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9/11 impact essay

Two Decades Later, the Enduring Legacy of 9/11

Americans watched in horror as the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, left nearly 3,000 people dead in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Nearly 20 years later, they watched in sorrow as the nation’s military mission in Afghanistan – which began less than a month after 9/11 – came to a bloody and chaotic conclusion.

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Chart shows 9/11 a powerful memory for Americans – but only for adults old enough to remember

The enduring power of the Sept. 11 attacks is clear: An overwhelming share of Americans who are old enough to recall the day remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news. Yet an ever-growing number of Americans have no personal memory of that day, either because they were too young or not yet born.

A review of U.S. public opinion in the two decades since 9/11 reveals how a badly shaken nation came together, briefly, in a spirit of sadness and patriotism; how the public initially rallied behind the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, though support waned over time; and how Americans viewed the threat of terrorism at home and the steps the government took to combat it.

As the country comes to grips with the tumultuous exit of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan, the departure has raised long-term questions about U.S. foreign policy and America’s place in the world. Yet the public’s initial judgments on that mission are clear: A majority endorses the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, even as it criticizes the Biden administration’s handling of the situation. And after a war that cost thousands of lives – including more than 2,000 American service members – and trillions of dollars in military spending, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that 69% of U.S. adults say the United States has mostly failed to achieve its goals in Afghanistan.

This examination of how the United States changed in the two decades following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is based on an analysis of past public opinion survey data from Pew Research Center, news reports and other sources.

Current data is from a Pew Research Center survey of 10,348 U.S. adults conducted Aug. 23-29, 2021. Most of the interviewing was conducted before the Aug. 26 suicide bombing at Kabul airport, and all of it was conducted before the completion of the evacuation. Everyone who took part is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the  ATP’s methodology .

Here are the questions used  for the report, along with responses, and  its methodology .

A devastating emotional toll, a lasting historical legacy

Shock, sadness, fear, anger: The 9/11 attacks inflicted a devastating emotional toll on Americans. But as horrible as the events of that day were, a 63% majority of Americans said they couldn’t stop watching news coverage of the attacks.

Chart shows days after 9/11, nearly all Americans said they felt sad; most felt depressed

Our first survey following the attacks went into the field just days after 9/11, from Sept. 13-17, 2001. A sizable majority of adults (71%) said they felt depressed, nearly half (49%) had difficulty concentrating and a third said they had trouble sleeping.

It was an era in which television was still the public’s dominant news source – 90% said they got most of their news about the attacks from television, compared with just 5% who got news online – and the televised images of death and destruction had a powerful impact. Around nine-in-ten Americans (92%) agreed with the statement, “I feel sad when watching TV coverage of the terrorist attacks.” A sizable majority (77%) also found it frightening to watch – but most did so anyway.

Americans were enraged by the attacks, too. Three weeks after 9/11 , even as the psychological stress began to ease somewhat, 87% said they felt angry about the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Fear was widespread, not just in the days immediately after the attacks, but throughout the fall of 2001. Most Americans said they were very (28%) or somewhat (45%) worried about another attack . When asked a year later to describe how their lives changed in a major way, about half of adults said they felt more afraid, more careful, more distrustful or more vulnerable as a result of the attacks.

9/11 impact essay

Even after the immediate shock of 9/11 had subsided, concerns over terrorism remained at higher levels in major cities – especially New York and Washington – than in small towns and rural areas. The personal impact of the attacks also was felt more keenly in the cities directly targeted: Nearly a year after 9/11, about six-in-ten adults in the New York (61%) and Washington (63%) areas said the attacks had changed their lives at least a little, compared with 49% nationwide. This sentiment was shared by residents of other large cities. A quarter of people who lived in large cities nationwide said their lives had changed in a major way – twice the rate found in small towns and rural areas.

The impacts of the Sept. 11 attacks were deeply felt and slow to dissipate. By the following August, half of U.S. adults said the country “had changed in a major way” – a number that actually increased , to 61%, 10 years after the event .

A year after the attacks, in an open-ended question, most Americans – 80% – cited 9/11 as the most important event that had occurred in the country during the previous year. Strikingly, a larger share also volunteered it as the most important thing that happened to them personally in the prior year (38%) than mentioned other typical life events, such as births or deaths. Again, the personal impact was much greater in New York and Washington, where 51% and 44%, respectively, pointed to the attacks as the most significant personal event over the prior year.

Chart shows in 2016 – 15 years after 9/11 – the attacks continued to be seen as one of the public’s top historical events

Just as memories of 9/11 are firmly embedded in the minds of most Americans old enough to recall the attacks, their historical importance far surpasses other events in people’s lifetimes. In a survey conducted by Pew Research Center in association with A+E Networks’ HISTORY in 2016 – 15 years after 9/11 – 76% of adults named the Sept. 11 attacks as one of the 10 historical events of their lifetime that had the greatest impact on the country. The election of Barack Obama as the first Black president was a distant second, at 40%.

The importance of 9/11 transcended age, gender, geographic and even political differences. The 2016 study noted that while partisans agreed on little else that election cycle, more than seven-in-ten Republicans and Democrats named the attacks as one of their top 10 historic events.

9/11 impact essay

9/11 transformed U.S. public opinion, but many of its impacts were short-lived

It is difficult to think of an event that so profoundly transformed U.S. public opinion across so many dimensions as the 9/11 attacks. While Americans had a shared sense of anguish after Sept. 11, the months that followed also were marked by rare spirit of public unity.

Chart shows trust in government spiked following Sept. 11 terror attack

Patriotic sentiment surged in the aftermath of 9/11. After the U.S. and its allies launched airstrikes against Taliban and al-Qaida forces in early October 2001, 79% of adults said they had displayed an American flag. A year later, a 62% majority said they had often felt patriotic as a result of the 9/11 attacks.

Moreover, the public largely set aside political differences and rallied in support of the nation’s major institutions, as well as its political leadership. In October 2001, 60% of adults expressed trust in the federal government – a level not reached in the previous three decades, nor approached in the two decades since then.

George W. Bush, who had become president nine months earlier after a fiercely contested election, saw his job approval rise 35 percentage points in the space of three weeks. In late September 2001, 86% of adults – including nearly all Republicans (96%) and a sizable majority of Democrats (78%) – approved of the way Bush was handling his job as president.

Americans also turned to religion and faith in large numbers. In the days and weeks after 9/11, most Americans said they were praying more often. In November 2001, 78% said religion’s influence in American life was increasing, more than double the share who said that eight months earlier and – like public trust in the federal government – the highest level in four decades .

Public esteem rose even for some institutions that usually are not that popular with Americans. For example, in November 2001, news organizations received record-high ratings for professionalism. Around seven-in-ten adults (69%) said they “stand up for America,” while 60% said they protected democracy.

Yet in many ways, the “9/11 effect” on public opinion was short-lived. Public trust in government, as well as confidence in other institutions, declined throughout the 2000s. By 2005, following another major national tragedy – the government’s mishandling of the relief effort for victims of Hurricane Katrina – just 31% said they trusted the federal government, half the share who said so in the months after 9/11. Trust has remained relatively low for the past two decades: In April of this year, only 24% said they trusted the government just about always or most of the time.

Bush’s approval ratings, meanwhile, never again reached the lofty heights they did shortly after 9/11. By the end of his presidency, in December 2008, just 24% approved of his job performance.

9/11 impact essay

U.S. military response: Afghanistan and Iraq

With the U.S. now formally out of Afghanistan – and with the Taliban firmly in control of the country – most Americans (69%) say the U.S. failed in achieving its goals in Afghanistan.

Chart shows broad initial support for U.S. military action against 9/11 terrorists, even if it entailed thousands of U.S. casualties

But 20 years ago, in the days and weeks following 9/11, Americans overwhelmingly supported military action against those responsible for the attacks. In mid-September 2001, 77% favored U.S. military action, including the deployment of ground forces, “to retaliate against whoever is responsible for the terrorist attacks, even if that means U.S. armed forces might suffer thousands of casualties.”

Many Americans were impatient for the Bush administration to give the go-ahead for military action. In a late September 2001 survey, nearly half the public (49%) said their larger concern was that the Bush administration would not strike quickly enough against the terrorists; just 34% said they worried the administration would move too quickly.

Even in the early stages of the U.S. military response, few adults expected a military operation to produce quick results: 69% said it would take months or years to dismantle terrorist networks, including 38% who said it would take years and 31% who said it would take several months. Just 18% said it would take days or weeks.

The public’s support for military intervention was evident in other ways as well. Throughout the fall of 2001, more Americans said the best way to prevent future terrorism was to take military action abroad rather than build up defenses at home. In early October 2001, 45% prioritized military action to destroy terrorist networks around the world, while 36% said the priority should be to build terrorism defenses at home.

9/11 impact essay

Initially, the public was confident that the U.S. military effort to destroy terrorist networks would succeed. A sizable majority (76%) was confident in the success of this mission, with 39% saying they were very confident.

Support for the war in Afghanistan continued at a high level for several years to come. In a survey conducted in early 2002, a few months after the start of the war, 83% of Americans said they approved of the U.S.-led military campaign against the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan. In 2006, several years after the United States began combat operations in Afghanistan, 69% of adults said the U.S. made the right decision in using military force in Afghanistan. Only two-in-ten said it was the wrong decision.

Chart shows public support for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan increased after Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011

But as the conflict dragged on, first through Bush’s presidency and then through Obama’s administration, support wavered and a growing share of Americans favored the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. In June 2009, during Obama’s first year in office, 38% of Americans said U.S. troops should be removed from Afghanistan as soon as possible. The share favoring a speedy troop withdrawal increased over the next few years. A turning point came in May 2011, when U.S. Navy SEALs launched a risky operation against Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan and killed the al-Qaida leader.

The public reacted to bin Laden’s death with more of a sense of relief than jubilation . A month later, for the first time , a majority of Americans (56%) said that U.S. forces should be brought home as soon as possible, while 39% favored U.S. forces in the country until the situation had stabilized.

Over the next decade, U.S. forces in Afghanistan were gradually drawn down, in fits and starts, over the administrations of three presidents – Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Meanwhile, public support for the decision to use force in Afghanistan, which had been widespread at the start of the conflict, declined . Today, after the tumultuous exit of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, a slim majority of adults (54%) say the decision to withdraw troops from the country was the right decision; 42% say it was the wrong decision. 

There was a similar trajectory in public attitudes toward a much more expansive conflict that was part of what Bush termed the “war on terror”: the U.S. war in Iraq. Throughout the contentious, yearlong debate before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Americans widely supported the use of military force to end Saddam Hussein’s rule in Iraq.

Importantly, most Americans thought – erroneously, as it turned out – there was a direct connection between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attacks. In October 2002, 66% said that Saddam helped the terrorists involved in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

In April 2003, during the first month of the Iraq War, 71% said the U.S. made the right decision to go to war in Iraq. On the 15th anniversary of the war in 2018, just 43% said it was the right decision. As with the case with U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, more Americans said that the U.S. had failed (53%) than succeeded (39%) in achieving its goals in Iraq.

9/11 impact essay

The ‘new normal’: The threat of terrorism after 9/11

There have been no terrorist attacks on the scale of 9/11 in two decades, but from the public’s perspective, the threat has never fully gone away. Defending the country from future terrorist attacks has been at or near the top of Pew Research Center’s annual survey on policy priorities since 2002.

Chart shows terrorism has consistently ranked high on Americans’ list of policy priorities

In January 2002, just months after the 2001 attacks, 83% of Americans said “defending the country from future terrorist attacks” was a top priority for the president and Congress, the highest for any issue. Since then, sizable majorities have continued to cite that as a top policy priority.

Majorities of both Republicans and Democrats have consistently ranked terrorism as a top priority over the past two decades, with some exceptions. Republicans and Republican-leaning independents have remained more likely than Democrats and Democratic leaners to say defending the country from future attacks should be a top priority. In recent years, the partisan gap has grown larger as Democrats began to rank the issue lower relative to other domestic concerns. The public’s concerns about another attack also remained fairly steady in the years after 9/11, through near-misses and the federal government’s numerous “Orange Alerts” – the second-most serious threat level on its color-coded terrorism warning system.

A 2010 analysis of the public’s terrorism concerns found that the share of Americans who said they were very concerned about another attack had ranged from about 15% to roughly 25% since 2002. The only time when concerns were elevated was in February 2003, shortly before the start of the U.S. war in Iraq.

In recent years, the share of Americans who point to terrorism as a major national problem has declined sharply as issues such as the economy, the COVID-19 pandemic and racism have emerged as more pressing problems in the public’s eyes.

Chart shows in recent years, terrorism declined as a ‘very big’ national problem

In 2016, about half of the public (53%) said terrorism was a very big national problem in the country. This declined to about four-in-ten from 2017 to 2019. Last year, only a quarter of Americans said that terrorism was a very big problem.

This year, prior to the U.S. withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan and the subsequent Taliban takeover of the country, a somewhat larger share of adults said domestic terrorism was a very big national problem (35%) than said the same about international terrorism . But much larger shares cited concerns such as the affordability of health care (56%) and the federal budget deficit (49%) as major problems than said that about either domestic or international terrorism.

Still, recent events in Afghanistan raise the possibility that opinion could be changing, at least in the short term. In a late August survey, 89% of Americans said the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan was a threat to the security of the U.S., including 46% who said it was a major threat.

9/11 impact essay

Addressing the threat of terrorism at home and abroad

Just as Americans largely endorsed the use of U.S. military force as a response to the 9/11 attacks, they were initially open to a variety of other far-reaching measures to combat terrorism at home and abroad. In the days following the attack, for example, majorities favored a requirement that all citizens carry national ID cards, allowing the CIA to contract with criminals in pursuing suspected terrorists and permitting the CIA to conduct assassinations overseas when pursuing suspected terrorists.

Chart shows following 9/11, more Americans saw the necessity to sacrifice civil liberties in order to curb terrorism

However, most people drew the line against allowing the government to monitor their own emails and phone calls (77% opposed this). And while 29% supported the establishment of internment camps for legal immigrants from unfriendly countries during times of tension or crisis – along the lines of those in which thousands of Japanese American citizens were confined during World War II – 57% opposed such a measure.

It was clear that from the public’s perspective, the balance between protecting civil liberties and protecting the country from terrorism had shifted. In September 2001 and January 2002, 55% majorities said that, in order to curb terrorism in the U.S., it was necessary for the average citizen to give up some civil liberties. In 1997, just 29% said this would be necessary while 62% said it would not.

For most of the next two decades, more Americans said their bigger concern was that the government had not gone far enough in protecting the country from terrorism than said it went too far in restricting civil liberties.

The public also did not rule out the use of torture to extract information from terrorist suspects. In a 2015 survey of 40 nations, the U.S. was one of only 12 where a majority of the public said the use of torture against terrorists could be justified to gain information about a possible attack.

9/11 impact essay

Views of Muslims, Islam grew more partisan in years after 9/11

Concerned about a possible backlash against Muslims in the U.S. in the days after 9/11, then-President George W. Bush gave a speech to the Islamic Center in Washington, D.C., in which he declared: “Islam is peace.” For a brief period, a large segment of Americans agreed. In November 2001, 59% of U.S. adults had a favorable view of Muslim Americans, up from 45% in March 2001, with comparable majorities of Democrats and Republicans expressing a favorable opinion.

Chart shows Republicans increasingly say Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence

This spirit of unity and comity was not to last. In a September 2001 survey, 28% of adults said they had grown more suspicious of people of Middle Eastern descent; that grew to 36% less than a year later.

Republicans, in particular, increasingly came to associate Muslims and Islam with violence. In 2002, just a quarter of Americans – including 32% of Republicans and 23% of Democrats – said Islam was more likely than other religions to encourage violence among its believers. About twice as many (51%) said it was not.

But within the next few years, most Republicans and GOP leaners said Islam was more likely than other religions to encourage violence. Today, 72% of Republicans express this view, according to an August 2021 survey.

Democrats consistently have been far less likely than Republicans to associate Islam with violence. In the Center’s latest survey, 32% of Democrats say this. Still, Democrats are somewhat more likely to say this today than they have been in recent years: In 2019, 28% of Democrats said Islam was more likely than other religions to encourage violence among its believers than other religions.

The partisan gap in views of Muslims and Islam in the U.S. is evident in other meaningful ways. For example, a 2017 survey found that half of U.S. adults said that “Islam is not part of mainstream American society” – a view held by nearly seven-in-ten Republicans (68%) but only 37% of Democrats. In a separate survey conducted in 2017, 56% of Republicans said there was a great deal or fair amount of extremism among U.S. Muslims, with fewer than half as many Democrats (22%) saying the same.

The rise of anti-Muslim sentiment in the aftermath of 9/11 has had a profound effect on the growing number of Muslims living in the United States. Surveys of U.S. Muslims from 2007-2017 found increasing shares saying they have personally experienced discrimination and received public expression of support.

9/11 impact essay

It has now been two decades since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon and the crash of Flight 93 – where only the courage of passengers and crew possibly prevented an even deadlier terror attack.

For most who are old enough to remember, it is a day that is impossible to forget. In many ways, 9/11 reshaped how Americans think of war and peace, their own personal safety and their fellow citizens. And today, the violence and chaos in a country half a world away brings with it the opening of an uncertain new chapter in the post-9/11 era.

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How 9/11 Changed the World

Photo of two people on bikes and other bystanders looking towards the twin towers as they burn. The air is filled with ash and the photo is very hazy.

The World Trade Center buildings in New York City collapsed on September 11, 2001, after two airplanes slammed into the twin towers in a terrorist attack. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

BU faculty reflect on how that day’s events have reshaped our lives over the last 20 years

Bu today staff.

Saturday, September 11, 2021, marks the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the largest terrorist attack in history. On that Tuesday morning, 19 al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four American commercial flights destined for the West Coast and intentionally crashed them. Two planes—American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175—departed from Boston and Flight 11 struck New York City’s World Trade Center North Tower at 8:46 am and Flight 175 the South Tower at 9:03 am, resulting in the collapse of both towers. A third plane, American Airlines Flight 77, leaving from Dulles International Airport in Virginia, crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37 am, and the final plane, United Airlines Flight 93, departing from Newark, N.J., crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pa., at 10:03 am, after passengers stormed the cockpit and tried to subdue the hijackers.

In the space of less than 90 minutes on a late summer morning, the world changed. Nearly 3,000 people were killed that day and the United States soon found itself mired in what would become the longest war in its history, a war that cost an estimated $8 trillion . The events of 9/11 not only reshaped the global response to terrorism, but raised new and troubling questions about security, privacy, and treatment of prisoners. It reshaped US immigration policies and led to a surge in discrimination, racial profiling, and hate crimes.

In observance of the anniversary, BU Today reached out to faculty across Boston University—experts in international relations, international security,  immigration law, global health, terrorism, and ethics—and asked each to address this question: “How has the world changed as a result of 9/11?”

Find a list of all those with ties to the BU community killed on 9/11 here.

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Boston University moderates comments to facilitate an informed, substantive, civil conversation. Abusive, profane, self-promotional, misleading, incoherent or off-topic comments will be rejected. Moderators are staffed during regular business hours (EST) and can only accept comments written in English. Statistics or facts must include a citation or a link to the citation.

There are 42 comments on How 9/11 Changed the World

this is very scary to me.

Yes this is very scary

This was a very sad moment in time but we need to remember the people that sacrificed themselves to save us and the people that died during this event. It was sad but at least it brought us closer together. I wonder what the world would be like if 9/11 never happened?..

Yes that is a good thing to rember…

We will all remember 9/11, a very important moment in our life, and we honor the ones who sacrificed their lives to save others in there.

It changed the world forever, it is infact a painful memory to remember

I feel bad for all the families that had family and friends die.

i feel bad for all the people and their family and friends that died

9/11 is tragic and it will always be remembered though I have to say that saying 9/11 changed the word is quite an overstatement. More like how it changes America in certain ways and the ones responsible for it but saying something like what you said makes it sound like it was Armageddon or something.

