Sept. 11: Has it changed life?

John Hult

John Hult

Justin Peterson never kept an American flag until last year.

Now the junior radio, TV and film major keeps two in his apartment.

Carson Wagonlit Travel President Phyllis Swiden used to worry about getting her clients to where they were going on time.

Last year around this time, she was busy trying to figure out how to get everyone home.

Mary Geise has watched bits of dust fall out of packages containing magazines and books for years.

Now, Central Mailing’s supervisor and her employees wear gloves when sorting through SDSU’s daily mail.

Just in case.

The looks that Ahmed Halaweish has always recieved as a dark face in SDSU’s mostly white crowd seem to carry a little more than curiousity this year.

The mechanical engineering major, who has called Wales, Egypt, Delaware and South Dakota home over his 21 years, described last year’s now infamous morning.

“When a bunch of people don’t really know what’s going on and all of the sudden there are two towers down and people dying everywhere, no one really knows what to think or how to react.”

A year later, the confusion wrought by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington has not disappeared.

A great deal has changed in the United States since the attacks in terms of legislation alone. Airline security regulations were tightened within months of the attacks. The most recent struggles in Congress have revolved around the proposed structure of President Bush’s new Office of Homeland Security.

The changes in regulation and attitude are still making their way to Brookings and SDSU.

Some of the 9/11 attackers were in the United States with student visas, so international students were among the first to feel the effects.

According to Donna Raetzman, SDSU’s International Student Advisor, SDSU is expected to go online with the government’s new SEVIS database by January.

SEVIS stands for Student Exchange Visitor Information System, and the database will be used in the future to check international student records.

The actual information processed has not changed much.

“The basics are the same. They’re things that we’ve always been doing. But now Immigration is keeping better track of what is being sent,” Raetzman said.

Something as simple as an address change has become more tightly regulated.

International students are now required to notify the office within ten days of moving and Raetzman’s office must notify immigration immediately.

Changes in the visa auto-renewal process have hit home as well. Students traveling to Canada or Mexico used to be able to pass through the borders back and forth with little difficulty.

But last year a student was nearly excluded from a trip to Canada with his fellow mechanical engineering students because the Canadian Consolate kept requesting more information.

“The timeframe was such that he wasn’t going to get to go,” Raetzman said. “Basically a letter was written by myself and by Senator Daschle’s office with the facts: that he should be allowed to go, he was a legitimate student and this was important to his program.”

Also affected by new security measures were the employees of SDSU’s Central Mailing Office.

“We never used to lock our door, and now we have to,” Mary Geise, Central Mailing’s supervisor, said.

The rash of anthrax mailings in the months following 9/11 put a great strain on the office. The employees now wear gloves and masks to sort SDSU’s mail.

“It puts a lot of pressure on us because we send mail on that we think is okay, but the department will sometimes call back because they see something they think is suspicious,” she said.

Although she wouldn’t identify the campus residence hall, Geiese pointed to an incident last year in which fear of suspicious mail closed the hall’s mailing office.

“We checked it out, but when it got there, some of the mail sorters thought it looked suspicious. There was dust on some mail and they thought it could be anthrax. It turned out to be nothing, but the sorters were scared because it got on their clothes,” she said.

Geise and her assistant supervisor Vickie Bottefbertze went to mailroom safety classes in Sioux Falls put on by the postal service.

While people like Geise, Bottefbertze and Raetzman deal with the tangible effects of last year’s terrorist attacks daily, most students and residents see awareness and attitude as the most obvious changes.

“I am a little more news conscious now, and I think everyone’s a little more patriotic,” junior RTVF major Justin Peterson said. “I think it has really raised awareness in that the public now knows that there are terrorists out there who can get to us.”

Carrie Law, producer and host of the SDSU based television program Today’s Ag, said that many of the farmers and ranchers she has interviewed over the past year shared her own naiveity before the attacks.

“I think in general we still feel safe, but it’s a different kind of safe,” she said. “It is a different feeling because we understand that America is susceptable to terrorism now, which I never thought was possible before.”

Law also said that parenthood gave her a different perspective.

“I’ve got a daughter now, so it’s not just my life I’m concerned about. I want her to feel like she’s growing up in a friendly world, which it doesn’t look like now,” she said.

While safety concerns are the main issues raised by last year’s terrorist attacks, Ahmed Halaweish pointed out that attitudes towards Middle Eastern students have changed, too.

“Before that, people would look at me, but it was just normal,” he said. “But now it’s different. You can tell when someone is looking at you and they’re thinking something.”

Raetzman has said that her office has seen very few discrimination complaints. Halaweisch said that most of his international friends haven’t experienced anything too extreme, but things do happen.

“Most of the international students I know are nice enough that, even if something does happen, they just kind of blow it off,” he said.

Halaweisch cautioned against generalizing that all Middle Easterners are alike.

“A lot of people say, ‘You’re from the Middle East, don’t you think that this was right?’ or ‘Shouldn’t you be thinking the same way he was?’ We don’t all think the same. If someone jumps off a bridge and he’s from a country close to me, does that mean I’m jumping, too? Probably not.”