Panel discusses terrorism, praises country’s response

Kathryn Monroe

America continues to heal and to hurt as new effects of the Sept. 11 attacks become apparent, three experts said in a panel discussion on terrorism Thursday.

“People have come together, bonded and gained a heightened sense of awareness that we’re all in it together,” Patrick Ryan, chairman and CEO of Aon Corporation and chairman of Northwestern University’s Board of Trustees, told about 300 students, faculty and community members at Coon Forum.

Joining Ryan on the panel, entitled “Terrorism: Changes and Challenges Since September 11,” were Jay Williams, a political science professor at Chicago’s Loyola University and Col. Russ Howard, former commander of the U.S. military’s first special forces group.

The three men shared varying perspectives, ranging from Ryan’s personal loss of company employees in the World Trade Center to Williams’ expertise in political affairs to Howard’s military experience.

Ryan discussed the need for communication between Aon officials and the victims’ families in the days and weeks following the attacks. Aon lost 176 employees in the World Trade Center.

“I became a world-class hugger,” Ryan said, referring to people’s extreme need for physical contact.

Ryan said he tried to provide immediate leadership by constantly communicating with victims’ family members and assuring them of medical insurance and education.

Williams commented on the atmosphere of fear following Sept. 11. He said many Americans believe there could be future attacks, possibly at the upcoming Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

“There cannot be security and safety without justice,” Williams said.

Howard, the former special forces commander, said he has confidence in the military’s reaction. The special forces provided a highly mobile, culturally trained response to the attacks, he said.

“In some ways, for an old special forces guy, it was sort of a dream come true,” Howard said. “All the things we trained to do for so long were applicable to Afghanistan.”

But the military should be a last resort in the fight against terrorism, he said, with diplomacy, politics and economics as the first line of defense.

Although the panel title suggested the experts would discuss direct effects of Sept. 11, the men also paid great attention to future policies.

Williams advocated the partnership of military and peace personnel in fighting the war on terrorism and Howard supported military advances to guard against other attacks.

“To defeat the threat and provide security, we need better intelligence,” Howard said.

Americans should have faith in their military, which is the best in the world, he said.

Audience member Damon Owens, a second-year student in the Kellogg Graduate School of Management, said he has confidence in the military, but worries that political dynamics will compromise its strength.

Sara Schoenwetter, a Medill graduate student, said she connected with the fear factor the panel mentioned as a consequence of the attacks.

“Our generation will always be expecting the worst,” she said. “There won’t be any point where we can feel completely safe.”

Although Americans have experienced more fear, Williams said the nation has come together after the attacks.

“There has been a greater sense of unity and more public support for government,” he said.