Whether or not those of us in other countries like it, for the last several decades and certainly still in the current time, when something changes the USA in significant ways that impact policy, legislation, education, the economy, health care, etc. (not to mention the ways in which public opinion drives the American political machine), the US’s presence on the international stage means those changes ripple outward through their foreign policy, treatment of both residents/citizens of the USA and local people where the USA has a military, economic and/or other presence around the world.

The complex web of international agreements, alliances, organizational memberships, and financial interdependency means that events that happen locally often have both direct and indirect implications, short and long term, around the world, for individuals and for entire segments of society.

As for the direct results of 20 years of military response to 9/11 on civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, it certainly changed their world.

The original BU 9/11 Memorial webpage is still up:

Reading through the remembrances from that day onward …

Omg scary .

I honor them all.

I wonder how much time people had to get out before the building collapsed

the south tower collapsed in 10 seconds.

Yes but it didnt colapse untill 56 minutes after it was hit

Shall all the people who risked their lives, never be forgotten.

am i blind or was there no mention of how it actually affected the world afterwards??

I know right?

My dad died in 9/11, He was a great pilot

Wow. I’m really sorry for your loss I hope you can still go far in life even without your dad. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut and let them go.

i dont really think you understood that comment

i just read the story and im so sade for the dad that died . If i was there i wouls of creiyed and i saw someone in the chare that someone dad died and i felt so bad when i saw the comment but i dont know if that is real but if it is i feal bad for you if my dad died or my mom i woulld been so sade i would never get over it but this story changed my life when i read it.Also 1 thing i hoop not to any dads diead because i feel bad fo thos kids.

yo all the dads and moms died all of them will never get forgoten every single one of them

Never forget, always remember

everyone is talking about the twin towers but what about the pentagon.

I know, right?

it is super scary

Sorry for all the people who Lost their family

Thanks for helping me with this report, and yes so sorry for all yall who lost family

So, so sorry to all y’all who lost family

I am deeply sorry for anyone who lost family, friends, co workers, or anybody you once knew. This really was a tragedy to so many.

my dad almost died from the tower

very scary but needs too be remembered!

I have to say this is most definitely a U.S. American write up. Saying the word is an overstatement in many ways. It would be more better if you were to specifically point out you mean the US and those others involved with the attacks. Overall if we are going to be completely factual “people/individuals” are the ones who change things depending on whatever. The world changes every day since the start of time.

While I agree with your first point, I would say that the attacks did in fact change the world. At the very least, they changed the way airline security is done everywhere.

great article,

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How 9/11 changed America

UCI scholars offer insights into how the terrorist attacks continue to impact health, travel, politics and the media

At the 9/11 Memorial at New York City’s rebuilt World Trade Center, a rose adorns the edge of a reflecting pool. The effects of that day’s terrorist attacks are still being felt 20 years later.

In recognition of the 20 th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the U.S., we asked UCI scholars a single question: How did 9/11 change America? They responded according to their expertise.

Roxane Cohen Silver , Distinguished Professor of psychological science, public health and medicine

Alison holman , professor of nursing.

Topic: Collective trauma

Roxane Cohen Silver

Although it’s a cliché to say “9/11 changed America,” with two decades of hindsight, it’s clear from the perspective of the field of psychological science that it’s true. The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks – which hijacked our television screens that Tuesday morning as people who sought to do us harm hijacked four airplanes – captured people’s attention throughout the days and weeks that followed. It also ushered in 24/7 media attention to what has become known as a “collective trauma,” transmitting the horrible events of that day throughout the country and, indeed, throughout the world in a matter of seconds.

While the events of 9/11 were tragic for those who lost a loved one, friend or colleague, the attacks demonstrated that one did not need to know anyone who died that day to have been profoundly affected. We conducted research among several thousand U.S. residents that began in the days following 9/11 and continued for several years. We found that those who watched many hours of television in the week after 9/11 and/or watched the second plane hit the World Trade Center or the buildings fall live on television were more likely to develop mental and physical health problems in subsequent years – especially if they continued to worry about future terrorism.

Alison Holman

Since 9/11, psychological scientists have increasingly recognized the important role that the media plays in transmitting local tragedies beyond directly impacted communities. Moreover, since 9/11, the media landscape has changed dramatically, amplifying what we witnessed after the attacks. In addition to the advent of social media, many people also now carry smartphones equipped with powerful cameras that can take graphic pictures or videos of tragedy that can be instantly distributed around the world. Repeated exposure to these graphic and disturbing images may exact a toll on those who view them, increasing anxiety and drawing people into a cycle of distress after engaging news reports of subsequent tragedies.

The 9/11 attacks were tragic for American residents, but they also taught us that the media can broadcast distress alongside the news it’s covering.

Jan K. Brueckner , Distinguished Professor of economics

Topic: Air travel

Jan Brueckner

After the terrorist attacks, the government imposed a temporary nationwide shutdown of the airline industry, fearing additional attacks using commercial aircraft. As airlines began flying again, they did so under numerous restrictions, most importantly the extensive passenger security screening requirements of the Transportation Security Administration. The new screening process added time and inconvenience to air travel, and – coupled with passenger fears of terrorism and other factors – airline passenger traffic was dramatically depressed following 9/11, taking three years to return to its pre-9/11 level. In response to the revenue shock of 9/11 and to new competition from low-cost carriers, the major airlines behaved conservatively in adding back capacity as traffic returned, so that the carriers eventually offered fewer seats to an ultimately larger number of passengers, leading to fuller flights and today’s less comfortable flying experience. Even though 9/11 is long past, the airline industry continues to operate in a climate of fear of terrorism from the air.

Erin Lockwood , assistant professor of political science

Topic: U.S. foreign policy

Erin Lockwood

The terrorist attacks were a turning point in U.S. politics, normalizing the use of military force against state targets in response to an attack by nonstate actors on U.S. civilians. Given the stark polarization in U.S. politics today, there is, for some, a tendency to nostalgically remember the immediate aftermath of the attacks as an ephemeral moment of U.S. unity. But we must also acknowledge and mourn not only the lives lost in those attacks, but also that the attacks – and the U.S. response – set in motion decades of war, anti-Arab and anti-Islamic bias and violence, and a willingness to sacrifice military and civilian lives and civil liberties for the perception of security. As we mark the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan this month, it’s all too apparent that many of those trends continue to reverberate today.

David Kaye , clinical professor of law

Topic: National security

David Kaye

On the morning of 9/11, I evacuated my office at the State Department, where I worked as a lawyer, and ended up nearby at Memorial Bridge, watching in horror as the Pentagon burned. Personally, the day is a haze of tragedy and trauma and despair, as painful and wrenching today as it was then. Despite my hopes for something better that might emerge, the attacks reinforced a cult of national security that the United States transformed into the torture of terrorism suspects, drone warfare, the invasion of Iraq, Guantanamo Bay’s indefinite detentions, anti-Muslim discrimination at home and the emergence of the contemporary surveillance state. American foreign and defense policy and Washington’s reluctance to embrace fully global norms and international law remain entwined with the reactions to 9/11. The predominance of national security as an ideology and apologia remains among the most significant legacies of that day, a feature of American political life that continues to constrain creativity and a return to normalcy in American law and policy.

Matthew Beckmann , associate professor of political science

Topic: War on terror

Matthew Beckmann

To understand the legacy of 9/11 is to define the legacy of George W. Bush. For after the deadliest terrorist attacks on U.S. soil in our nation’s history, American citizens and lawmakers gave President Bush broad support and broader authority to wage the “war on terror” as he saw fit. What Bush imagined was a new world order, led by the United States – particularly by the president – where security threats were defeated and replaced with governments more like our own. “We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom,” he said in his second inaugural address . Twenty years after the attacks, having seen those lofty aspirations dashed in Afghanistan and Iraq, disregarded in Guantanamo Bay and black site prisons, and discounted even by our staunchest allies, the biggest legacy of Sept. 11 for the United States is that the “shining city on a hill” has less luster and a shorter reach.

David Theo Goldberg , professor of comparative literature

Topic: Rise of false narratives

David Theo Goldberg

American politics has always encouraged fabrication. A little white lie here, a bigger one there. However, “fabricate often, fabricate big” seems to have become the meme for the moment. The goal is to have the general public recall nothing else. “Stop the Steal.” “Critical race theory is a subversive Marxist plot.” “Mandated masks are a conspiratorial attack on fundamental individual liberty.” The power of the false has become ubiquitous.

The events of 9/11 lent themselves to make-believe. The smoke hadn’t yet cleared when conspiracies began to abound, from “weapons of mass destruction” to “the deep state.” That the Trump administration adopted this as its own playbook while insisting on “draining the swamp” required cooking the rules. Alternative realities and truths assumed the status of the given: birtherism, Pizzagate, “vaccines kill,” “masks asphyxiate,” “the pandemic is biological warfare,” “Stop the Steal.” The ever-expanding fabrication and “deepfaking” made it all too quick and easy to deny the actual and the evident. Fabrication had become the rule book of the game. Invention and inventedness, disruption and innovation fueled the movement. The “truth” was, well, oh so yesterday.

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Deep within the catalogue of regrets that is the 9/11 Commission report — long after readers learn of the origins and objectives of al-Qaeda, past the warnings ignored by consecutive administrations, through the litany of institutional failures that allowed terrorists to hijack four commercial airliners — the authors pause to make a rousing case for the power of the nation’s character.

“The U.S. government must define what the message is, what it stands for,” the report asserts. “We should offer an example of moral leadership in the world, committed to treat people humanely, abide by the rule of law, and be generous and caring to our neighbors. . . . We need to defend our ideals abroad vigorously. America does stand up for its values.”

This affirmation of American idealism is one of the document’s more opinionated moments. Looking back, it’s also among the most ignored.

Rather than exemplify the nation’s highest values, the official response to 9/11 unleashed some of its worst qualities: deception, brutality, arrogance, ignorance, delusion, overreach and carelessness. This conclusion is laid bare in the sprawling literature to emerge from 9/11 over the past two decades — the works of investigation, memoir and narrative by journalists and former officials that have charted the path to that day, revealed the heroism and confusion of the early response, chronicled the battles in and about Afghanistan and Iraq, and uncovered the excesses of the war on terror. Reading or rereading a collection of such books today is like watching an old movie that feels more anguishing and frustrating than you remember. The anguish comes from knowing how the tale will unfold; the frustration from realizing that this was hardly the only possible outcome.

Whatever individual stories the 9/11 books tell, too many describe the repudiation of U.S. values, not by extremist outsiders but by our own hand. The betrayal of America’s professed principles was the friendly fire of the war on terror. In these works, indifference to the growing terrorist threat gives way to bloodlust and vengeance after the attacks. Official dissembling justifies wars, then prolongs them. In the name of counterterrorism, security is politicized, savagery legalized and patriotism weaponized.

It was an emergency, yes, that’s understood. But that state of exception became our new American exceptionalism.

It happened fast. By 2004, when the 9/11 Commission urged America to “engage the struggle of ideas,” it was already too late; the Justice Department’s initial torture memos were already signed, the Abu Ghraib images had already eviscerated U.S. claims to moral authority. And it has lasted long. The latest works on the legacy of 9/11 show how war-on-terror tactics were turned on religious groups, immigrants and protesters in the United States. The war on terror came home, and it walked in like it owned the place.

“It is for now far easier for a researcher to explain how and why September 11 happened than it is to explain the aftermath,” Steve Coll writes in “ Ghost Wars ,” his 2004 account of the CIA’s pre-9/11 involvement in Afghanistan. Throughout that aftermath, Washington fantasized about remaking the world in its image, only to reveal an ugly image of itself to the world.

The literature of 9/11 also considers Osama bin Laden’s varied aspirations for the attacks and his shifting visions of that aftermath. He originally imagined America as weak and easily panicked, retreating from the world — in particular from the Middle East — as soon as its troops began dying. But bin Laden also came to grasp, perhaps self-servingly, the benefits of luring Washington into imperial overreach, of “bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy,” as he put it in 2004, through endless military expansionism, thus beating back its global sway and undermining its internal unity. “We anticipate a black future for America,” bin Laden told ABC News more than three years before the 9/11 attacks. “Instead of remaining United States, it shall end up separated states and shall have to carry the bodies of its sons back to America.”

Bin Laden did not win the war of ideas. But neither did we. To an unnerving degree, the United States moved toward the enemy’s fantasies of what it might become — a nation divided in its sense of itself, exposed in its moral and political compromises, conflicted over wars it did not want but would not end. When President George W. Bush addressed the nation from the Oval Office on the evening of Sept. 11, 2001, he asserted that America was attacked because it is “the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world, and no one will keep that light from shining.” Bush was correct; al-Qaeda could not dim the promise of America. Only we could do that to ourselves.

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“The most frightening aspect of this new threat . . . was the fact that almost no one took it seriously. It was too bizarre, too primitive and exotic.” That is how Lawrence Wright depicts the early impressions of bin Laden and his terrorist network among U.S. officials in “ The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 .” For a country still basking in its post-Cold War glow, it all seemed so far away, even as al-Qaeda’s strikes — on the World Trade Center in 1993, on U.S. Embassies in 1998, on the USS Cole in 2000 — grew bolder. This was American complacency, mixed with denial.

The books traveling that road to 9/11 have an inexorable, almost suffocating feel to them, as though every turn invariably leads to the first crush of steel and glass. Their starting points vary. Wright dwells on the influence of Egyptian thinker Sayyid Qutb, whose mid-20th-century sojourn in the United States animated his vision of a clash between Islam and modernity, and whose work would inspire future jihadists. In “Ghost Wars,” Coll laments America’s abandonment of Afghanistan once it ceased serving as a proxy battlefield against Moscow. In “ The Rise and Fall of Osama bin Laden ,” Peter Bergen stresses the moment bin Laden arrived in Afghanistan from Sudan in 1996, when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed first pitched him on the planes plot. And the 9/11 Commission lingers on bin Laden’s declarations of war against the United States, particularly his 1998 fatwa calling it “the individual duty for every Muslim” to murder Americans “in any country in which it is possible.”

Yet these early works also make clear that the road to 9/11 featured plenty of billboards warning of the likely destination. A Presidential Daily Brief item on Aug. 6, 2001, titled “Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US” became infamous in 9/11 lore, yet the commission report notes that it was the 36th PDB relating to bin Laden or al-Qaeda that year alone. (“All right. You’ve covered your ass now,” Bush reportedly sneered at the briefer.) Both the FBI and the CIA produced classified warnings on terrorist threats in the mid-1990s, Coll writes, including a particularly precise National Intelligence Estimate. “Several targets are especially at risk: national symbols such as the White House and the Capitol, and symbols of U.S. capitalism such as Wall Street,” it stated. “We assess that civil aviation will figure prominently among possible terrorist targets in the United States.” Some of the admonitions scattered throughout the 9/11 literature are too over-the-top even for a movie script: There’s the exasperated State Department official complaining about Defense Department inaction (“Does al Qaeda have to attack the Pentagon to get their attention?”), and the earnest FBI supervisor in Minneapolis warning a skeptical agent in Washington about suspected terrorism activity, insisting that he was “trying to keep someone from taking a plane and crashing it into the World Trade Center.”

In these books, everyone is warning everyone else. Bergen emphasizes that a young intelligence analyst in the State Department, Gina Bennett, wrote the first classified memo warning about bin Laden in 1993. Pockets within the FBI and the CIA obsess over bin Laden while regarding one another as rivals. On his way out, President Bill Clinton warns Bush. Outgoing national security adviser Sandy Berger warns his successor, Condoleezza Rice. And White House counterterrorism coordinator Richard Clarke, as he reminds incessantly in his 2004 memoir, “ Against All Enemies ,” warns anyone who will listen and many who will not.

With the system “blinking red,” as CIA Director George Tenet later told the 9/11 Commission, why were all these warnings not enough? Wright lingers on bureaucratic failings, emphasizing that intelligence collection on al-Qaeda was hampered by the “institutional warfare” between the CIA and the FBI, two agencies that by all accounts were not on speaking terms. Coll writes that Clinton regarded bin Laden as “an isolated fanatic, flailing dangerously but quixotically against the forces of global progress,” whereas the Bush team was fixated on great-power politics, missile defense and China.

Clarke’s conclusion is simple, and it highlights America’s we-know-better swagger, a national trait that often masquerades as courage or wisdom. “America, alas, seems only to respond well to disasters, to be undistracted by warnings,” he writes. “Our country seems unable to do all that must be done until there has been some awful calamity.”

The problem with responding only to calamity is that underestimation is usually replaced by overreaction. And we tell ourselves it is the right thing, maybe the only thing, to do.

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A last-minute flight change. A new job at the Pentagon. A retirement from the fire station. The final tilt of a plane’s wings before impact. If the books about the lead-up to 9/11 are packed with unbearable inevitability, the volumes on the day itself highlight how randomness separated survival from death. “The ferocity of the attacks meant that innocent people lived or died because they stepped back from a doorway, or hopped onto a closing elevator, or simply shifted their weight from one foot to another,” Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn write in “ 102 Minutes ,” their narrative of events inside the World Trade Center from the moment the first plane hit through the collapse of both towers. Their detailed reporting on the human saga — such as a police officer asking a fire chaplain to hear his confession as they both flee a collapsing building — is excruciating and riveting at once.

Yet, as much as the people inside, the structures and history of the World Trade Center are key actors, too. They are not just symbols and targets but fully formed and deeply flawed characters in the day’s drama.

[ 9/11 has become all about New York — with D.C. and the Pentagon nearly forgotten ]

Had the World Trade Center, built in the late 1960s and early 1970s, been erected according to the city building code in effect since 1938, Dwyer and Flynn explain, “it is likely that a very different world trade center would have been built.” Instead, it was constructed according to a new code that the real estate industry had avidly promoted, a code that made it cheaper and more lucrative to build and own skyscrapers. “It increased the floor space available for rent . . . by cutting back on the areas that had been devoted, under the earlier law, to evacuation and exit,” the authors write. The result: Getting everybody out on 9/11 was virtually impossible.

Under the new rules, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was able to rent three-quarters of each floor of the World Trade Center, Dwyer and Flynn report, a 21 percent increase over the yield of older skyscrapers. The cost was dear. Some 1,000 people inside the North Tower who initially survived the impact of American Airlines Flight 11 could not reach an open staircase. “Their fate was sealed nearly four decades earlier, when the stairways were clustered in the core of the building, and fire stairs were eliminated as a wasteful use of valuable space.” (The authors write that “building code reform hardly makes for gripping drama,” an aside as modest as it is inaccurate.) The towers embodied the power of American capitalism, but their design embodied the folly of American greed. On that day, both conditions proved fatal.

The assault on the Pentagon, long treated as an undercard to New York’s main event, could have yielded even greater devastation, and again the details of the building played a role. In his oral history of 9/11, “ The Only Plane in the Sky ,” Garrett Graff quotes Defense Department officials marveling at how American Airlines Flight 77 struck a part of the Pentagon that, because of new anti-terrorism standards, had recently been reinforced and renovated. This meant it was not only stronger but, on that morning, also relatively unoccupied. “It was truly a miracle,” Army branch chief Philip Smith said. “In any other wedge of the Pentagon, there would have been 5,000 people, and the plane would have flown right through the middle of the building.” Instead, fewer than 200 people were killed in the attack on the Pentagon, including the passengers on the hijacked jet. Chance and preparedness came together.

The bravery of police and firefighters is the subject of countless 9/11 retrospectives, but these books also emphasize the selflessness of civilians who morphed into first responders. Port Authority workers Frank De Martini, Pablo Ortiz, Carlos da Costa and Peter Negron, for instance, saved at least 70 people in the World Trade Center’s North Tower by pulling apart elevator doors, busting walls and shining flashlights to find survivors, only to not make it out themselves. “With crowbar, flashlight, hardhat and big mouths, De Martini and Ortiz and their colleagues had pushed back the boundary line between life and death,” Dwyer and Flynn write. The authors also note how the double lines of people descending a World Trade Center staircase would automatically blend into single file when word came down that an injured person was behind them. And Graff cites a local assistant fire chief who recalls the “truly heroic” work of civilians and uniformed personnel at the Pentagon that day. “They were the ones who really got their comrades, got their workmates out,” he says.

