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September 11, 2001

Two years ago today I was driving to a 9am doctor’s appointment. As I was about to park my car, there was a report on the radio that a commuter plane had stuck the North Tower of the World Trade Center. They had few details beyond the fact that there was visible smoke at the top of the building. It sounded like an accident. A half-hour later, my appointment was over and I got in my car. I flip on the radio. The other tower has been struck, it’s obvious that this is a terrorist attack. I had a business appointment in Cambridge at 11am and needed to drive there. While driving and listening to more reports on the radio, I notice pedestrians walking down the sidewalks. I think to myself, “The world just became a scarier and more dangerous place and these people have no idea”.

We all remember where we were and what we were doing that day. And we all know the rest of the story.

There have been, thankfully, few events in my life that have scared me as much as that day two years ago. The sense of horror and shock has still not completely gone away.

Recently I read Bruce Schneier’s excellent book Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World. The book describes the elements of real-world security measures and how to evaluate them. The events of 9/11 are described early in the book and used throughout when discussing various aspects of security. Oddly enough, I feel somewhat better after reading this. I feel like I can make better sense of real and perceived risks as well as tradeoffs involved in security measures.

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