Locals discuss terrorism threats | SteamboatToday.com

Locals discuss terrorism threats

Doug Crowl

— A seven-person panel put together by Colorado Mountain College’s Alpine Enrichment Program tackled questions from a crowd of 50 people Thursday night during a symposium on terrorism.

The panel in the program “Terrorists, Tragedy and Tolerance” included professors, a retired United Airlines pilot, a mental health expert and a man who helped install the security system for the World Trade Center towers. Panel members answered questions written on note cards and asked by Colorado Mountain College Dean Bob Ritschel.

One of the most frequent questions submitted by the crowd was how Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. might be affected by the terrorist attacks.

Of particular concern was the reduction in airline travel expected as a result of the attacks. Historically, the Ski Corp. has relied heavily upon air travel to bring skiers to the resort.

“I think we will see a shortfall on the skier days,” said CMC economics professor Roger Segler. There is a “short-run impact, certainly, but in the long run, no.”

Segler said Americans would eventually come to realize it is safe to fly; in fact, he said, flying may be even safer now than ever before.

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He preceded his comments by addressing the nation’s economy, saying that the collapse of the World Trade Center towers did not, as some have said, destroy the country’s economic center. “We have no economic center,” he said. “Our economy is everywhere.”

He noted the $10 billion estimated to have been lost as a result of the attack is but one-tenth of 1 percent of the gross domestic product. If the country slips into recession as most economists say it will it will be because Americans reduced their spending, not because the Trade Center was destroyed.

Retired United Airlines pilot Gordon Kelly said commercial airlines still offer the safest form of travel.

In his 33 years of flying, Kelly said the airlines faced numerous challenges from navigating in storms to hijackings.

“We’ve always managed to get them solved,” he said.

Kelly said the failure of airline security that led to the Sept. 11 incidents was the result of a country that simply was not expecting such an attack and was therefore unprepared.

Kelly said tests had proven that weapons could make it on planes, but nothing substantial was done about it.

Now that the problem has been so blatantly exposed, a solution will be found, he said.

Another issue touched on was the view many citizens in Mideastern countries have of Americans. One person asked if those citizens view military action by the United States in their country as terrorism?

“I think, yes,” professor Janie Swartz Peck answered. “We are seen as terrorists and we do terrorist acts.”

Segler, who served in the military, agreed, but he said he doesn’t see any other way to respond to today’s situation.

Jennifer leRoux, a professor and a native to South Africa, said the United States needs to be careful in its response.

“If we go bomb innocent people in Afghanistan,” she said, “then how can we be different from terrorists?”