
Americans will never look at the world the same after this week, he says.
“What they did today, they can do tomorrow.”
Security at airports, an inconvenience now, will tighten. Pilots may be locked into titanium steel-lined compartments for the duration of flights. The nation may withdraw from foreign involvements and realize it has an obligation to take care of the American people.
“The effect is like dropping a rock. ...
“We knew it was going to happen sooner or later,” but the target was expected to be the Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City, Wyatt says.
But shutting down the airports was overreaction, he says. “That’s playing right into their plans by playing on the psyches of Americans. To shut down Boise to Lewiston is ridiculous.”
A concern has to be that this will bring out all the little guys, the reactionary groups that blow up biological labs, Wyatt says.
In 27 years in the Naval Reserve, he had 32 active duty assignments and spent an accumulation of three years away from home.
He spent 10 years attached to the North American Treaty Organization (NATO) acting in a support role for military exercises around the world.
His son, Chris Wyatt, now is in the Naval Reserve assigned to an intelligence unit in Norfolk, Va.
Wyatt laughs a little, not enough to cover the pain in his voice, as he remembers the news bulletins as the first commercial airliner hit the World Trade Center tower.
He told someone, “This one will go down in history as the Pearl Harbor of the 21st century.”
Minutes later, that’s what everyone was saying.
“This was a highly, highly organized, incredible organization to accomplish that. And we didn’t have a clue.”
Someone must have seen the airliner headed toward the Pentagon, which has missiles positioned to protect it. “But do you think one of those guys would have fired on American Airlines coming in?”
An American would think the aircraft might be having rudder problems that caused it to be in the wrong place. An American before Tuesday would not shoot down an American aircraft full of American civilians, Wyatt says.
“When you live in a free country like we do, it’s almost impossible to fight that kind of enemy. They have no rules, they have no honor and integrity, and they’re faceless.”
It was like this in Vietnam, he says, when young soldiers were confronted with the possibility of shooting a child because he might drop a grenade in a lunch box.
“I feel sorry for the Muslim people in this country. A lot will look at them and say, ‘You caused it.’ Well, they didn’t cause it, but it will be like the Japanese after Pearl Harbor.
“It’s difficult to fathom, but this is what other countries have been doing for a long time.”
Londoners never knew where or when Hitler’s bombs would fall, and in the decades that followed the attacks have spread throughout the world.
Osama bin Laden said he would bring to the United States the things other nations have felt, Wyatt says, “and he has.”
“People have lived through this before. It’s just never hit the United States.
“We will survive. ... It will bring us together.” n