If you are old enough to remember, there’s no question that you can cite the exact moment you learned about the hijacked aircraft that collided with the iconic World Trade Center towers in lower Manhattan and the Pentagon in Washington, DC. It was an excruciating day for the world, and it marked a definitive, and many would argue patriotic, change in many aspects of American culture and foreign policy. It was the only other time in history that America saw such a devastating attack from the air; the first one of course was the bombing raids of Pearl Harbor in 1941. September 11 wasn’t just an American tragedy. It was a global one. In the 15 years since 9/11, a an event that cost over 3,000 Americans their lives, there are ongoing consequences and legacies that continue to impact us all every day.
Longer Air Travel Wait Times
Some Americans are old enough to remember a time when you could essentially breeze through the security lines at the airport. Now, of course, federal security guidelines have been implemented that require shoe removal and other relative inconveniences that make the check-in process longer and more arduous. On the positive side: the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) now has a pre-screening program that helps frequent fliers get through those long lines faster. For a mere $85, you receive a five-year benefit where you walk right through security without scanning your laptop, shoes, liquids, belts and light outerwear. Check online to verify what airports and airlines participate in the program. The good news is the list is getting longer with more smaller, regional airports in mid-sized markets participating, ensuring us all a happier travels!
Increased Global Awareness
No matter what your political stance, nearly everyone can agree that the September 11 attacks caused most Americans to start paying close attention to geopolitical situations all over the world. Whether you flocked to hear the opinions of O’Reilly or Jon Stewart, political pundit shows cropped up all over the airwaves. The 2008 elections saw a spike in participation by young voters; studies and articles have shown that since 9/11, millennials are more likely to engage in community and political activities.
Record Tourism for U.S. Visitors
It’s true that tourism numbers around the world plummeted to all-time lows after the attacks on 9/11; however, the United States is back on top as being one of the planet’s most popular destinations. In 2007 alone, some 60 million people came to these fair shores to visit the land of the free. By 2014, that number would reach nearly 74 million. New York also saw a spike in tourists, especially those who are interested in the breathtaking views from the top of the Freedom Tower and its One World Observatory, the building and observation deck built on the site of the original towers. Outbound tourism from the U.S. is also higher, reaching an impressive 68 million in 2014.
Decreased Dependency on Foreign Fuel
Prior to 9/11, the U.S. got most of its oil from countries in or around the Persian Gulf. Domestic natural gas production and tar sands imports from Canada have lessened our internal demand for oil from the Middle East. Since most Americans continue to drive more fuel efficient cars, we could see a continuing decline in demand for oil from that part of the globe.
Increased Interaction Online
While social media wasn’t particularly active before September 11, the youth of the world began to find each other online soon after the attacks. The conversations that were borne in chat rooms and forums eventually moved over to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. This openness would lead to the so-called Arab Spring, which toppled many totalitarian regimes in places like Egypt and Tunisia. The region is still undergoing a tremendous amount of instability, but at least it can be said that the people who did not historically have a voice have spoken.
Broadcast Networks Remembered How to be Generous
In the wake of the attacks, nearly every cable and broadcast network ran uninterrupted images of New York City around the clock. For several days, nothing broke in: not regularly scheduled programming and not, almost shockingly, advertising. On September 21, 2001, heads of all four of the major broadcasters (NBC, CBS, Fox and ABC) all decided that they needed to do something. “America: A Tribute to Heroes” was part concert, part telethon, with legendary musical acts performing some of their most inspirational material and luminary movie stars like Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks taking calls from millions of donors. All of it was broadcast simultaneously on all four networks without a single commercial break. The networks kept it up with similar benefits for the survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.
There’s no straightforward way to meditate on the impact of the September 11 attacks. However you choose to honor it, take a moment to remember how fragile life is and what a gift it is to be here to enjoy it.