Sept. 11, 2006, marks the five-year anniversary of the day Muslim extremists attacked our country, destroying the World Trade Center towers, damaging the Pentagon and setting in motion the war on terror we remain embroiled in today.
As I write this, I remember as though it were yesterday the feelings of anger and sadness as I watched in horror as both towers collapsed on live television. I also remember the outpouring of selfless support – time, equipment, money, sweat and blood. We were Americans, pulling together despite political or ideological differences as we always do when it matters most.
Nowhere was the American spirit more apparent than in the trucking industry. Independent owner-operators loaded supplies on their trailers and headed east. Truck stops hosted blood drives. Fleets donated equipment and drivers to aid in the rescue and cleanup efforts. “This is part of being an American,” owner-operator Jerry Reese of Statesville, N.C., told Overdrive as he and his wife, Judy, waited to unload their trailerful of supplies near Ground Zero.
Much has changed in these five years. More than 2,000 American soldiers have lost their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq. Airline passengers face increasingly stringent security measures. The security of our ports is in question. And incidents such as the recent foiling in London of a trans-Atlantic terrorist attack remind us that we continually live with the specter of another 9/11.
Trucking has changed, too. Fears that the next attack might involve a tractor-trailer prompted the Transportation Security Administration to require all drivers who apply for or renew a hazmat endorsement to undergo fingerprint-based background checks. Asking truckers to use their “road smarts” to help protect our nation’s transportation system, the Department of Homeland Security funded the Highway Watch program, which trains truckers in anti-terrorism and safety awareness skills. More than 250,000 drivers and other transportation workers have received the training nationwide.
No doubt our industry will see more changes. But what won’t change is the unfailing willingness of so many in trucking to do what needs to be done. For some that has meant trading a sleeper cab for a barracks in Baghdad; for others it is simply delivering the nation’s freight on time and safely every day.
Doing your job without question. Doing the right thing without being asked. That is what it means to be an American. And, as so many prove each day, that is what it means to be a trucker.