Time has gently softened the horror and suffering caused by the savage attacks of September 11th, 2001, allowing us to make a more circumspect assessment of how those brutal acts affected the United States. The events of that crisp September morning would have far-reaching ramifications, many of which we still may not fully comprehend. And while much of the ensuing era has been filled with bloodshed, strife and political/cultural unrest, perhaps there is also some silver lining to be gleaned from the American public’s response to the savagery? We are a nation—and world—forever changed by 9/11, but perhaps not entirely for the worse.
5 Air Travel Is a Miserable Experience
Perhaps this is the epitome of a western problem, but flying today is like a migraine headache with a rash on top. The hastily created Transportation Security Administration operates under a constantly shifting set of guidelines, making travel a never-ending series of frustrations. We appreciate that the TSA is trying to keep us safe, but we also know that being limited to three ounce bottles of fluid and taking our shoes off (until we turn 75, at which point shoes are back on, baby) and those new microwave tower things are all imperfect security measures at best, functioning largely thanks to the placebo effect. Granted, after the security checkpoint you still get on a plane and can be whisked around the globe in a matter of hours.
4 Our Country Is Deeply in Debt
A war is an expensive thing. Two wars are even pricier than one. And following 9/11, we jumped right into one protracted conflict in Afghanistan, and then shoehorned a second war in for no good reason (but for lots of bad ones). Largely thanks to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, our country is now many trillions of dollars in debt, a fact made all the more difficult to swallow given that at the dawn of the 21st century, we actually had a budget surplus.
3 Many Americans Have Died
Quite simply stated, lots of our fellow citizens have died both as a direct and indirect result of the 9/11 attacks. We’ll leave aside any debate as to whether the wars were “worth it” and instead ask only that you grant that both conflicts were essentially the direct result from the terror attacks. Using those metrics, more than 8,760 people have lost their loves because of the attacks: 2,996 people perished on 9/11, and there have been just over 3,530 combat deaths in Iraq and 2,150 soldiers KIA in Afghanistan.
2 Americans Are More Worldly
Sadly, there has been a great increase in religious intolerance since the 9/11 attacks, with all Muslims unfairly vilified by some of our less introspective citizens. Sikhs also have been targeted with acts of hate, as indeed have many people simply because of their skin color or clothing. We have seen many Americans turn their backs on the international community, rejecting the rest of the world with acts as puerile as renaming foodstuffs (Freedom Fries, anyone?). But xenophobes and bigots aside, other Americans gained a much greater sense of interest in the international community following the 9/11 attacks. Many of us longed to know more about the history, politics and religious beliefs that engendered the attacks and how a greater understanding of and involvement with the world could prevent anything like them from ever happening again.
1 We Were Unified by the Attacks
Say what you will about the many faults of many Americans, but do not say that the vast majority of us are not proud to be just that: American. The days following the attacks of September 11th, 2001 saw outpourings of patriotism, support, goodwill and love, and in many ways those emotions have remained with us since. The respect we show for our military servicemen and women today is a radical change from the way soldiers were treated just a few decades ago following the tragedy of Vietnam. Our police and emergency responders are also rightly held in high esteem. And most of all, Americans who lived through that trying time have taken time to give thanks that though they were shaken by the terrorists on that day, we had the shoulders of our countrymen on which to lean.
If you’re in a patriotic mood, check out the Top 5 Patriotic Movies to watch a little inspiration.
Step aside, Superman: we’re more interested in these 5 Unsung American Heroes.