The civilians aboard United Airlines Flight 93, whose resistance forced the plane to crash into a Pennsylvania field rather than the U.S. Capitol, were later lionized as emblems of swashbuckling Americana. But one offhand detail in the 9/11 Commission report underscores just how American their defiance was. The passengers had made phone calls when the hijacking began and had learned the fate of other aircraft that day. “According to one call, they voted on whether to rush the terrorists in an attempt to retake the plane,” the commission report states. “They decided, and acted.”

They voted on it. They voted. Even in that moment of unfathomable fear and distress, the passengers took a moment to engage in the great American tradition of popular consultation before deciding to become this new war’s earliest soldiers. Was there ever any doubt as to the outcome of that ballot?

Such episodes, led by ordinary civilians, embodied values that the 9/11 Commission called on the nation to display. Except those values would soon be dismantled, in the name of security, by those entrusted to uphold them.

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Lawyering to death.

The phrase appears in multiple 9/11 volumes, usually uttered by top officials adamant that they were going to get things done , laws and rules be damned. Anti-terrorism efforts were always “lawyered to death” during the Clinton administration, Tenet complains in “ Bush at War ,” Bob Woodward’s 2002 book on the debates among the president and his national security team. In an interview with Woodward, Bush drops the phrase amid the machospeak — “dead or alive,” “bring ’em on” and the like — that became typical of his anti-terrorism rhetoric. “I had to show the American people the resolve of a commander in chief that was going to do whatever it took to win,” Bush explains. “No yielding. No equivocation. No, you know, lawyering this thing to death.” In “Against All Enemies,” Clarke recalls the evening of Sept. 11, 2001, when Bush snapped at an official who suggested that international law looked askance at military force as a tool of revenge. “I don’t care what the international lawyers say, we are going to kick some ass,” the president retorted.

The message was unmistakable: The law is an obstacle to effective counterterrorism. Worrying about procedural niceties is passe in a 9/11 world, an annoying impediment to the essential work of ass-kicking.

Except, they did lawyer this thing to death. Instead of disregarding the law, the Bush administration enlisted it. “Beginning almost immediately after September 11, 2001, [Vice President Dick] Cheney saw to it that some of the sharpest and best-trained lawyers in the country, working in secret in the White House and the United States Department of Justice, came up with legal justifications for a vast expansion of the government’s power in waging war on terror,” Jane Mayer writes in “ The Dark Side ,” her relentless 2008 compilation of the arguments and machinations of government lawyers after the attacks. Through public declarations and secret memos, the administration sought to remove limits on the president’s conduct of warfare and to deny terrorism suspects the protections of the Geneva Conventions by redefining them as unlawful enemy combatants. Nothing, Mayer argues of the latter effort, “more directly cleared the way for torture than this.”

To comprehend what our government can justify in the name of national security, consider the torture memos themselves, authored by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel between 2002 and 2005 to green-light CIA interrogation methods for terrorism suspects. Tactics such as cramped confinement, sleep deprivation and waterboarding were rebranded as “enhanced interrogation techniques,” legally and linguistically contorted to avoid the label of torture. Though the techniques could be cruel and inhuman, the OLC acknowledged in an August 2002 memo, they would constitute torture only if they produced pain equivalent to organ failure or death, and if the individual inflicting such pain really really meant to do so: “Even if the defendant knows that severe pain will result from his actions, if causing such harm is not his objective, he lacks the requisite specific intent.” It’s quite the sleight of hand, with torture moving from the body of the interrogated to the mind of the interrogator.

After devoting dozens of pages to the metaphysics of specific intent, the true meaning of “prolonged” mental harm or “imminent” death, and the elasticity of the Convention Against Torture, the memo concludes that none of it actually matters. Even if a particular interrogation method would cross some legal line, the relevant statute would be considered unconstitutional because it “impermissibly encroached” on the commander in chief’s authority to conduct warfare. Almost nowhere in these memos does the Justice Department curtail the power of the CIA to do as it pleases.

In fact, the OLC lawyers rely on assurances from the CIA itself to endorse such powers. In a second memo from August 2002, the lawyers ruminate on the use of cramped confinement boxes. “We have no information from the medical experts you have consulted that the limited duration for which the individual is kept in the boxes causes any substantial physical pain,” the memo states. Waterboarding likewise gets a pass. “You have informed us that this procedure does not inflict actual physical harm,” the memo states. “Based on your research . . . you do not anticipate that any prolonged mental harm would result from the use of the waterboard.”

You have informed us. Experts you have consulted. Based on your research. You do not anticipate . Such hand-washing words appear throughout the memos. The Justice Department relies on information provided by the CIA to reach its conclusions; the CIA then has the cover of the Justice Department to proceed with its interrogations. It’s a perfect circle of trust.

Yet the logic is itself tortured. In a May 2005 memo, the lawyers conclude that because no single technique inflicts “severe” pain amounting to torture, their combined use “would not be expected” to reach that level, either. As though embarrassed at such illogic, the memo attaches a triple-negative footnote: “We are not suggesting that combinations or repetitions of acts that do not individually cause severe physical pain could not result in severe physical pain.” Well, then, what exactly are you suggesting? Even when the OLC in 2004 officially withdrew its August 2002 memo following a public outcry and declared torture “abhorrent,” the lawyers added a footnote to the new memo assuring that they had reviewed the prior opinions on the treatment of detainees and “do not believe that any of their conclusions would be different under the standards set forth in this memorandum.”

In these documents, lawyers enable lawlessness. Another May 2005 memo concludes that, because the Convention Against Torture applies only to actions occurring under U.S. jurisdiction, the CIA’s creation of detention sites in other countries renders the convention “inapplicable.” Similarly, because the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment is meant to protect people convicted of crimes, it should not apply to terrorism detainees — because they have not been officially convicted of anything. The lack of due process conveniently eliminates constitutional protections. In his introduction to “ The Torture Memos: Rationalizing the Unthinkable ,” David Cole describes the documents as “bad-faith lawyering,” which might be generous. It is another kind of lawyering to death, one in which the rule of law that the 9/11 Commission urged us to abide by becomes the victim.

Years later, the Senate Intelligence Committee would investigate the CIA’s post-9/11 interrogation program. Its massive report — the executive summary of which appeared as a 549-page book in 2014 — found that torture did not produce useful intelligence, that the interrogations were more brutal than the CIA let on, that the Justice Department did not independently verify the CIA’s information, and that the spy agency impeded oversight by Congress and the CIA inspector general. It explains that the CIA purported to oversee itself and, no surprise, that it deemed its interrogations effective and necessary, no matter the results. (If a detainee provided information, it meant the program worked; if he did not, it meant stricter applications of the techniques were needed; if still no information was forthcoming, the program had succeeded in proving he had none to give.)

“The CIA’s effectiveness representations were almost entirely inaccurate,” the Senate report concluded. It is one of the few lies of the war on terror unmasked by an official government investigation and public report, but just one of the many documented in the 9/11 literature.

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Officials in the war on terror didn’t deceive or dissemble just with lawmakers or the public. In the recurring tragedy of war, they lied just as often to themselves.

In “ To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America Into Iraq ,” Robert Draper considers the influence of the president’s top aides. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz (long obsessed with ousting Saddam Hussein), Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld (eager to test his theories of military transformation) and Cheney (fixated on apocalyptic visions of America’s vulnerability) all had their reasons. But Draper identifies a single responsible party: “The decision to invade Iraq was one made, finally and exclusively, by the president of the United States, George W. Bush,” he writes.

A president initially concerned about defending and preserving the nation’s moral goodness against terrorism found himself driven by darker impulses. “I’m having difficulty controlling my bloodlust,” Bush confessed to religious leaders in the Oval Office on Sept. 20, 2001, Draper reports. It was not a one-off comment; in Woodward’s “Bush at War,” the president admitted that before 9/11, “I didn’t feel that sense of urgency [about al-Qaeda], and my blood was not nearly as boiling.”

Bloodlust, moral certainty and sudden vulnerability make a dangerous combination. The belief that you are defending good against evil can lead to the belief that whatever you do to that end is good, too. Draper distills Bush’s worldview: “The terrorists’ primary objective was to destroy America’s freedom. Saddam hated America. Therefore, he hated freedom. Therefore, Saddam was himself a terrorist, bent on destroying America and its freedom.”

Note the asymmetry. The president assumed the worst about what Hussein had done or might do, yet embraced best-case scenarios of how an American invasion would proceed. “Iraqis would rejoice at the sight of their Western liberators,” Draper recaps. “Their newly shared sense of national purpose would overcome any sectarian allegiances. Their native cleverness would make up for their inexperience with self-government. They would welcome the stewardship of Iraqi expatriates who had not set foot in Baghdad in decades. And their oil would pay for everything.”

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There are lies, and then there is self-delusion. The Americans did not have to anticipate the specifics of the civil war that would engulf the country after the invasion; they just had to realize that managing postwar Iraq would never be as simple as they imagined. It did not seem to occur to Bush and his advisers that Iraqis could simultaneously hate Hussein and resent the Americans — feelings that could have been discovered by speaking to Iraqis and hearing their concerns.

Anthony Shadid’s “ Night Draws Near: Iraq’s People in the Shadow of America’s War ,” published in 2005, is among the few books on the war that gets deep inside Iraqis’ aversion to the Americans in their midst. “What gives them the right to change something that’s not theirs in the first place?” a woman in a middle-class Baghdad neighborhood asks him. “I don’t like your house, so I’m going to bomb it and you can rebuild it again the way I want it, with your money?” In Fallujah, where Shadid hears early talk of the Americans as “kuffar” (heathens), a 51-year-old former teacher complains that “we’ve exchanged a tyrant for an occupier.” The occupation did not dissuade such impressions when it turned the former dictator’s seat of government into its own luxurious Green Zone, or when it retrofitted the Abu Ghraib prison (“the worst of Saddam’s hellholes,” Shadid calls it) into its own chamber of horrors.

Shadid understood that governmental legitimacy — who gets to rule, and by what right — was a matter of overriding importance for Iraqis. “The Americans never understood the question,” he writes; “Iraqis never agreed on the answer.” It’s hard to find a better summation of the trials of Iraq in the aftermath of America’s invasion. When the United States so quickly shifted from liberation to occupation, it lost whatever legitimacy it enjoyed. “Bush handed that enemy precisely what it wanted and needed, proof that America was at war with Islam, that we were the new Crusaders come to occupy Muslim land,” Clarke writes. “It was as if Usama bin Laden, hidden in some high mountain redoubt, were engaging in long-range mind control of George Bush, chanting ‘invade Iraq, you must invade Iraq.’ ”

[ The Pentagon's Obsession With Counterinsurgency ]

The foolishness and arrogance of the American occupation didn’t help. In “ Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone ,” Rajiv Chandrasekaran explains how, even as daily security was Iraqis’ overwhelming concern, viceroy L. Paul Bremer, Bush’s man in Baghdad, was determined to turn the country into a model free-market economy, complete with new investment laws, bankruptcy courts and a state-of-the-art stock exchange. In charge of the new exchange was a 24-year-old American with no academic background in economics or finance. The man tasked with remaking Iraq’s sprawling university system had no experience in the Middle East — but did have connections to the Rumsfeld and Cheney families. A new traffic law for Iraq was partially cut and pasted from Maryland’s motor vehicle code. An antismoking campaign was led by a U.S. official who was a closet smoker. And a U.S. Army general, when asked by local journalists why American helicopters must fly so low at night, thus scaring Iraqi children, replied that the kids were simply hearing “the sound of freedom.”

Message: Freedom sounds terrifying.

For some Americans, inflicting that terror became part of the job, one more tool in the arsenal. In “ The Forever War ” by Dexter Filkins, a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel in Iraq assures the author that “with a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them.” (Filkins asked him if he really meant it about fear and violence; the officer insisted that he did.) Of course, not all officials were so deluded and so forthright; some knew better but lied to the public. Chandrasekaran recalls the response of a top communications official under Bremer, when reporters asked about waves of violence hitting Baghdad in the spring of 2004. “Off the record: Paris is burning,” the official told the journalists. “On the record: Security and stability are returning to Iraq.”

In “The Rise and Fall of Osama bin Laden,” Bergen sums up how the Iraq War, conjured in part on the false connections between Iraq and al-Qaeda, ended up helping the terrorist network: It pulled resources from the war in Afghanistan, gave space for bin Laden’s men to regroup and spurred a new generation of terrorists in the Middle East. “A bigger gift to bin Laden was hard to imagine,” Bergen writes.

If Iraq was the war born of lies, Afghanistan was the one nurtured by them. Afghanistan was where al-Qaeda, supported by the Taliban, had made its base — it was supposed to be the good war, the right war, the war of necessity and not choice, the war endorsed at home and abroad. “U.S. officials had no need to lie or spin to justify the war,” Washington Post reporter Craig Whitlock writes in “ The Afghanistan Papers ,” a damning contrast of the war’s reality vs. its rhetoric. “Yet leaders at the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department soon began to make false assurances and to paper over setbacks on the battlefield.” As the years passed, the deceit became entrenched, what Whitlock calls “an unspoken conspiracy” to hide the truth.

Drawing from a “Lessons Learned” project that interviewed hundreds of military and civilian officials involved with Afghanistan, as well as from oral histories, government cables and reports, Whitlock finds commanding generals privately admitting that they long fought the war “without a functional strategy.” That, two years into the conflict, Rumsfeld complained that he had “no visibility into who the bad guys are.” That Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, a former coordinator of Iraq and Afghanistan policy, acknowledged that “we didn’t have the foggiest idea of what we were undertaking.” That U.S. officials long wanted to withdraw American forces but feared — correctly so, it turns out — that the Afghan government might collapse. “Bin Laden had hoped for this exact scenario,” Whitlock observes. “To lure the U.S. superpower into an unwinnable guerrilla conflict that would deplete its national treasury and diminish its global influence.”

All along, top officials publicly contradicted these internal views, issuing favorable accounts of steady progress. Bad news was twisted into good: Rising suicide attacks in Kabul meant the Taliban was too weak for direct combat, for instance, while increased U.S. casualties meant America was taking the fight to the enemy. The skills and size of the Afghan security forces were frequently exaggerated; by the end of President Barack Obama’s second term, U.S. officials concluded that some 30,000 Afghan soldiers on the payroll didn’t actually exist; they were paper creations of local commanders who pocketed the fake soldiers’ salaries at U.S. taxpayer expense. American officials publicly lamented large-scale corruption in Afghanistan but enabled that corruption in practice, pouring massive contracts and projects into a country ill-equipped to absorb them. Such deceptions transpired across U.S. presidents, but the Obama administration, eager to show that its first-term troop surge was working, “took it to a new level, hyping figures that were misleading, spurious or downright false,” Whitlock writes. And then under President Donald Trump, he adds, the generals felt pressure to “speak more forcefully and boast that his war strategy was destined to succeed.”

Long before President Biden declared the end of the U.S. war in Afghanistan this summer, the United States twice made similar pronouncements, proclaiming the conclusion of combat operations in 2003 and again in 2014 — yet still the war endured. It did so in part because “in public, almost no senior government officials had the courage to admit that the United States was slowly losing,” Whitlock writes. “With their complicit silence, military and political leaders avoided accountability and dodged reappraisals that could have changed the outcome or shortened the conflict.”

It’s not like nobody warned them. In “Bush at War,” Woodward reports that CIA Counterterrorism Center Director Cofer Black and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage traveled to Moscow shortly after 9/11 to give officials a heads up about the coming hostilities in Afghanistan. The Russians, recent visitors to the graveyard of empires, cautioned that Afghanistan was an “ambush heaven” and that, in the words of one of them, “you’re really going to get the hell kicked out of you.” Cofer responded confidently: “We’re going to kill them. . . . We’re going to rock their world.”

Now, with U.S. forces gone and the Taliban having reclaimed power in Afghanistan, Washington is wrestling with the legacy of the nation’s longest war. Why and how did America lose? Should we have stayed longer? Was it worth its price in blood and billions? How does the United States repay the courage of Afghans who worked alongside U.S. military and civilian authorities? What if Afghanistan again becomes a haven for terrorists attacking U.S. interests and allies, as the airport suicide bombing in Kabul that killed 13 U.S. service members last month may signal? Biden has asserted that “the war in Afghanistan is now over” but has also pledged to continue the fight against terrorists there — so what are the limits and the means of future U.S. military and intelligence action in the country?

These are essential debates, but a war should not be measured only by the timing and the competence of its end. We still face an equally consequential appraisal: How good was this good war if it could be sustained only by lies?

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In the two decades since the 9/11 attacks, the United States has often attempted to reconsider its response. Take two documents from late 2006: the report from the Iraq Study Group, co-chaired by James A. Baker III and Lee H. Hamilton, which argued that Washington needed to radically rethink its diplomatic and political strategy for Iraq; and “ The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual ,” written by a team led by then-Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, which argued that U.S. officials needed to radically rethink military tactics for insurgency wars of the kind it faced in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They are written as though intending to solve problems. But they can be read as proof that the problems have no realistic solution, or that the only solution is to never have created them.

“There is no magic formula to solve the problems of Iraq,” the ISG report begins, yet its proposed fixes would have required plenty of fairy dust. The report calls for a “diplomatic offensive” to gain international support for Iraq, to persuade Iran and Syria to respect Iraq’s territory and sovereignty, and to commit to “a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts.” Simple! Iraq, meanwhile, needed to make progress on national reconciliation (in a country already awash in sectarian bloodletting), boost domestic security (even though the report deems the Iraqi army a mess and the Iraqi police worse) and deliver social services (even as the report concludes that the government was failing to adequately provide electricity, drinking water, sewage services and education).

The recommendations seem written in the knowledge that they will never happen. “Miracles cannot be expected,” the report states — twice. Absent divine intervention, the next step is obvious. If the Iraqi government can’t demonstrate “substantial progress” toward its goals, the report asserts, “the United States should reduce its political, military, or economic support” for Iraq. Indeed, the report sets the bar for staying so high that an exit strategy appears to be its primary purpose.

The counterinsurgency manual is an extraordinary document. Implicitly repudiating notions such as “shock and awe” and “overwhelming force,” it argues that the key to battling an insurgency in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan is to provide security for the local population and to win its support through effective governance. It also attempts to grasp the nature of America’s foes. “Most enemies either do not try to defeat the United States with conventional operations or do not limit themselves to purely military means,” the manual states. “They know that they cannot compete with U.S. forces on those terms. Instead, they try to exhaust U.S. national will.” Exhausting America’s will is an objective that al-Qaeda understood well.

“Soldiers and Marines are expected to be nation builders as well as warriors,” the manual proclaims, but the arduous tasks involved — reestablishing government institutions, rebuilding infrastructure, strengthening local security forces, enforcing the rule of law — reveal the tension at the heart of the new doctrine. “Counterinsurgents should prepare for a long-term commitment,” the manual states. Yet, just a few pages later, it admits that “eventually all foreign armies are seen as interlopers or occupiers.” How to accomplish the former without descending into the latter? No wonder so many of the historical examples of counterinsurgency that the manual highlights, including accounts from the Vietnam War, are stories of failure.

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The manual seems aware of its importance. The 2007 edition contains a foreword, followed by an introduction, then another foreword, a preface, then some brief acknowledgments and finally one more introduction. (Just reaching Chapter 1 feels like defeating an insurgency.) But the throat-clearing is clarifying. In his foreword, Army Lt. Col. John Nagl writes that the document’s most lasting impact may be as a catalyst not for remaking Iraq or Afghanistan, but for transforming the Army and Marine Corps into “more effective learning organizations,” better able to adapt to changing warfare. And in her introduction, Sarah Sewall, then director of Harvard’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, concludes that its “ultimate value” may be in warning civilian officials to think hard before engaging in a counterinsurgency campaign.

