September 21, 2020

Impact from 9/11 still felt a decade later

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A decade later, what happened on Sept. 11 still resonates for much of the country. Even more Americans now say the horror of that day changed their lives.

A new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research in Chicago finds that more Americans today say Sept. 11 had an impact on their lives than said so five years ago — 57 percent compared with 50 percent in 2006.

As the nation prepares to mark the 10th anniversary of that haunting day, the chilling events that unfolded in New York, Washington and Shanksville, Pa., still evoke a stir of emotions for everyday Americans — from anger and shock at so many innocent lives lost to patriotism and pride in the heroes who emerged on hijacked planes and in the rubble of fallen skyscrapers and a shattered Pentagon.

Ten years later, we are a nation changed — moving on, but still changed.

Lisa Schmidt, 48, of Vancouver, Wash., thinks about Sept. 11 “just about every day” and almost every time she sees a plane.

“The intensity of thinking about it, and confronting the thought of it, still is very uncomfortable and I didn’t know anyone who was killed or injured,” said Schmidt, owner of a marketing company. “It was a defining moment for how Americans define tragedy.”

For some people, like Susan Garrison of Carthage, Tenn., her fear of more attacks keeps her away from airports.

“I will not fly,” said the 54-year-old Garrison, even with stepped-up security. She said she hasn’t set foot inside a plane since Sept. 11. “These people are the types of people who would get jobs in airports. If they want to kill people, they’re going to do it.”

Almost one-third, 32 percent, of those polled said they are concerned about becoming a victim of terrorism or having a family member harmed in an attack. That’s down slightly, though, from 38 percent in 2004.

The poll also found Americans are less angry about having to fight a war on terrorism than they were a few months after the attacks — 57 percent say so now compared with 67 percent then — and worries about how the war on terrorism might affect daily life have faded since the days after Sept 11.

In the AP-NORC poll, broad majorities said Sept. 11 changed everything from the policy and spending decisions of our country’s leaders — 94 percent and 90 percent, respectively — to the unity of the American people. Eighty-eight percent said it brought us together.

Soon after the attacks, the U.S. government was transformed with the creation of the Homeland Security Department, the Transportation Security Administration, the National Counterterrorism Center and a slew of other centers and government committees dedicated to keeping the country safe.

Sept. 11 also changed the way we talk to our children.

Conversations about “stranger danger” or “stop, drop and roll” have now been expanded to include delicate discussions about “people who don’t like us” and why we have to take our shoes off in those sometimes too-long airport security lines.

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