On Sept. 11, 2001, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Command Dennis Blair gave fighter pilots orders to shoot down commercial airplanes if they deviated from their flight plans and were threatening to crash into locations where they would take more lives than those on board.
Twenty years later, Blair shares his unique perspective on that tragic day and its aftermath with Carolina students, many of them born after 9/11. Blair, the 34-year Navy veteran who was President Barack Obama’s first director of national intelligence, is the University’s first Knott Distinguished Visiting Professor of the Practice in the peace, war and defense curriculum in the College of Arts & Sciences.
Reflecting on 9/11’s legacy days before the event’s 20th anniversary on Saturday, Blair pointed to the “disastrous results” of the wars on terror that the United States waged in Afghanistan and Iraq. And he said he is “haunted” by the missed opportunities to unify the U.S. following the terrorist attacks.
“We didn’t tap that sense of national unity and purpose in a way that could have brought the country together,” Blair said. “And since then, we’ve just seen the country grow further and further apart, with greater income, racial, ethnic and regional disparities.”