At best, then, the manual helps us rethink future conflicts — how we fight and whether we should. It’s no coincidence that Biden, in his Aug. 16 remarks defending the decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, specifically repudiated counterinsurgency as an objective of U.S. policy. “I’ve argued for many years that our mission should be narrowly focused on counterterrorism, not counterinsurgency or nation-building,” the president affirmed. Even the longest war was not long enough for a counterinsurgency effort to succeed.

In his 2009 book, “ The Good Soldiers ,” David Finkel chronicles the experiences of an Army battalion deployed in Iraq during the U.S. troop surge in 2007 and 2008, a period of the war ostensibly informed by the new counterinsurgency doctrine. In his 2013 sequel, “ Thank You for Your Service ,” the author witnesses these men when they come home and try to make sense of their military experience and adapt to their new lives. “The thing that got to everyone,” Finkel explains in the latter book, “was not having a defined front line. It was a war in 360 degrees, no front to advance toward, no enemy in uniform, no predictable patterns, no relief.” It’s a powerful summation of battling an insurgency.

Adam Schumann returns from war because of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, “the result of a mortar round that dropped without warning out of a blue sky,” Finkel explains. Schumann suffers from nightmares, headaches and guilt; he wishes he needed bandages or crutches, anything to visibly justify his absence from the front. His wife endures his treatments, his anger, his ambivalence toward life. “He’s still a good guy,” she decides. “He’s just a broken good guy.” Another returning soldier, Nic DeNinno, struggles to tell his wife about the time he and his fellow soldiers burst into an Iraqi home in search of a high-value target. He threw a man down the stairs and held another by the throat. After they left, the lieutenant told him it was the wrong house. “The wrong f---ing house,” Nic says to his wife. “One of the things I want to remember is how many times we hit the wrong house.”

Hitting the wrong house is what counterinsurgency doctrine is supposed to avoid. Even successfully capturing or killing a high-value target can be counterproductive if in the process you terrorize a community and create more enemies. In Iraq, the whole country was the wrong house. America’s leaders knew it was the wrong house. They hit it anyway.

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In the 11th chapter of the 9/11 Commission report, just before all the recommendations for reforms in domestic and foreign policy, the authors get philosophical, pondering how hindsight had affected their views of Sept. 11, 2001. “As time passes, more documents become available, and the bare facts of what happened become still clearer,” the report states. “Yet the picture of how those things happened becomes harder to reimagine, as that past world, with its preoccupations and uncertainty, recedes.” Before making definitive judgments, then, they ask themselves “whether the insights that seem apparent now would really have been meaningful at the time.”

It’s a commendable attitude, one that helps readers understand what the attacks felt like in real time and why authorities responded as they did. But that approach also keeps the day trapped in the past, safely distant. Two of the latest additions to the canon, “ Reign of Terror ” by Spencer Ackerman and “ Subtle Tools ” by Karen Greenberg, draw straight, stark lines between the earliest days of the war on terror and its mutations in our current time, between conflicts abroad and divisions at home. These works show how 9/11 remains with us, and how we are still living in the ruins.

When Trump declared that “we don’t have victories anymore” in his 2015 speech announcing his presidential candidacy, he was both belittling the legacy of 9/11 and harnessing it to his ends. “His great insight was that the jingoistic politics of the War on Terror did not have to be tied to the War on Terror itself,” Ackerman writes. “That enabled him to tell a tale of lost greatness.” And if greatness is lost, someone must have taken it. The backlash against Muslims, against immigrants crossing the southern border and against protesters rallying for racial justice was strengthened by the open-ended nature of the global war on terror. In Ackerman’s vivid telling — his prose can be hyperbolic, even if his arguments are not — the war is not just far away in Iraq or Afghanistan, in Yemen or Syria, but it’s happening here, with mass surveillance, militarized law enforcement and the rebranding of immigration as a threat to the nation’s security rather than a cornerstone of its identity. “Trump had learned the foremost lesson of 9/11,” Ackerman writes, “that the terrorists were whomever you said they were.”

Both Ackerman and Greenberg point to the Authorization for Use of Military Force , drafted by administration lawyers and approved by Congress just days after the attacks, as the moment when America’s response began to go awry. The brief joint resolution allowed the president to use “all necessary and appropriate force” against any nation, organization or person who committed the attacks, and to prevent any future ones. It was the “Ur document in the war on terror and its legacy,” Greenberg writes. “Riddled with imprecision, its terminology was geared to codify expansive powers.” Where the battlefield, the enemy and the definition of victory all remain vague, war becomes endlessly expansive, “with neither temporal nor geographical boundaries.”

This was the moment the war on terror was “conceptually doomed,” Ackerman concludes. This is how you get a forever war.

There were moments when an off-ramp was visible. The killing of bin Laden in 2011 was one such instance, Ackerman argues, but “Obama squandered the best chance anyone could ever have to end the 9/11 era.” The author assails Obama for making the war on terror more “sustainable” through a veneer of legality — banning torture yet failing to close the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay and relying on drone strikes that “perversely incentivized the military and the CIA to kill instead of capture.” There would always be more targets, more battlefields, regardless of president or party. Failures became the reason to double down, never wind down.

The longer the war went on, the more that what Ackerman calls its “grotesque subtext” of nativism and racism would move to the foreground of American politics. Absent the war on terror, it is harder to imagine a presidential candidate decrying a sitting commander in chief as foreign, Muslim, illegitimate — and using that lie as a successful political platform. Absent the war on terror, it is harder to imagine a travel ban against people from Muslim-majority countries. Absent the war on terror, it is harder to imagine American protesters labeled terrorists, or a secretary of defense describing the nation’s urban streets as a “battle space” to be dominated. Trump was a disruptive force in American life, but there was much continuity there, too. “A vastly different America has taken root” in the two decades since 9/11, Greenberg writes. “In the name of retaliation, ‘justice,’ and prevention, fundamental values have been cast aside.”

In his latest book on bin Laden, Bergen argues that 9/11 was a major tactical success but a long-term strategic failure for the terrorist leader. Yes, he struck a vicious blow against “the head of the snake,” as he called the United States, but “rather than ending American influence in the Muslim world, the 9/11 attacks greatly amplified it,” with two lengthy, large-scale invasions and new bases established throughout the region.

Yet the legacy of the 9/11 era is found not just in Afghanistan or Iraq, but also in an America that drew out and heightened some of its ugliest impulses — a nation that is deeply divided (like those “separated states” bin Laden imagined); that bypasses inconvenient facts and embraces conspiracy theories; that demonizes outsiders; and that, after failing to spread freedom and democracy around the world, seems less inclined to uphold them here. More Americans today are concerned about domestic extremism than foreign terrorism, and on Jan. 6, 2021, our own citizens assaulted the Capitol building that al-Qaeda hoped to strike on Sept. 11, 2001. Seventeen years after the 9/11 Commission called on the United States to offer moral leadership to the world and to be generous and caring to our neighbors, our moral leadership is in question, and we can barely be generous and caring to ourselves.

In “The Forever War,” Dexter Filkins describes a nation in which “something had broken fundamentally after so many years of war . . . there had been some kind of primal dislocation between cause and effect, a numbness wholly understandable, necessary even, given the pain.” He was writing of Afghanistan, but his words could double as an interpretation of the United States over the past two decades. Still reeling from an attack that dropped out of a blue sky, America is suffering from a sort of post-traumatic stress democracy. It remains in recovery, still a good country, even if a broken good country.

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Copy editing by Jennifer Morehead. Design and development by Andrew Braford.

9/11 impact essay

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5 Ways September 11 Changed America

By: Dave Roos

Updated: July 18, 2023 | Original: September 1, 2020

5 Ways September 11 Changed America

September 11, 2001 is an inflection point—there was life before the terrorist attacks and there is life after them. Nearly 3,000 Americans were killed on that clear, sunny morning when two hijacked airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center towers in New York City , another plowed into the Pentagon and a fourth was brought down in a crash on a Pennsylvania field by heroic passengers who fought back against terrorists.

“This was an attack unprecedented in the annals of terrorism in terms of its scale,” says Brian Michael Jenkins, a senior advisor to the president of the RAND Corporation and author of numerous reports and books on terrorism, including Will Terrorists Go Nuclear? . “It was the largest attack by any foreign entity on U.S. soil.”

The shock and horror of September 11th wasn’t confined to days or weeks. The attacks cast a long shadow over American life from which the nation has yet to fully emerge. What was once implausible and nearly unthinkable— a large-scale attack on American soil —became a collective assumption. The terrorists could very well attack again, perhaps with biological or nuclear weapons, and steps must be taken to stop them.

“Terrorism is aimed at carrying out acts of violence that will cause people to exaggerate the strength of the terrorist and the importance of their cause,” says Jenkins. 

Consumed by fear, grief and outrage, America turned to its leaders for action. Congress and the White House answered with an unprecedented expansion of military, law enforcement and intelligence powers aimed at rooting out and stopping terrorists, at home and abroad.

“After the 9/11 attacks, the combination of fear and a recognition of various intelligence failures led to a range of policy changes that included restrictions on immigration, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, and the expansion of the ‘no fly list’ from a very small number of people to thousands,” says David Sterman, a senior policy analyst at New America who studies terrorism and violent extremism.

And that was just the beginning. Here are five significant ways that America was changed by 9/11.

1. The War on Terror Began

9/11 impact essay

When President George W. Bush addressed Congress and the nation on September 20, 2001, he made a case for a new kind of military response; not a targeted air strike on a single training facility or weapons bunker, but a wide-ranging global War on Terror .

“Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there,” said Bush. “It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.”

When American troops invaded Afghanistan less than a month after September 11th, they were launching what became the longest sustained military campaign in U.S. history. The fight in Afghanistan had support from the American people and the backing of NATO allies to dismantle al Qaeda , crush the Taliban and kill Osama bin Laden , the murderous mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

American support for the War on Terror became mixed as the campaign continued for years in an effort to target multiple terrorist cell and rogue regimes across the world. Thousands of American troops were killed in the first two decades of the War on Terror and many more returned home with physical and psychological wounds. Yet the ever-present shadow of 9/11, Jenkins says, kept U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan and elsewhere for nearly 20 years.

“What’s made it so difficult to back out of these conflicts is that fear that if we leave, we will leave behind a vacuum,” says Jenkins. “And in that vacuum the terrorists will return.”

2. Air Travel Was Transformed

One of the most disturbing aspects of the 9/11 attacks was that 19 al Qaeda hijackers were not only able to board commercial aircraft with crude weapons but also force their way into the cockpit. It was clear that 9/11 was both a failure of America’s intelligence apparatus to identify the attackers and a failure of airport security systems to stop them.

Even though there had already been a handful of high-profile hijackings and bombings of commercial planes, including the tragic 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, security was not a high priority for airlines before 9/11, says Jeffrey Price, a professor of aviation and aerospace science at Metropolitan State University and a noted aviation security expert.

“Airports had security departments and employees wore badges and they did screenings, but none of it was nearly at the level of what we do today,” says Price.

Before 9/11, people didn’t have to have a ticket to wander around the airport or wait at the gate. No one checked passengers' IDs before boarding the plane. And the only item people had to remove when passing through security was loose change from their pockets. Price says that most airports didn’t bother running background checks on their employees, and checked baggage was never scanned.

9/11 impact essay

Blindspot: The Road to 9/11

An original 8-part podcast hosted by WNYC's Jim O'Grady and co-produced by HISTORY in partnership with WNYC Studios. "Blindspot: The Road to 9/11" will bring to light the decade-long shadow struggle that preceded the attacks.

All of that changed with the creation of the Transportation Security Administration , an entirely new federal agency authorized by Congress in November of 2001.

“It was an extraordinary undertaking,” says Price. “They tried to create the ultimate aviation security system from scratch. Within a year, TSA had well over 50,000 employees.”

In addition to an army of blue-uniformed screeners, TSA introduced U.S. travelers to extensive new security protocols. Tickets and photo IDs became required to get through the screening area. Laptop computers and electronics had to be removed from carry-on bags. Shoes were taken off. Liquids were restricted to three-ounce containers. And conventional X-ray machines, which only detected metal objects, were eventually replaced with full-body scanners.

TSA officers were also trained in “behavior detection" to recognize a list of actions considered suspicious—gripping baggage tightly, appearing confused and disoriented, signs of a recently shaved beard—that would flag a traveler for additional screening. Behind the scenes, the FBI’s new Terrorist Screening Center compiled a Terrorist Watch List of hundreds of thousands of individuals, around 6,000 of whom were placed on a “No Fly” list, including 500 Americans.

3. Anti-Muslim Violence Grew

NYPD officer guarding stores of the Arab community to protect against displaced hostility in the wake of 9/11

Just four days after the 9/11 attacks, a gunman in Mesa, Arizona went on a shooting rampage . First, he shot and killed Balbir Singh Sodhi, a gas station owner of Indian descent. Sodhi was Sikh, so he wore a turban. The gunman assumed he was Muslim. Minutes later, the gunman shot at another gas station clerk of Lebanese descent, but missed, and then shot through the windows of an Afghan-American family.

Even as politicians and law enforcement repeatedly stated that Islam was a peaceful religion whose true teachings had been twisted by terrorist extremists, many people in America and around the world still equated the 9/11 attacks with Islam and sought vengeance on anyone that even looked Muslim.

In the year 2000, there were only 12 anti-Muslim assaults reported to the FBI. In 2001, that number skyrocketed to 93. As civil liberties organizations criticized the TSA and law enforcement for the racial profiling of Arab and Muslim men, hate crimes against Muslims persisted.  Statistics from the FBI showed there were 91 reported aggravated or simple assaults motivated by anti-Muslim bias in 2015 and in 2016, that figure surpassed 2001 numbers, reaching 127.

4. Surveillance Increased

The Patriot Act was passed just six weeks after 9/11 as lawmakers scrambled to fix the intelligence failures that allowed known terrorists to enter the United States and execute the deadliest plot in American history. The controversial act authorized sweeping changes in how domestic intelligence agencies like the FBI conducted surveillance. Long-standing rules meant to protect Americans from “unreasonable search and seizure” were loosened or thrown out in the name of national security.

The fear, again, was that the 9/11 attacks were just the beginning, and that more terrorist cells were active in American cities and awaiting orders to strike. In order to find these “ terrorists among us ,” Congress gave the FBI and NSA new abilities to collect and share data. For example, the Patriot Act gave intelligence agencies the power to search an individual’s library records and internet search history with little judicial oversight. Agents could search a home without notifying the owner, and wiretap a phone line without establishing probable cause.

While civil liberties groups fought back against what they saw as unconstitutional breaches of privacy under the Patriot Act, an even more controversial law was passed in 2008, the FISA Amendments Act . This law gave the NSA nearly unchecked authorities to eavesdrop on American phone calls, text messages and emails under the premise of targeting foreign nationals suspected of terrorism. 

5. America Became Safer, But Altered

9/11 Memorial

In the years since 9/11, Americans inspired by jihadist ideology have killed 107 people in domestic terrorist attacks (as of September 2020). Almost half those deaths occurred in one horrific shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, but there have been no large-scale terrorist attacks on U.S. cities like the ones many believed would inevitably follow September 11th.

“If anyone had said this is what they expected the threat to be the day after 9/11, they probably would have been laughed at,” says Sterman. “That would have seemed hopelessly naive.”

The security measures put in place after 9/11 appear to have foiled or discouraged another ambitious plot by foreign agents on American soil. But in the process, says Jenkins, the country has faced an “endless” War on Terror that has indelibly altered the fabric of American life. 

9/11 impact essay

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9/11: causes and lingering consequences

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The images from that day still haunt us.

The Twin Towers plummeting to the ground, one following the other, smoke snaking through streets, billowing for blocks, fear and confusion spreading like ashes across the country.

We know now what we didn’t know that day: that the terrorist attack had been building for more than a decade. And that it would change our country, irreparably, forever.

Here,  Peter Hahn , a professor of history and dean of arts and humanities at Ohio State, discusses the causes — and lingering consequences — of 9/11.

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Three ways terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 changed our world

Even as the events of September 11, 2001, were unfolding, the questions people were asking amid the scenes of chaos were an indication that the world was about to change.

Key points:

  • Airport security ramped up and CCTV and citizen surveillance became ubiquitous
  • The 9/11 attacks fuelled the  rise of Islamic terrorism  and anti-Muslim sentiment
  • Hundreds of thousands of deaths led to the  "forever wars" of Iraq and Afghanistan , among other conflicts

"How did a plane fly into the World Trade Center in broad daylight on a Tuesday morning?"

"Twice, in 30 minutes?" 

Harrowing images of the 110-storey Twin Towers burning and trapped victims leaping from the buildings were continuously broadcast around the world.

The towers crumbled to dust and, as they fell, they damaged a dozen adjacent buildings and sent debris flying up to 5 kilometres away, across New York City.

It was later confirmed that 19 men, working in groups, had hijacked four separate flights from three different airports, within the span of 45 minutes at what was rush hour that fateful day.

Two planes were flown into the towers and a third crashed into the side of the Pentagon about 30 minutes later.

A fourth plane crashed into a field. Its target remains unclear to this day, but it is believed it was heading for the White House or the Capitol Building.

There were no survivors from any of the flights, and nearly 3,000 people were killed.

Al Qaeda, a designated terrorist group founded by Osama bin Laden, was quickly blamed for the attacks.

The US responded by launching a "war on terror" and invading Afghanistan, where terrorist training had taken place.

Now, 20 years on, impacts of that time — the war in Afghanistan, the plight of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and ongoing threats of terrorist attacks — continue to feed headlines.

Here are three ways the events of that day shaped the world we live in today.

Mass surveillance, security

CCTVs mounted in downtown Frankfurt.

Before 9/11, removing articles of clothing and electronic devices before boarding a plane — or disposing of bottles of water, cigarette lighters and shampoo — were unheard of.

While X-ray machines and security did exist, they were hardly afforded the same level of attention.

For example, the 9/11 hijackers boarded flights with box cutters and knives, which were allowed on certain flights at the time.

Passengers at a TSA security check

The fact that multiple members of Al Qaeda were able to visit America over a couple of years — even attending flight schools in some cases — and coordinate below the radar, revealed gaping, multi-faceted vulnerabilities in security.

Security and intelligence expert John Blaxland, who was in Washington DC at the time, told the ABC that, until that point, hijacks were about extortion and holding hostages for ransom.

"The idea of using the actual planes as bombs, like a weapon — no-one imagined that," he said.

"Instantly, Washington DC went from being a city relaxed, to being very, very nervous and paranoid." 

Just months after the attacks, the US launched the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), a multi-billion-dollar US Homeland Security apparatus that monitors air travel and employs nearly 50,000 security officers.

It resulted in hours-long queues and pat downs now associated with US airports.

Variations of similar security measures and entities soon followed around the world, as did tens of millions of CCTV cameras  on street corners in urban areas and in small businesses.

It also led to the adoption of a raft of new security laws and counter-terrorism measures granting surveillance powers to governments.

Counter-terrorism and international policy expert Lydia Khalil said the policy outcomes from the reaction to the September 11 attacks remained with us now.

"There was a real, palpable fear and sense of insecurity that those attacks brought, and we're still living with the impacts of [surveillance powers and counter-terrorism legislation] that was put forward," Ms Khalil said.

Inside a darkened room are dozens of screens showing images from surveillance cameras.

"Some of it was necessary, certainly … but then it resulted in a lot of overreach as well.

"And, so, it kind of normalised a lot of today's perceptions around mass surveillance."

In the following years, not only did surveillance and security measures increase, but also sophisticated systems of data collection.

"These developments were inconceivable to previous generations," Professor Blaxland said.

Islamic terrorism, anti-Muslim sentiment

A turbaned Osama bin Laden, with his right hand raised, is sitting in front of a black and white Al Qaeda flag

Before 9/11, "terrorism" was not a household term and it was generally reserved for political discussions involving hardline communists or anarchists, such as Ted Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber. 

"Terrorism had been around for a while [in isolated attacks and car bombings], but it was a manageable risk," Professor Blaxland told the ABC.

"It was the industrial scale of 9/11's international terrorism that transformed it from being something you read about in the papers, to being something of fundamental importance to everybody."

