9/11 Anniversary: 5 Ways America Has Changed Forever


UPDATED 2013 COVERAGE: Read a personal soldier's reflection on 9/11, "We Watched the Twin Towers Fall – Nobody Could Imagine What Came Next."

Sept 11, 2012, the 11th anniversary of this generation’s day of infamy, is here. A little over a decade later 9/11 our lives have been changed forever. Here are the five most impactful ways.

1. Travel 

The most profound changes have been in air travel, but there have also been subtle changes to travel by rail and automobile.

The Transportation Security Administration implemented procedures that included stricter guidelines on passenger and luggage screening. Only ticketed passengers could go through security. Body scanners and new procedures were introduced to search for weapons and other contraband. 

No longer could you have the photographic moments of greeting or saying goodbye to friends and family at the boarding gate. How many of us have had to leave deodorant, shampoo, water, soda, fingernail clippers, etc. behind at the gate due to the new regulations? New luggage was designed to speed up the screening process. “Airport-friendly” laptop bags and shoes were developed for the frequent flyers. Packing a carry-on became an art form.

As new threats were discovered after 9/11, new procedures were introduced, including requiring travelers to remove shoes and prohibit them from bringing liquids on board. After the underwear bomber fiasco, we all shivered at the thought of what the TSA would come up with to screen our boxers and panties. This of course reinforced our parents' admonition to always put on some new underwear.

Railways and mass transit systems implemented checkpoint regulations that allowed law enforcement to randomly search personal property and bags. Checkpoint stops at major tunnels were increased to include random stop and search at the discretion of law enforcement.

2. The Department of Homeland Security 

An organization that is well known today was created as a result of 9/11. The Homeland Security Act of 2002 combined or created over 200 government agencies. Some of the agencies that comprise the Department of Homeland Security include the TSA, Immigration and Customs Enforcement,the Federal Emergency Management Agency,, the National Guard, and the Secret Service. The Homeland Security Act also created a new level of technical interoperability between agencies. One of the most notable communications changes was the emergency broadcast system. Now, commercial mobile service providers are required to push emergency alerts to handsets, while cable and satellite TV providers routinely test their emergency broadcast systems during your favorite TV program.

3. Anti-Islam Sentiment  

Islam, the second-largest religion in the world, became a dirty word after 9/11. Anti-Muslim sentiment and hate crimes perpetrated against law-abiding Muslim citizens grew in the U.S and elsewhere. Jihad became synonymous with Islam, and Sharia law became associated with extreme terrorism. Racial profiling of Muslims increased at all public events, particularly in America. In North America, television capitalized on new sentiments toward the Muslim community. New TV programs were launched with Muslim characters and storylines. Little Mosque on the Prairie ran for six seasons in Canada. All-American Muslim debuted in the U.S. in 2011. Sleeper Cell, an HBO series, debuted in 2005 and lasted two seasons.

4. Our Language

The Patriot Act, enhanced interrogation, drone attacks, al Qaeda, sleeper cells, waterboarding, ground zero, the Taliban. These are some of the words that are forever etched into our minds as a result of 9/11. The U.S. redefined torture and called it enhanced interrogation. The Patriot Act is a sweeping law and a frequent target of civil libertarians, but for many of us it simply means “big brother is watching.”  The Patriot Act made it significantly easier for law enforcement agencies to search, among other things, medical, telephone and financial records. Even library records are fair game in pursuit of a terrorist threat, so the "right to privacy" extends beyond your front door less than it used to. Perhaps the most frequent phrase that emanated from 9/11 is the “war on.” Prior to 9/11 there was the War on Poverty, and the War on Drugs, but that was pretty much it. The image of war, the connotation of war, led politicians to judiciously use the phrase. The attacks on 9/11 introduced the War on Terror and ever since we have had a litany of paper wars. There’s the War on Women, the War on Religion, the War on Health, the War on Christmas just to name a few.

5. The World Trade Center 

After years of delay and controversy, and one big gaping hole that poorly passed for a memorial site, reconstruction at the World Trade Center site is now well underway. The 9/11 memorial is complete, with the museum set to open in this month. Nothing is as anticipated as the rise of the first skyscraper. The iconic towers welcomed air travelers into New York for so many years; nothing will promote the feeling of recovery like a new tower. Seven buildings are scheduled to be built at the site. One and Four World Trade Center are on track for completion and occupancy by 2013. Two and Three World Trade Center, as well as the Transportation Hub, are also making progress, set to be finished by around 2015. It will be a welcome site.