A photographic array of 11 of the 19 suspected hijackers responsible for the Sept 11 attacks

Ms Khalil was in her last year of university in Boston at the time of the 9/11 attacks, not far from the airport where two of the planes were hijacked.

She recalls watching it unfold from her dorm room thinking, "This is going to change everything".

"A few months before, I took a foreign policy class looking at conflicts not getting enough attention, and the professor asked, 'Has anyone ever heard of Al Qaeda?' And hardly anyone raised their hands," Ms Khalil said.

Just a year later, such a question would become redundant.

After 9/11, there were waves of terrorist attacks targeting Western cultural centres, resulting in mass casualties: Bali in 2002 and 2005, Madrid in 2004, London in 2005, Sydney in 2014, Paris in 2015 and many, many more.

In the process, the simple utterance of the phrase "Allahu akbar" (God is great) — a religious phrase routinely said by more than a billion Muslims worldwide — would come to be interpreted by many as linked to terrorism.

Muslim protesters gather to object to Donald Trump's ban on Muslim-majority countries.

Hundreds of millions of everyday Muslims continue to feel the repercussions of the Islamic terrorist stereotype , with major international policies becoming hostile towards them, including that of former US president Donald Trump's ban on travellers from Muslim-majority countries.

'Forever wars' 

Australian Special Operations Task Group soldiers

Despite Bin Laden explicitly saying he hoped the attack would drag the US into conflict , and that war was what Al Qaeda wanted, within weeks the US invaded Afghanistan in an attempt to dislodge the Taliban from power and clear out Al Qaeda operatives.

Within 18 months, US forces had also invaded Iraq, chasing claims that former president Saddam Hussein was harbouring weapons of mass destruction.

Australia would be dragged into the same wars in support of its American ally.

Even though some protested against invading foreign countries, the rhetoric of revenge dominated discussions after the 9/11 attacks.

"I honestly can't imagine a scenario in which the United States would not have intervened militarily in some respect in Afghanistan — Iraq, I think is a different story — but certainly in Afghanistan," Ms Khalil said.

A decade after September 11, the Arab Spring exploded in the Middle East.

While it was not directly in response to the attacks, the war in Iraq had served as a catalyst for inspiring the youth in Egypt, among other places, to protest  against their own governments for supporting the war. 

Those conflicts would eventually lead to hundreds of thousands of casualties, regional instability and millions of refugees, while more than an estimated $1 trillion has been spent by the United States and its allies.

"Revenge is best served cold," Professor Blaxland said, "and if it's not cold, then you are going to make serious misjudgements." 

Despite the US declaring — just under 20 years later, on August 31, 2021 — that the war in Afghanistan was over, the troubles and headlines will continue for a new generation that likely does not recall the significance of September 11.

Professor Blaxland said these "forever wars" had now eclipsed the "unipolar moment", when the US emerged as the sole superpower following the Cold War.

"It all happened while we were distracted by chopping off heads of the hydra in the Middle East," he said.

"Even when fighting an enemy without superior technology, they outsmart us, and we stand the risk of never learning the many lessons from our experience of the 'forever wars'.

"Of the trillion dollars spent in Afghanistan and Iraq, what could the United States and the West have built in its place?

"Instead, we have the incredible primal destruction left by an incredibly hubris-struck movement that misread its place in the world, and lost opportunities."

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How 9/11 Changed America: Four Major Lasting Impacts (with Lesson Plan)

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TEACHERS: Your students are too young to have lived through the 9/11 attack, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t impacted their lives. The Perspectives Youth Media Challenge offers them a chance to tell their stories. Maybe they have a parent, older sibling or cousin who served in Afghanistan. Maybe they have seen anti-Muslim sentiment in their own communities. Invite them to share how 9/11 has affected their lives with the Perspectives Challenge. (Preview the  curriculum here .)

Updated Sept. 9, 2023

Twenty-two years ago, the United States wasn’t officially engaged in any wars. Few of us had ever heard of al-Qaeda or Osama bin Laden, and ISIS didn’t even exist.

We deported half the number of people we do today. Our surveillance state was a fraction of its current size. And — perhaps hardest to believe — we didn’t have to take off our shoes to go through airport security.

America’s involvement in the War on Terror — prompted by the 9/11 terrorist attacks — resulted in a dramatic change in our nation’s attitudes and concerns about safety, vigilance and privacy.

It ushered in a new generation of policies like the USA Patriot Act , prioritizing national security and defense, often at the expense of civil liberties.

These changes continue to have ripple effects across the globe, particularly in the Middle East, where American-led military operations helped foment rebellions and ongoing warfare throughout the region.

Below are four of the many dramatic impacts — nationwide and in California — resulting from the events of that one tragic day.

I. ‘Forever Wars’

Less than a month after 9/11, U.S. troops invaded Afghanistan in an attempt to dismantle al-Qaeda — the terrorist group that claimed responsibility for the attacks — and remove the Taliban government harboring it. Two years later, in March 2003, the United States invaded Iraq and deposed President Saddam Hussein. Although not directly linked to the terrorist attacks, Hussein was suspected of producing weapons of mass destruction (none were ever found). The invasion was a key part of America’s newly launched War on Terror, under the leadership of President George W. Bush.

Our military involvement in Afghanistan — which just ended calamitously in August, with the Taliban reclaiming control of the country — was the longest war in American history.

In December 2011, remaining U.S. troops were pulled out of Iraq , leaving that nation in a far more volatile state than when military operations first began in 2003. But the U.S. soon after resumed intermittent air strikes following the emergence of the Islamic State extremist group, which sprouted from the chaos of war and terrorized the region.

In 2002, the Bush Administration also opened the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba, where it began sending suspected enemy combatants. Held indefinitely, prisoners were denied access to trials or legal representation, and were subject to brutal interrogation techniques. There were more than 650 foreign inmates at the facility by 2003.

Critics have long pushed to shut down the Guantanamo facility, calling it a gross violation of basic human rights and a stain on America’s image abroad. And although early in his first term, Obama vowed to close it — and significantly reduced the population   — he failed to completely shut it down. Former President Donald Trump was intent on keeping it open, and even sought, unsuccessfully, to refill it. Today, Guantanamo has fewer than 40 prisoners , but still remains operational.

After 9/11, budgets for defense-related agencies skyrocketed: Homeland Security’s discretionary budget jumped from about $16 billion in 2002 to more than $43 billion in 2011. Meanwhile, the budgets of the Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration and Border Patrol have all more than doubled since 2001.

Over the last 20 years, millions of young U.S. soldiers have been deployed overseas, thousands have been killed and many have returned home with debilitating physical and mental injuries.

Since the start of post-9/11 U.S. military operations, some 7,000 American troops have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Department of Defense. That marks just a tiny fraction of total casualties in the two conflicts, which have claimed the lives of  hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan civilians, as well as contractors, journalists, allied troops and opposition fighters.

Meanwhile, more than 52,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq have been wounded in action over the last 20 years. And many more have returned home physically intact but suffering from severe long-term mental health issues, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and psychological ailments linked to traumatic brain injury (TBI). Thousands of veterans of the two conflicts have taken their own lives.

California impact

California is second only to Texas in its contribution of recruits to the U.S. military.

As of this year, 776 men and women from across the state have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, accounting for 11% of total U.S. casualties — more than any other state — according to an  LA Times database .

As the Times reports, “Nearly 20% of California’s war dead were old enough to die for their country but too young to buy a drink. They left behind 453 children.”

Four of the 13 U.S. troops killed In the Aug. 26 suicide bombing at the Kabul airport gate were Marines from California. Occurring just days before the official end of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, the attack also killed dozens of Afghan civilians — one of the deadliest bombings in the almost two decades since the U.S.-led invasion.

II. Immigration and Deportation

The Bush Administration created the Department of Homeland Security in 2002, a cabinet-level office that merged 22 government agencies. The Immigration and Naturalization Service and the U.S. Customs Service — both formerly part of the Department of Justice — were consolidated into the newly formed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) . The agency has overseen a massive increase in deportations; they have nearly doubled since 9/11.

According to the Department of Homeland Security’s Yearbook of Immigration Statistics , there were roughly 200,000 annual deportations a year between 1999 and 2001. While that number dropped slightly in 2002, it began to steadily climb the following year. In the first two years of the Obama Administration (2009 – 2010), deportations hit a record high: nearly 400,000 annually. About half of those deported during that period were convicted of a criminal offense, although mostly low-level, non-violent crimes.

The Secure Communities program, established in 2008 and officially phased out in 2014, allowed local law enforcement to check the immigration status of every person booked in a county or local jail — even if not ultimately convicted of a crime — by comparing fingerprints against federal immigration records. The program resulted in numerous instances of undocumented immigrants entering deportation proceedings after being stopped for minor infractions (like not using a turn signal while driving).

By 2014, when Obama announced plans to phase out the program, ICE had established Secure Communities partnerships with every single law enforcement jurisdiction in the nation (all 3,181 of them).

In 2009, Jerry Brown — then California’s Attorney General — agreed to implement the Secure Communities. As of 2012, ICE reported it had taken nearly 48,000 “convicted criminal aliens” in California into custody. Almost half of them were deported, even though less than a quarter had been convicted of offenses considered “serious or violent.”

California is the primary destination for foreign nationals entering the country, and home to a quarter of America’s immigrant population. Of the nearly 10 million immigrants (both naturalized and undocumented) residing in the state, an estimated 4.3 million are Mexican, 28% of whom are naturalized, according to the Public Policy Institute of California .

III. The Friendly-ish Skies

Long airport lines, full body scans, the occasional pat-down (for the lucky ones). It’s all par for the course when you fly these days. But not so long ago, it wasn’t unusual to show up at the airport a half-hour before a domestic flight, keep your shoes tied tight, and skip through the metal detector while sipping a Big Gulp, all without ever having to show an ID.

Before the advent of color-coded security threat warnings, pat downs were rare, liquids were allowed, and the notion of having to go through full-body scanners was the stuff of science fiction. Heck, prior to 9/11, some airport security teams even allowed passengers to take box cutters aboard (the supposed weapon used by the 9/11 hijackers). Any knife with a blade up to four inches long was permitted. And cigarette lighters? No problem!

In the wake of the terrorist attacks, airport security underwent a series of major overhauls. And a service that was once largely provided by private companies is now primarily overseen by the massive  Transportation Security Administration .

Created in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the TSA is tasked with instituting new security procedures and managing screenings at every commercial airport checkpoint in the country (although, private contractors still operate at some airports). It marks the single largest federal start-up since the days of World War II. The agency is authorized to refer to watch lists of individuals who could pose flight safety risks.

Although advocates argue that the changes have made air travel safer, the additional security steps have also tacked on a significant amount of travel time for the average passenger, while sometimes infringing on privacy rights and, in many instances, increasing scrutiny of minority travelers, particularly those of Middle Eastern descent.

IV. Big surveillance

The U.S. intelligence state boomed in the wake of 9/11. The growth resulted in a marked increase in government oversight, primarily through a vast, clandestine network of phone and web surveillance.

Classified documents that were leaked in 2013 by former government contractor Edward Snowden detail the expansion of a colossal surveillance state that’s seeped into the lives of millions of ordinary Americans. The exponential growth of this apparatus — armed with a $52.6 billion budget in 2013 — was brought to light when the  Washington Post  obtained a “black budget” report from Snowden, detailing the bureaucratic and operational landscape of the 16 spy agencies and more than 107,000 employees that now make up the U.S. intelligence community.

Further audits reveal that the National Security Agency alone has annually scooped up as many as 56,000 emails and other communications by Americans with no connection to terrorism, and in doing so, had violated privacy laws thousands of times per year.

A timeline of everything that happened on 9/11

Dennis Swindell leans over to kiss the inscribed name of his partner, Gary Lee Bright, on the South Tower pool wall during ceremonies marking the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York

A memorial to the 3,000 people who died during the 9/11 attacks. Image:  REUTERS/Timothy A. Clary/POOL

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The 20th Anniversary Of The 9/11 Attacks

For many who were present, the 9/11 attacks have had a lasting mental health impact.

Rhitu Chatterjee

9/11 impact essay

A visitor touches a victim's name inscribed on a bronze parapet at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City in 2020. Wang Ying/Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images hide caption

A visitor touches a victim's name inscribed on a bronze parapet at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City in 2020.

Like most Americans, Kristina Lozano remembers exactly where she was when the planes hit the World Trade Center on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

"The first time the first plane hit, I was actually in homeroom, where they take attendance," says Lozano, who was 16 then and attending Murry Bergtraum High School , just blocks from the twin towers. "By the time the second plane hit, I was in English class."

She remembers the school building shaking and being hit by debris. Soon, her school was evacuated. With no trains running, and many roads blocked off, Lozano tried to find a way back home on foot with a friend. The two teenagers eventually found themselves taking one of the bridges to Brooklyn.

"I remember running on the Manhattan Bridge with my friend Sonia and someone actually saying there's another plane coming, which set everyone to run," Lozano says.

How To Talk About 9/11 With A New Generation Of Kids

How To Talk About 9/11 With A New Generation Of Kids

In the weeks and months that followed, Lozano struggled to sleep and felt easily anxious. "Any little noise that was loud, like maybe an airplane passing by, [I remember] being a bit paranoid."

She also began to lose interest in things she once loved such as sports. "I began to really doubt myself, my abilities, just in terms of performing in school. And not really caring as well," she says. "I was living almost on autopilot."

Many people in New York City and neighboring areas who witnessed the disaster experienced symptoms of trauma in the months that followed. Researchers studying the health of survivors, recovery workers and witnesses such as Lozano say the event led to increased rates of mental health problems such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorders.

And while the majority of people have recovered in the years since — a testament to human resilience — a sizable share of survivors still experience symptoms to this day.

"This disaster of 9/11 in New York City has had long-term impacts on both the responders and civilians," says Mark Farfel, director of the World Trade Center Health Registry , which has tracked the health of more than 70,000 people directly exposed to the attacks who voluntarily enrolled in the registry in 2003 and 2004.

9/11 First Responders Face A High Cancer Risk But Are Also More Likely To Survive

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9/11 first responders face a high cancer risk but are also more likely to survive.

The registry provides ongoing research on this group, surveying its members every few years about their health — its research has shed light on factors that erode — or enhance — people's ability to bounce back from trauma.

According to data gathered by the registry, about a 10th of enrollees have continued to struggle with symptoms of PTSD.

"Each time we do a survey, it's between 8% and 10% that have sufficient symptoms to indicate post-traumatic stress disorder," says Robert Brackbill, director of research at the registry.

But among people who had a closer experience of the disaster, such as occupants of the buildings, or rescue and recovery workers, the rates are even higher — about 17% to 18%, he adds.

Studying the emotional impacts of a disaster

Researchers at Columbia University led the first effort to track the mental health of people who witnessed the attacks, surveying them in the weeks after the disaster and following them for three years.

"First, we did a study of Manhattan , and then we were able to get funding to do a study of New York, southern Connecticut, eastern New Jersey," says Dr. Sandro Galea , dean of the School of Public Health at Boston University who was at Columbia University at the time. The studies surveyed the general population in these areas, which included survivors, rescue workers and those who witnessed the attacks that day.

They lost loved ones in 9/11. We invited them to leave a voicemail in their memory

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They lost loved ones in 9/11. we invited them to leave a voicemail in their memory.

"What we found in the beginning was about a doubling of the baseline rate of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder in the general population," Galea says.

People with PTSD can experience a range of symptoms related to the traumatic event, such as nightmares of the event — they are often easily startled and anxious about something bad happening.

"They're haunted by what happened, and the haunting nature comes out in reexperiencing symptoms, in nightmares and flashbacks," says psychologist Barbara Rothbaum at Emory University, who specializes in treating people with PTSD and other anxiety disorders. "People [also] feel emotionally numb and distant from others. I've had people tell me, 'I know I love my family, but it's hard for me to feel it. It's hard for me to feel the joy.' "

Galea and his team also found that people who had a closer experience of the 9/11 attacks — say those who worked in the buildings, or people who lost loved ones — were at a higher risk of having PTSD and depression.

They also found that most people with symptoms went on to recover within six months of the attack. "But there was about a third who continued to have symptoms," he adds.

His research, as well as studies by the World Trade Center Health Registry, have revealed some of the other risk factors for longer term symptoms of mental illness.

Those risk factors are the presence of other traumas or chronic stress in people's lives. So people who had experienced traumas or hardships before or since the attacks, those without a job, or with lower income, or housing insecurity were far more likely to continue to struggle with mental illness over the years compared with others.

And studies of those enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Registry also show that most people with symptoms are often struggling with multiple physical and/or mental health conditions.

"A hallmark of 9/11 conditions is that unfortunately, many of these conditions co-occur," Farfel says. "So, for example, PTSD often occurs with depression, and that magnifies the impacts of the disaster."

Similarly rates of substance use is also high among those with PTSD, Brackbill says.

"A lot of times what they're doing is self-medicating," Rothbaum says. "So they're smoking a lot of marijuana to try to get to sleep tonight. They're drinking a lot to try to get to sleep tonight. But then obviously that can turn into a problem of its own."

Getting help

Around 400,000 people directly affected by the attack on the twin towers are eligible to be enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Registry. Enrollees can be referred to the World Trade Center Health Program , which provides free monitoring and health care to those the disaster directly affected.

"That program is open, and anyone who's not currently receiving care through the World Trade Center Health Program can make an application," Farfel says.

And yet, he says, the registry is still finding people who have symptoms but haven't sought care. And the stigma of mental illness is a big barrier to seeking help, he adds.

"Treatment really can help," says Rothbaum, who has worked with many post-9/11 veterans, who returned from combat and struggled with PTSD, as well as refugees from war-torn regions.

"I think that people should have a treatment that's been proven effective and we've got a number of choices for that."

Those evidence-based treatments include medications such as Zoloft and Paxil, along with certain kinds of talk therapy, such as prolonged exposure therapy, which involves talking about the traumatic event or events, and attempting to do things that an individual has avoided since the trauma.

For Lozano, enrolling in the World Trade Center Health Registry did pave the way for seeking help.

"I sought help in college," she says. "I got therapy, and therapy was a huge eye-opener for me."

That's when she was diagnosed with anxiety and depression and started to work on her recovery.

Today, she works as a life coach. With the 20th anniversary of the attacks, she says she feels emotional but is no longer anxious or depressed.

Home » Blog » Sample Essay on 9/11 World Trade Center Attack

Sample Essay on 9/11 World Trade Center Attack

Posted on September 11, 2017

The morning of September 11, 2001 has become the tragedy for all Americans. There was a terrorist attack, as four airliners were hijacked by al-Qaeda members. Four suicide attacks were targeted at important objects in the USA. One of the four planes was targeted at Pentagon, another crashed in the field of Pennsylvania, while the two remaining airliners were aimed to attack Twin Towers in New York. After this event, the war broke down that brought changes to the whole society in the USA. If you are looking for a professional help with writing 9/11 essay, check out this sample or turn to our writers and editors. We will assign the best expert to assist you with your 9/11 essay or any other paper.

The World Trade Center Targeted

Being the workplace of thirty five thousand people, the Twin Towers were targeted by al-Qaeda members to carry out a terrorist attack. Each tower had one hundred and ten floors, and each weighed more than 250,000 tons. Twin Towers were located in the centerpiece of the World Trade Center. Taking into consideration the location and the daytime population, the towers became an obvious choice for an attack. Moreover, these towers were regarded as the embodiment of Americans’ power and influence. As a matter of fact, the World Trade Center had already been attacked in 1993. There was an explosion in a car parked beneath the Center.

The attack was made by the group of terrorists, the members of al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda is an Islam extremist terrorist system started by Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda aims to take control and force religiously-sanctioned social and political order in the places with Muslim representation. The attacks against Americans were made to reduce support in the USA for Middle-Eastern governments that do not follow al-Qaeda strong beliefs. Al-Qaeda believed that the USA support was a huge obstacle in promoting and building global order under Islam. What is more, a number of factors made al-Qaeda angry with the USA, such as America’s support of Israel, their part in the Persian Gulf War, and the US military forces that were present in Middle Eastern countries.

9/11 Events

On September 11, 2001, four planes were hijacked by the members of al-Qaeda. The planes were headed for California, therefore being fueled enough. There were nineteen terrorists who took over control and prepared their attacks. At 8:45 one of four planes crashed between the ninety third and ninety ninth floor in the North Tower. After the first attack hundreds of people were killed and hundred got trapped in the floors above. Evacuation began instantly, tragically though, eighteen minutes later another plane crashed into the South Tower between the seventy seventh and eighty fifth floors. After the second crash there was a huge explosion. The Twin Towers fell down and damaged five other buildings in the World Trade Center complex.

9/11 – Timeline of events

The two other planes that were not involved in the World Trade Center attack were targeted at the Pentagon and Washington DC. One of the two planes was headed for Los Angeles. After being hijacked, it crashed into the Western facade of the Pentagon. Another one was targeted at Washington DC. However, the passengers were able to change the target and steer the plane into a field of Pennsylvania, killing everyone on aboard.

The aftermath

The death toll was shattering and beyond catastrophic. Nearly three thousand people were killed, over twenty seven hundred killed in the World Trade Center attack, one hundred eighty four killed in the Pentagon attack, and forty people killed on Flight 93. In addition to that there was a number of deaths of firefighters, paramedics and police officers (three hundred and forty three firefighters and paramedics, twenty three police officers and thirty seven Port Authority police officers). That was a catastrophe for all Americans and the whole world.

On September 12, 2001, an emergency meeting of the United Nations was held. The terrorist attack was condemned as an attack on all humanity. It was the first time in the history of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to invoke Article 5 of the Washington Treaty. This article states that ‘an attack on one or more NATO countries is an attack against all NATO countries’ (The US and Int’l Response to 9/11) . After that the USA declared to be officially at war, as they invoked their right of self-defense during wartime.

The USA reaction

In October 2001, the United States passed the USA Patriot Act. This law was regarded as a bit controversial, as many were concerned that it would lead to the infringement of civil rights and liberties. For instance, the act allows law enforcement officials to monitor financial transactions, or eavesdrop on phone conversations, or search property without warrant.

In October 7, 2001, the USA started an operation to overthrow Taliban’s hold in Afghanistan. The operation was aimed to destroy Osama bin Laden’s base there. The USA succeeded in ousting Taliban from power, but continued the war to defeat a Taliban rebellion campaign over Pakistan.

In 2005, it was revealed that in 2002 the National Security Agency had the authorization given by George W. Bush to wiretap domestic emails and phone calls without warrants.

The USA also established the Department of Homeland Security to ensure the national security of the country. After the events of 9/11, the whole society changed, as from that time on they needed to act together to prevent possible terrorist attacks. ‘If You See Something Say Something’ campaign was launched aiming to appeal to civilians to report suspicious behavior and activity. The security at airports was heightened, screening international passengers entering and leaving the USA.

Life after 9/11

The war on terror.

To say that 9/11 attacks left an impact on the USA is to say nothing. The country went to war and the everyday life of Americans changed forever. After the attacks the USA sent troops to Afghanistan where the al-Qaeda had its base. In 2003, the USA troops were sent to Iraq that was an important weapon in the War on Terror (Green). In December 2011, Iraq was left in a state of volatile democracy and the American troops were pulled from it.

In 2014, President Obama made efforts to change the way America’s presence in Afghanistan was perceived. He aimed at it being perceived as a support mission, rather than a combat mission. In the history of the United States, the Afghanistan War has been the longest, lasting from 2001 to 2011. The war brought deaths to over six thousand troops, depression or post-traumatic disorder to more than 18% of returned servicemen, and traumatic brain injuries to 20% of returned officers.

Immigration and deportation

After the 9/11 attacks there was a huge impact on immigration and deportation policy. Deportation for criminals and law-breakers doubled in the USA. Between the years of 2009 and 2010, almost four hundred thousand people were deported annually, half convicted of a criminal offense and the other half of low-level offenses. Under the Secure Communities program imposed in 2008, people could be deported for even being convicted of minor offenses such as not using a turn signal while driving.

Airport Security

The Transportation Security Administration was created after the 9/11 attacks. The security was heightened, as the TSA started to use new and more effective security practices. Before, passengers could spend thirty minutes and get on the plane. Now, people spend hours in line, as everything is checked: people, bags and items of clothing. The TSA scans, screens scrutinizes everything and everyone to guarantee safety. They also use a watch list of individuals believed to possibly pose a threat to safety and security.

Moving Forward

The 9/11 attacks brought mourning, fear and depression to Americans and international citizens. The whole world felt that the attack made on the USA was the attack on freedom and liberties everywhere. That was an event that brought changes to the whole world. The effects of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks last until today. The 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero was opened ten years later after the tragedy to commemorate the events on September 11, 2001 and the World Trade Center bombing of 1993. Even though, Americans were left shattered and fearful, they had enough power to fight for their freedom and the United States has again proven that liberty will persevere no matter the circumstances.

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Sample essay on 9/11 world trade center attacks.


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On the morning of September 11, 2001, four airliners were hijacked by members of al-Qaeda who aimed to carry out suicide attacks against important targets in the United States. Of the four planes, one struck the Pentagon, one crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, and the two remaining planes were flown into the Twin Towers in New York City. Claiming almost three thousand lives, this event gave birth to a war and brought about everyday sociological changes for Americans. If you need help with writing or editing, consider working with a writer from Ultius. We have many advanced writer selection options to connect you with the expert you need.

Targeting the World Trade Center

The World Trade Center was a commercial complex in Manhattan spanning over sixteen acres and containing a large plaza, seven buildings, and an underground shopping mall connecting them. The plaza’s centerpiece was the Twin Towers. The towers each had one hundred and ten stories and, together, were the workplace of approximately thirty five thousand people and over four hundred companies (FAQ about 9/11). The daytime population, location, and sheer size of the towers (each weighed more than 250,000 tons (FAQ about 9/11)) made it an obvious choice for a terrorist attack. In addition, the towers were considered to embody Americans' influence and power (The 9/11 Terrorist Attacks). In fact, in 1993, there was an attack in which explosives were detonated in a car parked beneath the World Trade Center, killing six people and injuring thousands.

The group targeting the World Trade Center (both in 1993 and in 2001) was al-Qaeda, an Islam extremist terrorist system started by Osama bin Laden. With franchise operations in at least sixteen other countries (McCormick), al-Qaeda seeks to overthrow Middle-Eastern governments or other places with strong Muslim representation that do not force religiously-sanctioned social and political order. The attacks on American soil were made in an attempt to reduce support in the United States for the ‘offending’ governments, which al-Qaeda saw as a huge obstacle in building a global order under Islam (FAQ about 9/11). In addition, they were angry over the American support of Israel, as well as their part in the Persian Gulf War and their strong military presence in Middle Eastern countries (9/11 Attacks).

What happened on 9/11

On September 11, 2001, four planes were headed for California when they were hijacked by members of al-Qaeda aboard the plane. Chosen because they would be adequately fueled for their journey, nineteen terrorists smuggled knives and box-cutters onto the planes and took over control shortly after departure (9/11 Attacks). The first was an American Airlines Boeing 767 leaving from Boston. The plane crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center at 8:45 in the morning, leaving a smoking, fiery hole between the ninety third and ninety ninth floors (Schmemann). The impact killed hundreds of people and trapped hundred more in the floors above. People trapped by the damage and flames leaped off the side of the building to their deaths, desperate to escape (Weinberg). Evacuation began immediately, but eighteen minutes later, another Boeing 747, this one an United Airlines flight, sliced through the south tower between the seventy seventh and eighty fifth floors (9/11 Attacks). This crash caused a huge explosion, fueled by the planes’ full gasoline tanks. Both buildings collapsed and severely damaged five other buildings in the World Trade Center complex. The pile of ruins stretched seventeen stories high, a monument to the desolation caused by the attacks (FAQ about 9/11).

The two other planes involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks had slightly different routes. The first, an American Airlines Boeing 757 left the airport in Washington D.C., headed for Los Angeles. Once hijacked, the attackers steered the plane towards the Pentagon where they slammed into the west side of the building, workplace to twenty four thousand people (Schmemann). After learning about the other attacks, passengers on the fourth plane, United Airlines Boeing 757, Flight 93, decided to take matter into their own hands. Fighting back, the passengers were able to steer the plane from its original target, Washington D.C., and crashed into a field in Pennsylvania, killing everyone aboard (September 11th Fast Facts).

Additional Reading: Explore the possible link between terrorists' motivations and free media .

The aftermath

All in all, almost three thousand people were killed from a total of ninety three nations. Over twenty seven hundred people were killed in the Twin Towers attack, one hundred eighty four were killed during the attack on the Pentagon, and forty people were killed on Flight 93 (FAQ about 9/11). In addition to the civilians and hijackers, three hundred and forty three firefighters and paramedics were killed, along with twenty three police officers and thirty seven Port Authority police officers. Only six people who were in the World Trade Center towers at the time of the collapse survived and almost ten thousand others were treated for injuries (9/11 Attacks). The death toll was beyond catastrophic and devastating to a nation.

On September 12, 2001, the United Nations held an emergency meeting, in which they condemned the terrorist act, stating that “a terrorist attack on one country was an attack on all humanity” (The U.S. and Int’l Response to 9/11). For the first time in the history of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO decided to invoke Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which states that an armed attack against one or more NATO countries is an attack against all NATO countries (The U.S. and Int’l Response to 9/11). The United States invoked their right of self-defense during wartime, meaning that a nation that has been threatened or attacked has the right to defend itself. The country was officially at war.

America's reaction

In America, Congress was busy. In October 2001, United States Congress passed the USA Patriot Act , giving law enforcement officials the right to searching property without warrants, detain and deport, monitor financial transactions, and eavesdrop on phone conversations (Rowen). This was met with mixed reviews, as many feared that the law would lead to overzealous infringement on civil liberties. Under the Patriot Act, approximately twelve hundred people were detained for a month without access to their attorneys (Rowen).

October 7, 2001 marked the start of an American-led international effort to overthrow the Taliban’s hold in Afghanistan in order to destroy bin Laden’s terrorist base there. Before the operation was two months old, the United States had ousted the Taliban from power. However, the war carried on and American troops fought to defeat a Taliban insurgency campaign over Pakistan (9/11 Attacks). It was later revealed in 2005 that in 2002, President George W. Bush authorized the National Security Agency in secret to wiretap domestic emails and phone calls without warrants (Rowen). The negative sentiment towards the Middle-East still exists, even years after this essay purchased online was published.

The United States also enacted the Department of Homeland Security Act of 2002, an act that created the position of Secretary of Homeland Security and established the Department of Homeland Security, a cabinet-level agency. The purpose of this department was to ensure the national security of the country, in addition to providing information about terrorist threats and suggested security measures for the public, the government, and hubs like airports (Rowen). Accomplishments of the Department of Homeland Security include training law enforcement to analyze threats and react accordingly, the launching of the ‘If You See Something Say Something’ campaign that encourages civilians to report suspicious behavior and activity, more in-depth screening of international passengers entering or leaving the United States, and the improvement of the country’s cyber infrastructure (Rowen). Some believe that the implementation of these laws encouraged the breaching of the basic rights and liberties of citizens and non-citizens alike. ( Read more about civil liberties and the right to privacy.) 

Life after 9/11

The war on terror.

There have been a number of effects on the everyday lives of Americans made by the 9/11 attacks on the United States. First of all, United States troops invaded Afghanistan less than a month after the World Trade Center attacks to release al-Qaeda’s grip on the Middle East. In 2003, the United States troops invaded Iraq, which was not directly related to the attacks but was an important weapon in the War on Terror (Green). In December 2011, troops were pulled from Iraq and the United States left them in a state of volatile democracy.

In 2014, President Obama aimed for our presence in Afghanistan to cease to be considered a combat mission, but rather a support mission. The Afghanistan war has been the longest war in United States history (Green). Between the years of 2001 and 2011, nearly two million United States troops were deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq, with six thousand troops having been killed and approximately forty four thousand wounded. More than 18% of returned servicemen suffer from depression or post-traumatic stress disorder and 20% suffer from traumatic brain injuries (Green).

Immigration and deportation 

Another effect made by the 9/11 World Trade Center attack has been the United States’ stance on immigration and deportation. The creation of the Department of Homeland Security meant the merging of twenty two other government agencies, including the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the U.S. Customs Service. The department has streamlined deportation for criminals and law-breakers, leading to the number of deportations from the United States doubling (Green). Between the years of 2009 and 2010, deportation rates reached almost four hundred thousand people annually, with only half being convicted of a criminal offense and the majority of those being low-level offences.With the implantation of the Secure Communities program, the law, established in 2008, allows local law enforcement to check on the immigration status of any person booked in a jail, despite whether or not they are convicted of the crime they are accused of. This law has led to the deportation of people who were simply stopped for something as minor as not using a turn signal while driving (Green).

Airport security

Finally, another drastic change brought on by the terrorist attacks on America is the change in procedure at national airports. The Transportation Security Administration was created after the attacks to use new and more effective security practices at every commercial airport in the country. Before, passengers could arrive thirty minutes before their flight and not worry about making it to their gate in time. Now, fliers should be prepared to spend hours in line as each person, bag, and item of clothing is scanned, screened, and scrutinized. ( Learn more about the effects of 9/11 on airport security.) The TSA also uses a watch list of individuals who they believe may pose a threat to safety and security (Green). No one is safe from suspicion and must pass rigorous security checks to get clearance to fly.

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Moving forward

The 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center left both Americans and international citizens alike shattered and fearful. Other countries felt that the attack on the United States had been an attack on freedom everywhere. On September 12, 2001, the headline of a French newspaper read, “Today, we are all Americans” (Reactions to 9/11). The Queen of England herself sang the American national anthem for the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, Rio de Janeiro hung billboards of the city’s Christ the Redeemer statue embracing the New York skyline, and billions was donated all around the world by means of money and goods to relief and rescue organizations. The rest of the world embraced America as we embarked on the greatest changes in our country’s recent history. The effects of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks still remain today, even with the resurrection of the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero, opened exactly ten years after the fateful morning. Though the terrorist attack on American soil shook the country to its core, and despite the fact that we remain entangled with the Middle East to this day, the United States of American has proven that liberty and freedom will continue to persevere, even in the most unlikely circumstances. 

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Works Cited

“9/11 Attacks”. A&E Television Networks, 2010. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <>.

“FAQ about 9/11”. 9/11 Memorial. National September 11 Memorial & Museum, 2014. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <>.

Green, Matthew. “Three Lasting Impacts of 9/11”. The Lowdown. KQED News, 11 Sept. 2012. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <>.

McCormick, Ty. “Al Qaeda Core: A Short History”. Foreign Policy. Foreign Policy, 17 March 2014. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <>.

 “Reactions to 9/11”. A&E Television Networks, 2010. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <>.

Schmemann, Serge. “Hijacked Jets Destroy Twin Towers and Hit Pentagon”. The New York Times: On This Day. The New York Times, 12 Sept. 2001. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <>.

“September 11th Fast Facts.” CNN. CNN Library, 8 Sept. 2014. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <>.

 “The 9/11 Terrorist Attacks”. BBC History. BBC, 2014. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <>.

 “The U.S. and Int’l Response to 9/11.” The Heritage Foundation. The Heritage Foundation, 2014. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <>.

Weinberg, Jonathan. “What did it feel like to be inside the World Trade Center at the time of the 9/11 attacks?”. Quora. 23 Sept. 2014. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <>.

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Guest Essay

American Muslims Are in a Painful, Familiar Place

An image of a bomb blast in Gaza with partial photos of President Biden and President George W. Bush over it.

By Rozina Ali

Ms. Ali is a journalist who covers war, Islamophobia and the Middle East.

When President Biden landed in Tel Aviv days after Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre of more than 1,400 people, he told an audience of Israelis that this was not just Israel’s Sept. 11, that “ it was like 15 9/11s .”

The comparison, which emerged widely and immediately, seemed apt on the surface: a brutal attack that shocked a nation and changed the course of its history. Indeed, it’s been dizzying to witness the speed at which the same patterns we saw after Sept. 11, 2001, are playing out. The mourning of a terrorist attack has been interrupted by the swift bombardment of civilian neighborhoods. American officials, pundits and companies have quickly rallied around Israel in its war on Gaza, which has rapidly intensified by the day. In the first week of the war, Israel dropped more bombs on Gaza than the United States did on Afghanistan in a year. Civilian casualties in Gaza have climbed exponentially. And in the West Bank , recent images of Palestinians being tied, blindfolded, stripped and allegedly subjected to attempted sexual assault by Israeli soldiers and settlers recall Abu Ghraib.

In the United States, it’s as if the country has turned back the clock two decades, but not in the way that Mr. Biden suggests. For those who experienced waves of harassment and government surveillance in the years after Sept. 11, the president’s pledge of “ unwavering ” support for Israel set off alarm bells. I’ve been speaking with lawyers, community groups and advocacy organizations that worked closely with Muslims after September 2001 about what they’re seeing. Not since that time — not even after the election of Donald Trump, who signed an executive order banning visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries within days of taking office — have I heard so many Muslim and Arab community members say they feel isolated. After living through and reckoning with the devastating aftermath of the war on terrorism, it seems the lessons of Sept. 11 have been forgotten.

There seems to be a sense of both resignation — we’ve been here before — and shock — but we’ve been here before .

In the wake of Sept. 11, the U.S. government activated the full force of the national security and law enforcement apparatus to prevent another terrorist attack on American soil. And it bore down on one particular group: Muslims in America. Mass arrests and a national registry of immigrant Muslims led to the deportation of thousands. F.B.I. and police informants, sent to monitor mosques and Muslim neighborhoods, were later found to have been overzealous and accused of entrapping people who committed no violent crimes. The government’s focus on potentially dangerous Muslims spread to American media and society. According to F.B.I. data, hate crimes against Muslims spiked in 2001 . Though that pattern slowed in later years — assaults skyrocketed again in 2015 and 2016 — rates have never dipped back to their pre-2001 numbers.

Today, many Muslims in the United States fear a new outbreak of violence. Days after the attacks in Israel, the Biden administration announced that local and federal law enforcement officers across the United States are “closely monitoring” for connected threats. Within a week of Oct. 7, scattered reports were made to the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee of F.B.I. visits to mosques, and women in hijabs were reportedly being assaulted in several cities.

Though communities were braced for what was to come, no one could have predicted that the first hate crime would be the killing of a 6-year-old Palestinian Muslim boy , Wadea Al-Fayoume, whose mother was rushed to the hospital after also being repeatedly stabbed. Joseph Czuba, their landlord, was charged in the killing. (He has pleaded not guilty.) According to the boy’s mother, Mr. Czuba had become violent after the news of Oct. 7 and yelled, “You Muslims must die,” before stabbing Wadea 26 times. While speaking at Wadea’s funeral , one religious leader, Imam Omar Suleiman, wondered in his remarks: “Have we not learned anything from 9/11? Do we really want to live those dark years again?”

Perhaps because those “dark years” were not so long ago, attacks like the one on Wadea feel as though they are opening a barely closed wound. One Illinois resident told me that community members are now planning patrols for their children, not dissimilar to those started by some mosques after Mr. Trump was elected. “This is exactly what we were afraid of,” Abed Ayoub, the director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, told me recently.

What happened to the Muslim community in the United States after Sept. 11 — the surveillance, the targeting, the fear — was intimately tied to many Americans’ belief in the righteousness of what our government was doing abroad. As the United States invaded first Afghanistan and then Iraq, both wars that wrought devastating civilian casualties and paved the way for political chaos, the public perception of Muslims in America plummeted to new lows. Within a year of the Iraq invasion, a Pew poll found that a larger number of Americans believed Islam was more likely than other religions to encourage violence. By 2014, Muslims ranked lowest in another Pew poll of how the American public views different religious groups.

That unfounded perception has remained in the years since. The sudden arrival of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria only deepened the suspicion of Muslims in America as an ever-present threat. Once again, Islam appeared in close connection to terrorism in the American imagination as images of masked figures carrying out gruesome executions reinforced twisted stereotypes of Muslims. The ISIS phenomenon of the Western recruit meant that any wayward Muslim teenager could be a threat and that even the most assimilated people had the potential to become terrorists.

Since the Israel-Hamas war started, these long-held suspicions now appear to be seeping into the public debate again over showing support for Palestinians in Gaza, more than 8,000 of whom have been killed since the bombardment began, according to the Gazan health ministry. The false connection between supporting civilians in Gaza and the terrorist activities of Hamas is manifesting across our country’s public institutions. From college campuses to places of work, people are facing retribution for expressing support for Palestinians that is being misconstrued as anti-Israel or pro-Hamas. Companies have rescinded job offers, journalists have been fired for sharing posts, and students whose organizations have signed statements have been smeared publicly . The scale of suppression of speech by social media platforms, such as the shadow banning of Gaza-related posts and the blocking of accounts on Instagram , has been alarming enough that Human Rights Watch has started to document it.

Perhaps the Sept. 11 comparison and the good-guy/bad-guy binary can be evoked successfully because there has been almost no accountability for the failures of the war on terrorism. The oversimplification is made worse by Mr. Biden, who, in the same visit to Tel Aviv during which he cautioned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to avoid the “mistakes” America made after Sept. 11, he also referred to Palestinians as “the other team.” There is no call from Israel to win the “hearts and minds” of Palestinians, as George W. Bush claimed to do with Iraqis; there is no call to bring freedom to Gaza, as the United States said it wanted to do in Afghanistan. Instead, Mr. Biden has not publicly admonished the Israeli defense minister for saying that his country was fighting “human animals.” And at home, he and other leaders have offered little to assuage the growing fears in the Arab and Muslim community: Last week he had a private meeting with Muslim leaders that the administration never publicly announced. Though the White House released a statement the day after Wadea Al-Fayoume’s killing, the president didn’t call the boy’s family until five days later.

The Oct. 7 attacks didn’t happen on American soil, but this is an intimate war for many Americans. Some families wait desperately for scraps of news of their loved ones taken hostage by Hamas. Others search for some sign of their loved ones in Gaza, waiting for the blue checks to show that their WhatsApp messages have been read by family members who are trying to stay alive amid near-constant bombing and a lack of food and water.

The first Friday after Oct. 7, the first holy day for Muslims and Jews since the attacks, New York City and the rest of the country seemed to be on high alert, bracing itself because a former Hamas leader in Qatar had called for protests across Arab nations in support of the Palestinians, a call which was mislabeled as a day of jihad. I decided to visit the Islamic Center at N.Y.U., expecting a tense and nervous congregation. Instead, an imam finished his speech, and the women around me lined up to pray. As we knelt together, all I could hear was sobs.

We’ve been here before, but we don’t have to be here again.

Rozina Ali is a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine and a contributing editor at Lux magazine. She is also a 2024 New America fellow.

Source photographs by Fadel Senna, Jonathan Ernst, Jim Watson, Tolga Tezcan/Getty Images.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook , Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram .

MAGA and Christian nationalism: Bigger threat to America than Hamas could ever be

Even mitch mcconnell is trying to push back against mike johnson and the maga lunatics. it isn't working, by brian karem.

Longtime White House correspondent Brian Karem writes a weekly column for Salon.

The world inches closer to a war that only psychopaths want to see.

On Tuesday the FBI issued a warning that the chance of staged terrorist attacks in the United States has grown since the war began in Gaza. In the White House briefing later that day, Fox News reporter Peter Doocy asked National Security Council spokesman John Kirby: “Has the White House considered the possibility that a terrorist could be in the country right now after crossing the southern border?”

Obviously they have, or the FBI wouldn’t have issued the warning. The question remains, however, what our government response would be to such an attack. That has already been discussed at the highest levels in our government, and the public has a right to know what that reaction would be.

So, although I wasn’t called on, as Kirby left the stage I  interrupted to ask the only question I thought mattered: “John, wait a minute. Before you leave: If Hamas terrorists attack the U.S., would the U.S. put boots on the ground in the Middle East?”

Kirby stopped his retreat from the stage, and press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre let him answer. Kirby was succinct: “I won't speculate about that, Brian. We’ll obviously do what we have to do to protect our troops and our people.” 

On that same day, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer showed up at the White House with a bipartisan group — Sens. Todd Young, R-Ind., Mike Rounds, R-S.D. and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M. — to talk to President Biden and help steer a congressional response to the threat posed by SKYNET … sorry, I mean AI. It’s a bipartisan effort, but there are both Republicans and Democrats who remain opposed.  

Bipartisanship, once seen as a laudable goal on many issues, is now sneered at by most remaining members of the Republican Party. Working with Democrats, for them, is like choosing death over a slice of cake. (Apologies to Eddie Izzard.)

Most Republicans are so dismayed at the prospect of working with Democrats that they want to scuttle efforts to fund the war in Ukraine, virtually isolating Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell , who seems to be nearly alone on an island calling for aid to continue. It’s a rare display of common sense from the 81-year-old Kentuckian, whose primary focus is on political power. 

Bipartisanship was once seen as a laudable goal. But for most remaining Republicans, working with Democrats is like choosing death over a slice of cake.

"No Americans are getting killed in Ukraine,” McConnell said . “We're rebuilding our industrial base. The Ukrainians are destroying the army of one of our biggest rivals. I have a hard time finding anything wrong with that. I think it's wonderful that they're defending themselves — and also the notion that the Europeans are not doing enough. They've done almost $90 billion, they're housing a bunch of refugees who escaped. I think that our NATO allies in Europe have done quite a lot." 

Few Democrats have said it any better, and it spelled out exactly what the stakes are for the U.S. in the ongoing war in Ukraine. Remember that Vlad “The Impaler” Putin has clearly suggested that he wants to get the old Soviet Union band back together — Ukraine is just the first stop in a quest for global hegemony.

Fellow Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said that McConnell was “ out of touch ” with his party's base while Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley chided McConnell for siding with Democrats — and that was before Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas gave Hawley a tongue-lashing on border issues later that afternoon. It looks like Putin still has a few fans in the GOP.

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In the House, those would likely include newly-minted House Speaker Mike Johnson (and that still sounds like a Bart Simpson prank call to Moe’s Bar), who took on McConnell directly, pushing to unlink aid to Israel from aid to Ukraine.  

While the world burns, Johnson and the MAGA wing of the Republican Party — which seems to have swallowed the evangelical movement while also embracing it (a T-1000 morphing into Sarah Connor is just about the right image) — is embracing the darkest verses of the Bible, apparently pushing for apocalypse with an enthusiasm only rivaled by Saul’s slaughter of Christians before he changed his name to Paul.

I’m waiting for Mel Brooks to break out into song : “Let all those who wish to confess their evil ways and accept and embrace the true church convert now or forever burn in hell — for now begins the Inquisition!”

The House of Representatives, now run by Johnson, offers a discount version of the apocalyptic orgasm the holy rollers have dreamed of for years. They’ve renewed the Inquisition and seem determined to convert the U.S. into a theocracy run by people who will thump you with the Bible, but haven’t read much of it. 

Lord, how they love to preach fire and brimstone. But the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes? Forget it. Matthew 25:40 : “Whatever you did it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”? Not a chance. They’ve embraced only the Old Testament angry God and the apocalyptic parts of Revelation brought on by ergot poisoning. 

They want no separation of church and state. They want an isolationist country surrounded by walls and dedicated to the proposition that the First Amendment guarantees them the right to worship any way they want — while forcing the rest of us to worship the way they choose.

Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter , Crash Course.

While the Age of Enlightenment led men — after hundreds of years of bloody crusades — to give up on state religions and was a direct inspiration for our Bill of Rights, modern Republicans seem hellbent on returning to the Middle Ages, driven there by the first Christian nationalist House speaker.

The First Amendment's establishment clause prohibits the government from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion.” That not only forbids the government from establishing an official religion, but also prohibits government actions that unduly favor one religion over another.

Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, a constitutional scholar, says there was a solid reason for this much-debated and carefully written clause: “The framers taught us that the biggest threat to religious freedom comes from theocrats who try to establish their own sect over everyone else. That’s why we have two religion clauses in the First Amendment.”

None of that matters to the Republicans. They revel in their own chicanery. They despise free thought and independence, and are happy to play games with a government shutdown — the modern equivalent of fiddling while it all burns. Stay tuned. Nov. 17, the next shutdown deadline, is just around the corner. 

On a day the Republicans were mired in their own gamesmanship, an Israeli air strike targeting a Hamas commander in the densely-populated Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza left catastrophic damage and killed hundreds of people, according to medics and eyewitnesses.

Children were seen carrying other children away from the blast zone. “It felt like the end of the world,” one surviving witness said.

That is our world today. It took an asteroid the size of a modern city to wipe out the dinosaurs. People, being smarter than dinosaurs, have figured out how to destroy everything all by ourselves. Climate change is slowly creeping up on us and we are killing each other at an increasing rate. It took a Category 5 hurricane to kill 40-odd people in Acapulco last week. We killed that many in two mass shootings in the U.S. in about the same amount of time — and spared the property. Pogo was right: We have met the enemy and he is us.

Donald Trump faces 91 felonies in four different jurisdictions, while facing civil sanctions in New York that could cost him a large chunk of his financial empire. He is effectively also on trial in Colorado as that state tries to ban him from the ballot next November. I spoke with Michael Cohen on Wednesday morning, a few days after he testified in Trump’s civil trial in New York. He believes Trump could lose as much as $600 million to $700 million in that case, essentially leaving him broke.

Joe Biden is in danger of becoming the 2024 equivalent of Jimmy Carter — a one-term president who will be admired after he leaves office far more than when he held it.

Joe Biden’s popularity continues to shrink faster than unemployment, threatening to make him the 2024 equivalent of Jimmy Carter — a one-term president who will be admired after he leaves office more than he ever was while holding it. Part of that is Biden’s fault. Part of it is because of people like Mike Johnson, who claim we don’t live in a democracy and that Gawd oversees our government.

You might think that all this would be serious food for thought in the news. But people are so tired of thinking about life on the razor’s edge that most news seems about as palatable as raw sewage — which is an all too accurate metaphor.

Our problem in the press is that we have so few people with the experience and education to handle the serious issues facing us. 

So whether it is a possible world war, stochastic terrorism, Christian theocracy, climate change, Donald Trump, our own government or something else unforeseen, for most people it is a time of trepidation and terror.

As Biden left the stage in the East Room on Monday, after about 15 minutes talking about artificial intelligence, he circled around to his standard stump speech, the one where he defines America with one word, “possibilities,” and says he remains hopeful that the best is still ahead.

He has said this for three years, and I only wish more people would listen. Instead, at the end of the day, as the world spins out of control, people want bread and circuses to keep them from contemplating the horrors that we ourselves have created.

Bring on Mel Brooks:

The Inquisition, what a show! The Inquisition, here we go! We know you're wishin' that we go away So come on, you Muslims and you Jews We got big news for all of youse You better change your point of views today 'cause the Inquisition's here and it's here to stay!

from Brian Karem on the world in chaos

  • GOP finally picks a speaker: But the hellish chaos of D.C. won't end anytime soon
  • Joe Biden visits an actual war zone; House GOP tries to pull its pants up
  • Hamas and the GOP are both terrorist groups — it's just a matter of degree

Brian Karem is the former senior White House correspondent for Playboy. He has covered every presidential administration since Ronald Reagan, sued Donald Trump three times successfully to keep his press pass, spent time in jail to protect a confidential source, covered wars in the Middle East and is the author of seven books. His latest is " Free the Press ."

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  • 25 October 2023

Mars has a surprise layer of molten rock inside

  • Alexandra Witze

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The internal structure of Mars as a cutaway computer illustration showing the molten core of iron centre.

Mars’s liquid-metal core seems to be smaller than previous studies suggested (artist’s impression). Credit: Claus Lunau/Science Photo Library

A meteorite that slammed into Mars in September 2021 has rewritten what scientists know about the planet’s interior.

By analysing the seismic energy that vibrated through the planet after the impact, researchers have discovered a layer of molten rock that envelops Mars’s liquid-metal core. The finding, reported today in two papers in Nature 1 , 2 , means that the Martian core is smaller than previously thought. It also resolves some lingering questions about how the red planet formed and evolved over billions of years.

9/11 impact essay

Mars’s core has been measured — and it’s surprisingly large

The discovery comes from NASA’s InSight mission, which landed a craft with a seismometer on Mars’s surface . Between 2018 and 2022, that instrument detected hundreds of ‘marsquakes’ shaking the planet . Seismic waves produced by quakes or impacts can slow down or speed up depending on what types of material they are travelling through, so seismologists can measure the waves’ passage to deduce what the interior of a planet looks like. On Earth, researchers have used information from earthquakes to discover the planet’s layers: a brittle outer crust, a mostly solid mantle, a liquid outer core and a solid inner core. Finding out whether other planets have similar layers is key to understanding their geological history, including whether they were ever suitable for life.

InSight’s seismometer was the first to detect marsquakes. In July 2021, on the basis of the mission’s observations of 11 quakes, researchers reported that the liquid core of Mars seemed to have a radius of around 1,830 kilometres 3 . That was bigger than many scientists were expecting . And it suggested that the core contained surprisingly high amounts of light chemical elements, such as sulfur, mixed with iron.

But the September 2021 meteorite impact “unlocked everything”, says Henri Samuel, a geophysicist at the Institute of Earth Physics of Paris and lead author of one of today’s papers 1 . The meteorite struck the planet on the side opposite to where InSight was located. That’s much more distant than the marsquakes that InSight had previously studied, and allowed the probe to detect seismic energy travelling all the way through the Martian core 4 . “We were so excited,” says Jessica Irving, a seismologist at the University of Bristol, UK, and a co-author of Samuel’s paper.

Puzzle solving

For Samuel, it was an opportunity to test his idea that a molten layer of rock surrounds Mars’s core 5 . The way the seismic energy traversed the planet showed that what scientists had thought was the boundary between the liquid core and the solid mantle, 1,830 kilometres from the planet’s centre, was actually a different boundary between liquid and solid. It was the top of the newfound layer of molten rock meeting the mantle (see ‘Rethinking the Martian core’). The actual core is buried beneath that molten-rock layer and has a radius of only 1,650 kilometres, Samuel says.

Rethinking the Martian core. Diagram showing the revised model of the Mars core.

Nature /Source: Refs 1 & 2

The revised core size solves some puzzles. It means that the Martian core doesn’t have to contain high amounts of light elements — a better match to laboratory and theoretical estimates. A second liquid layer inside the planet also meshes better with other evidence, such as how Mars responds to being deformed by the gravitational tug of its moon Phobos.

“It’s an elegant solution,” says Simon Stähler, a seismologist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich who led the team that published the 2021 paper 3 . He stands by his team’s conclusion that it had spotted a deep boundary between liquid and solid; it just turned out to be the top of a molten-rock layer rather than the top of the liquid-metal core.

Peculiar layering

9/11 impact essay

NASA spacecraft records epic ‘marsquakes’ as it prepares to die

The second paper in Nature today 2 , from a team independent of Samuel’s, agrees that Mars’s core is enveloped by a layer of molten rock, but estimates that the core has a radius of 1,675 kilometres. The work analysed seismic waves from the same distant meteorite impact, as well as simulations of the properties of mixtures of molten elements such as iron, nickel and sulfur at the high pressures and temperatures in the Martian core. Having molten rock right up against molten iron “appears to be unique”, says lead author Amir Khan, a geophysicist at ETH Zurich. “You have this peculiarity of liquid–liquid layering, which is something that doesn’t exist on the Earth.”

The molten-rock layer might be left over from a magma ocean that once covered Mars. As it cooled and solidified into rock, the magma would have left behind a deep layer of radioactive elements that still release heat and keep rock molten at the base of the mantle, Samuel says.

The InSight lander is now out of commission , its solar panels covered in dust, so it’s unlikely that scientists will gather any evidence that could substantially revise Mars’s core size again any time soon. But reviews of the mission’s past observations might reveal some new details of what’s inside Mars.

Nature 623 , 20 (2023)


Read the related News & Views: ‘ Deep Mars is surprisingly soft ’.

Samuel, H. et al. Nature (2023).

Article   Google Scholar  

Khan, A. et al. Nature (2023).

Stähler, S. C. et al. Science 373 , 443–448 (2021).

Article   PubMed   Google Scholar  

Irving, J. C. E. et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 120 , e2217090120 (2023).

Samuel, H. et al. J. Geophys. Res. Planets 126 , e2020JE006613 (2021).

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  • Schedule ahead shows the importance of Cowboys beating Eagles, but losing could spell trouble

This is a big week for the Dallas Cowboys.

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NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

This Sunday’s matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles is significant. Trying to convince people of such isn’t a hard sell. After all, this is the game we’ve all been waiting for. These teams were seen as two of the top teams in the NFC before the season started, and not much has changed now. They have eight of the last ten NFC East division titles between them, with both teams winning four each, and one of them stands a great chance to win another because both Washington and New York have losing records and just dumped some of their top talent at the trade deadline.

So, which is it, Philly or Dallas? Who’s winning this one?

The winner of Sunday’s game will draw first blood and let the football world know that they are the team to beat in the conference. The Cowboys were not successful in beating the other NFC powerhouse team, the San Francisco 49ers , but a win over the Eagles could alter people’s view about just how good this Cowboys team is.

If the Cowboys beat Philadelphia on Sunday, they will sit at 6-2, but still trail the 7-2 Eagles in the standings. However, the Cowboys play a two-win Giants team the following week, while the Eagles sit idle during their bye. That means a Cowboys win on Sunday could put them atop the division by mid-November, and possibly even the No. 1 seed in the NFC depending on what happens to Detroit and Seattle. Something like that is a big deal. Of course, there’s a lot of football left, but the results of Sunday could set the tone for what’s to come.

When the schedule came out, there were some stretches that caught our attention as they posed some potential rough patches for each team. For the Cowboys, it starts the last week of November with Seattle and continues for a five-week period. But for the Eagles, that rough patch starts now. Looking at the schedule, the Eagles’ next six opponents all have at least five wins.

9/11 impact essay

If the Cowboys win on Sunday, they can soon take over the division lead while the Eagles enter their post-bye rough patch. Any additional bumps in the road from Philly might allow the Cowboys to give themselves a little buffer heading into their own rough patch later in the year.

Now, we realize we’re getting ahead of ourselves. One game at a time, right? But it’s still important to look ahead so we’re not taken by surprise when the Cowboys hit their rough patch. If Dallas loses this game, they’ll fall 2.5 games behind the Eagles, meaning they’ll lose the ability to control their own fate in the division. In that situation, for the Cowboys to have any shot at getting back in the divisional race, they’ll need the Eagles to stumble during the tough part of their schedule. And if the Cowboys don’t have themselves in a good spot by Christmas Eve, it could spell trouble since they have a much tougher final three games than the Eagles.

All games are important, but this one obviously carries some additional weight. And when you look at how the schedule plays out, getting a huge road win against the Eagles on Sunday would put the Cowboys in a great spot, and possibly spark a little run that might prove paramount by the time January rolls around.

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Markets rise after Federal Reserve hits pause again on rate hikes

From CNN's Bryan Mena, Elisabeth Buchwald and Krystal Hur

Dow closes 220 points higher as Fed holds rates steady

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell answers a question at a press conference following a closed two-day meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee on interest rate policy at the Federal Reserve in Washington, today.

US markets soared higher Wednesday, rebounding after a dismal October and three straight months of losses.

The Dow rose by 221 points, or 0.7%, in Wednesday trading. The S&P 500 hit a session high, and was up 1.1%. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite was 1.6% higher.

The Federal Reserve said it would keep interest rates between 5.25% and 5.5%, and amended language in its post-meeting statement to say that “economic activity expanded at a strong pace in the third quarter.” Previously, Fed officials wrote that the economy had grown at a "solid pace."

Fed Chair Jerome Powell said that he would not rule out another rate hike at the Fed's next meeting in December, but Wall Street seemed to brush off the fear of more economically painful hikes.

In a note to investors, Whitney Watson global co-head and co-chief investment officer of fixed income at Goldman Sachs Asset Management wrote that "the economy’s resilience has not stalled labor market rebalancing or revived wage and price pressures, suggesting disinflation will progress and indicating that the Fed will likely keep its policy unchanged into 2024."

Treasury yields, meanwhile, slumped to 4.76% on the Fed news.

In corporate news, shares of semiconductor company AMD closed 9.7% higher after the company reported strong third-quarter earnings results.

Shares of CVS dropped 0.4% even after the health care company reported an earnings beat.

WeWork plummeted by more than 47% as reports of a possibly imminent bankruptcy broke.

Interest rates are high. These are the best places to park your cash

From CNN's Jeanne Sahadi

Oliver Helbig/Moment RF/Getty Images

The Federal Reserve chose  not to raise  its key interest rate on Wednesday, but its benchmark lending rate remains at its highest level in 22 years.

Given that the Fed influences — directly or indirectly — interest rates on financial accounts and products throughout the US economy, that means savers and people with surplus cash still have many opportunities to get a far better return on their money than they've had in years — and even more importantly, a return that outpaces the latest readings on inflation.

Here are low-risk options to get the best yield on funds you plan to use within two years, and also on cash you expect to need within the next two to five years.

Read more here.

Dow rallies more than 250 points

A television screen shows the rate decision of the Federal Reserve a trader works at his post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, Nov. 1.

US markets jumped higher on Wednesday afternoon after the Federal Reserve announced it would keep interest rates unchanged for the second meeting in a row.

The Dow soared 260 points, or 0.8%. The S&P 500 gained 1.1% and the Nasdaq Composite was up 1.6%.

While Fed Chair Jerome Powell emphasized in his press conference after the announcement the requirement that financial markets would need to be persistently tightening to satisfy policymakers, investors seemed to be buoyed by his tone.  

Leading the market higher were tech stocks, with information technology stocks outperforming the rest of the market. Shares of semiconductor company AMD were 9.3% higher and Nvidia was up by 3.5%.

Yields poised to close sharply lower for the day

While Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell spent a good chunk of Wednesday's press conference answering reporters' questions about what elevated yields mean for the central bank, yields basically said, "You might want to think again!"

After Powell finished speaking, the yield on the 10-year Treasury hit an intra-day low of 4.755%. That's 120 basis points lower than where the yield opened on Wednesday.

Although he didn't outright say it, many investors appeared to take Powell's remarks as yet another sign that the central bank has finished hiking interest rates.

In addition to Powell's remarks, news from earlier today that the Treasury Department wouldn't be auctioning off as much debt as investors feared ignited the fall in bond yields.

Wage growth is slowing at a pace that's to Powell's liking

Commuters at the Hoboken Terminal in Hoboken, New Jersey, on Oct. 19.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said Wednesday he likes what he's seeing on the wage growth front: a steady and gradual easing.

"Wage increases have really come down significantly over the course of the last 18 months, where they are substantially closer to a level that would be consistent with 2% inflation over time," Powell said, noting that a variety of gauges have shown similar trends.

Data released earlier this week showed that the Employment Cost Index, a closely watched measurement of pay and benefits, rose 1.1% during the third quarter from the quarter before, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's up a touch from the second quarter's 1% growth rate.

Annually, however, there's a much clearer picture of slowing wage gains . The latest ECI rose 4.3% on a year-over-year basis, which was down from 4.5% the quarter before and 4.8% in the first quarter.

"If you look back a couple of quarters, it was much higher, came down substantially in June, and then the September reading was more level than the June reading," Powell said. "So, in a way, it was validating and very close to our expectations internally, too."

Still, wage growth is running at a quicker pace than it did pre-pandemic (from 2015 to 2019, BLS data shows the ECI with an average growth rate of 2.47%).

"In my thinking, it's not the case that wages have been the principal driver of inflation so far," he said. "I do think it is fair to say as we go forward, as monetary policy becomes more important relative to supply-side issues I talked about in the unwinding of the pandemic effects, it may be that the labor market becomes more important over time, too."

Powell says the Fed is "not thinking about rate cuts right now at all"

From CNN's Samantha Delouya

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell speaks during a news conference after a Federal Open Market Committee meeting on November 1 at the Federal Reserve in Washington, DC. 

Even though the Federal Reserve chose to hold off on an interest rate hike for the second straight month, Fed Chair Jerome Powell dashed any hopes for a rate cut in the near future.

At the Fed's post-meeting press conference, Powell said the Fed's monetary policy committee "is not thinking about rate cuts right now at all."

"We are still very focused on the first question, which is, have we achieved a stance of monetary policy that is sufficiently restrictive to bring inflation down to 2% over time," he said.

The idea of a future interest rate cut doesn't come up in meetings right now, Powell said.

After the Fed is confident that it has successfully tamped down inflation, Powell said the committee will then have to deliberate how long to keep interest rates elevated before they begin considering rate cuts.

Traders are betting there won't be another rate hike this year

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during morning trading on November 1.

After the Federal Reserve's decision to hold interest rates steady on Wednesday, traders are predicting rate hikes will be off the table for the rest of this year.

According to the CME FedWatch tool, investors who trade fed fund futures contracts estimate there is a higher than 70% chance that interest rates will stay the same at the Fed's next meeting, which concludes on December 13.

However, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said Wednesday that future interest rate decisions haven't been made yet.

"We didn't talk about making a decision in December today," Powell said at the Fed's post-meeting press conference. "The idea it would be difficult to raise again after stopping for a meeting or two is just not right."

For now, traders are betting that interest rates will hold steady for the first few months of 2024, as well.

Powell: Israel-Hamas war, potential shutdown present "plenty of risk" for US economy

The US Capitol in Washington, DC, on October 9.

The US economy remains resilient for now, but events such as the Israel-Hamas war and broader uncertainty — both globally and domestically — present "plenty of risk," Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said Wednesday.

War, geopolitical instability, widescale labor strikes and a potential US government shutdown are among "significant issues" that could affect the US economy, Powell acknowledged during a press conference with reporters following the Fed's policymaking meeting.

"Our job is to monitor those things for economic implications," Powell said. "The [United Auto Workers union] strike appears to be coming to an end; oil prices have flattened out ... another one is the possibility of a government shutdown — we don't know about that one. So, there is plenty of risk out there."

Still, Powell said his eye is on the bigger picture of a " strong economy , strong labor market " and the Fed making progress on inflation.

"We are very focused on getting confident that we have achieved the stance of monetary policy that is sufficiently restrictive," he said. "That is really our focus."

Powell: No recession on the horizon

From CNN's David Goldman

Homes in Middlesex Township, Pa., in April.

Financial conditions are getting worse for Americans, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said Wednesday. Borrowing costs are higher, and the housing market is effectively frozen.

So you'd think Powell would say a recession is around the corner.

Not so fast.

"This has been a resilient economy. It has been surprising in its resilience," he said.

Previewing the Fed's minutes from its monetary policy meeting that concluded today, Powell said the Fed did not factor in a recession in the near future.

"It would be hard to see how you would do that if you look at the activity we have seen recently, which is not really indicative of a recession in the near term," Powell said.

The Fed releases its minutes three weeks after each policy meeting.

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Minkah Fitzpatrick repeats as the top safety in the AP’s NFL Top 5 rankings

FILE - Pittsburgh Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (39) runs during an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif. Fitzpatrick was once again voted as the top safety in the league by The Associated Press, repeating his No. 1 spot from the preseason. A panel of nine AP Pro Football Writers ranked the top five players at safety, making their selections based on current status midway through Week 8. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong, File)

FILE - Pittsburgh Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick sits on the bench during an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns in Pittsburgh, Monday, Sept. 18, 2023. Fitzpatrick was once again voted as the top safety in the league by The Associated Press, repeating his No. 1 spot from the preseason. A panel of nine AP Pro Football Writers ranked the top five players at safety, making their selections based on current status midway through Week 8. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

FILE - Los Angeles Chargers safety Derwin James Jr. (3) runs during an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Monday, Oct. 16, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif. James was voted one of the top five safeties at the midpoint of the season by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong, File)

FILE - Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons (31) intercepts a pass as teammate Damarri Mathis (27) watches during the second half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023, in Denver. Simmons was voted one of the top five safeties at the midpoint of the season by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey, File)

FILE - Miami Dolphins safety Jevon Holland (8) reacts after defeating the New England Patriots 24-27 in an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023, in Foxborough, Mass. Holland was voted one of the top five safeties at the midpoint of the season by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Greg M. Cooper)

FILE - Atlanta Falcons safety Jessie Bates III (3) plays during the second half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers, Sunday, Sep. 17, 2023, in Atlanta. Bates was voted one of the top five safeties at the midpoint of the season by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik, File)

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9/11 impact essay

Minkah Fitzpatrick can still make a big impact on Pittsburgh’s defense even when he isn’t generating big plays.

Fitzpatrick was once again voted as the top safety in the league by The Associated Press, repeating his No. 1 spot from the preseason .

A panel of nine AP Pro Football Writers ranked the top five players at safety, making their selections based on current status through Week 8. First-place votes were worth 10 points. Second through fifth-place votes were worth 5, 3, 2 and 1 points.

Fitzpatrick was the only player named on all nine ballots, getting eight first-place and one second-place vote. Derwin James was named on eight ballots and got one first-place vote and three seconds and came in second. Justin Simmons was third, Jevon Holland, fourth, and Jessie Bates, fifth.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa attends a practice session in Frankfurt, Germany, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. The Miami Dolphins are set to play the Kansas City Chiefs in an NFL game in Frankfurt on Sunday Nov. 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Holland and Bates moved into the top five after being left out in the preseason, taking the spots from Kevin Byard and Budda Baker, who both were in others receiving votes.

Antoine Winfield Jr., Harrison Smith, Geno Stone, Talanoa Hufanga, Andre Cisco, Micah Hyde, Jordan Whitehead, Tyrann Mathieu, Jordan Poyer and Kameron Curl also got votes.

1. MINKAH FITZPATRICK, Pittsburgh Steelers

Fitzpatrick has been a first-team All-Pro in three of the past four seasons. He had 17 interceptions and five fumble recoveries the past four seasons but doesn’t have a takeaway yet in 2023. But he is still a key part of a defense that has carried the Steelers the first half of this season.

2. DERWIN JAMES, Los Angeles Chargers

James is one of the most versatile safeties with the ability to play deep, in the box as an extra run supporter or in the slot covering shifty receivers. He has two takeaways this season and has shown once again that he is one of the top safeties when healthy.

3. JUSTIN SIMMONS, Denver Broncos

While the Broncos have had their issues defensively this season, Simmons is clearly not part of the problem. One of the best deep safeties since entering the league in 2016, Simmons is still playing at a high level as evidenced by his three takeaways in two games against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. Simmons is tied for the most takeaways in the league over the last five seasons with 25.

4. JEVON HOLLAND, Miami Dolphins

Holland joined this list thanks to his versatility and adaptability that have been a key part of new coordinator Vic Fangio’s defense in Miami. Holland plays deep, in the box and in the slot and has become an impact player in all of those roles in his third season.

5. JESSIE BATES, Atlanta Falcons

After a strong five-year run with Cincinnati, Bates has made an immediate impact in Atlanta. He had two interceptions and a forced fumble in his first game and has been a key part of one of the league’s most improved defenses.




  1. What 9/11 Changed: Reflecting on the Cultural Legacy of the Attacks, 20

    9/11 impact essay

  2. How Did the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks Affect American Society?

    9/11 impact essay

  3. What were the motives of the terrorists who carried out the 9/11

    9/11 impact essay

  4. What impact did 9/11 have on the world?

    9/11 impact essay

  5. Tragedy Of September 11th

    9/11 impact essay

  6. How 9/11 Changed America: Four Major Lasting Impacts (with Lesson Plan

    9/11 impact essay


  1. Muslim Voices: 9/11 Impact

  2. Section 11

  3. 9/11 20 years later

  4. 9/11| 102 minutes that changed America| BitsImages

  5. The 9/11 Decade: Reflections

  6. 11 The Impact of Western Thought


  1. Two Decades Later, the Enduring Legacy of 9/11

    The impacts of the Sept. 11 attacks were deeply felt and slow to dissipate. By the following August, half of U.S. adults said the country "had changed in a major way" - a number that actually increased, to 61%, 10 years after the event.

  2. Twenty years later, how Americans assess the effects of the 9/11

    The 9/11 attacks and their aftermath have changed Americans' perceptions of our foreign policy. The next few years will reveal whether these sentiments will trigger a broader American retreat...

  3. How 9/11 Changed the World

    "The horrific events of September 11, 2001, forever altered the framework of the United States immigration law and policy." Sarah Sherman-Stokes, School of Law clinical associate professor of law and associate director, LAW's Immigrants' Rights and Human Trafficking Program "I learned to appreciate what it means to be the other, the outsider."

  4. Shock, insecurity and endless war: How 9/11 changed America and the

    That sort of presumption was effectively destroyed by 9/11 — and it hasn't come back.". Even as Americans grappled with trauma and anger at home, the attacks cleared the way for a foreign policy based on the belief that the United States can "transform foreign societies in its own self-image," said UC Berkeley historian Daniel Sargent.

  5. How 9/11 changed America

    The effects of that day's terrorist attacks are still being felt 20 years later. Steve Zylius / UCI Share In recognition of the 20 th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the U.S., we asked UCI scholars a single question: How did 9/11 change America? They responded according to their expertise.

  6. How 9/11 changed us

    The final tilt of a plane's wings before impact. If the books about the lead-up to 9/11 are packed with unbearable inevitability, the volumes on the day itself highlight how randomness separated ...

  7. After 9/11, The World Changed. The Fight Against Terrorism Has Too

    An American flag at ground zero on the evening of Sept. 11, 2001, after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. In the fall of 2001, Aaron Zebley was a 31-year-old FBI ...

  8. PDF An Introduction to '9/11: Ten Years Later'

    September 2011 American Psychologist

  9. The 9/11 Effect and the Transformation of Global Security

    The Full Circle of Counterterrorism The 9/11 attacks were a defining event for global extremists and terrorists. Widely considered the most egregious act of international terrorism, it killed ...

  10. Seven Reflections Worth Reading About 9/11

    Looking back at those heady times, Packer concludes that 9/11 pricked the illusion that somehow Americans stood outside of time. "September 11 wasn't a sui generis event coming out of a clear ...

  11. 5 Ways September 11 Changed America

    5 Ways September 11 Changed America. The attacks of 9/11 shocked the nation—and led to changes that altered U.S. government, travel and culture. September 11, 2001 is an inflection point—there ...

  12. The Causes and Consequences of 9/11

    4-minute read 9/11: causes and lingering consequences Ohio State's Peter Hahn takes a close look at the causes and legacy of the 9/11 attacks By Cara Reed August 14, 2020 The images from that day still haunt us.

  13. Three ways September 11 attacks changed our world

    Three ways terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 changed our world. The multi-pronged attacks took place in broad daylight on a Tuesday morning. Even as the events of September 11, 2001, were ...

  14. How 9/11 Changed America: Four Major Lasting Impacts (with ...

    America's involvement in the War on Terror — prompted by the 9/11 terrorist attacks — resulted in a dramatic change in our nation's attitudes and concerns about safety, vigilance and privacy. It ushered in a new generation of policies like the USA Patriot Act, prioritizing national security and defense, often at the expense of civil liberties.

  15. September 11 attacks

    September 11 attacks, series of airline hijackings and suicide attacks committed in 2001 by 19 militants associated with Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda against targets in the United States, the deadliest terrorist attacks on U.S. soil in U.S. history. Over 3,000 people died in the attacks and rescue efforts.

  16. 9/11 and the reinvention of the US intelligence community

    The law was an attempt to make the boundaries between domestic and international intelligence that had contributed to the nation's inability to disrupt the 9/11 attacks more porous. But it also ...

  17. A timeline of everything that happened on 9/11

    9/11 timeline: Three hours that changed everything. For Americans and people watching around the world, September 11, 2001, is a day that will never be forgotten. Within three hours, New York's tallest buildings were reduced to rubble, and the Pentagon—the nerve center of the American armed forces—was burning and partially collapsed.

  18. 9/11 Survivors May Still Experience PTSD 20 Years Later

    For Many Who Were Present, The 9/11 Attacks Have Had A Lasting Mental Health Impact. A visitor touches a victim's name inscribed on a bronze parapet at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum ...

  19. 9/11 Essay: How The Greatest Terrorist Attack Happened

    The 9/11 attacks brought mourning, fear and depression to Americans and international citizens. The whole world felt that the attack made on the USA was the attack on freedom and liberties everywhere. That was an event that brought changes to the whole world. The effects of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks last until today.

  20. Sample Essay on 9/11 World Trade Center Attacks

    Sample Essay on 9/11 World Trade Center Attacks. Ultius. 11 Dec 2014. On the morning of September 11, 2001, four airliners were hijacked by members of al-Qaeda who aimed to carry out suicide attacks against important targets in the United States. Of the four planes, one struck the Pentagon, one crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, and the two ...

  21. How 9/11 Shaped American Fiction

    Sept. 11 accelerated a trend, already long in motion, toward opening American fiction to formerly marginalized voices. Kazin was the son of Jewish immigrants.

  22. 9/11 Research Paper

    Effects of the 9/11 Attacks On the morning of September 11, 2001, an Islamic terrorist group known as al-Qaeda carried out a series of four attacks on the United States. The most well-known attack is when two commercial airline planes crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City. Many innocent lives were lost and families were torn apart.

  23. Effects Of 9/11 Essay

    9/11 Research Paper. Effects of 9/11 On September 11th, 2001, the United States underwent one of its most violent, devastating terrorist attacks. This event reverberated through the country's foundation and left an incredible impact. The lasting effects of 9/11 stretched across multiple facets of America's way of life.

  24. Opinion

    American Muslims Are in a Painful, Familiar Place. Ms. Ali is a journalist who covers war, Islamophobia and the Middle East. When President Biden landed in Tel Aviv days after Hamas's Oct. 7 ...

  25. MAGA and Christian nationalism: Bigger threat to America than Hamas

    From 9/11 to Benjamin Netanyahu: The world is learning that toxic masculinity can't keep us safe. On that same day, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer showed up at the White House with a ...

  26. Mars has a surprise layer of molten rock inside

    But the September 2021 meteorite impact "unlocked everything", says Henri Samuel, a geophysicist at the Institute of Earth Physics of Paris and lead author of one of today's papers 1. The ...

  27. BAUER 2-9/16 in. Impact Rated Magnetic Metric Nut Setter Set, 9-Pc. for

    Inside Track Club members can buy the BAUER 2-9/16 in. Impact Rated Magnetic Metric Nut Setter Set, 9-Pc. (Item 58273) for $9.99, valid through November 30, 2023.Compare our price of $9.99 to DEWALT at $22.43 (model number: DW2229 Z). Save 55% by shopping at Harbor Freight.This BAUER™ Impact Rated Magnetic Metric Nut Setter Set is…

  28. Cowboys need to beat Eagles, loss would impact 2023 NFL schedule

    The Cowboys were not successful in beating the other NFC powerhouse team, the San Francisco 49ers, but a win over the Eagles could alter people's view about just how good this Cowboys team is ...

  29. Markets rise after Federal Reserve hits pause again on rate hikes

    Markets are down ahead of Fed decision. US stock futures were lower Wednesday ahead of the Federal Reserve's rate announcement. Dow futures fell 100 points, or 0.3%. S&P 500 futures were 0.3% ...

  30. Minkah Fitzpatrick repeats as the top safety in the AP's NFL Top 5

    Holland plays deep, in the box and in the slot and has become an impact player in all of those roles in his third season. 5. JESSIE BATES, Atlanta Falcons . After a strong five-year run with Cincinnati, Bates has made an immediate impact in Atlanta. He had two interceptions and a forced fumble in his first game and has been a key part of one of ...