September 11, 2001, is a date forever etched into the consciousness of America, just like December 7, 1941, and November 22, 1963. The terrorist attacks in 2001, like the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the assassination of John Kennedy, are shared experiences for all Americans.
Yes: 9/11 was a shock to America, and an event (like Pearl Harbor and Kennedy’s assassination) which changed America. Americans are told that because of this shock, “9/11 changed everything.” But did it really “change everything”?
Let’s assume for a moment that 9/11 changed everything for every single American. That’s 300 million people. Let’s add to that mix the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world and assume that 9/11 changed everything for them as well. And, just for good measure, let’s add another 200 million people, world-wide, who also had everything changed by 9/11. That’s 2 billion people who had everything changed by 9/11. That still leaves 4 billion people unaffected by 9/11. How can one event “change everything” if it has no meaning to two-thirds of the people on this planet? It cannot.
Closer to home, let’s look at just America. Did 9/11 really “change everything” for America? Did 9/11 really “change everything” for all Americans? Or even most Americans?
Like most Americans you rise each morning with thoughts of family. You have your commute to work, or your garden to tend. Your children need dressing and breakfast before they head off to school. There’s the lawn to be mowed, the oil changed in the car, the haircut or beauty shop appointment to make, Bible study to attend. Your dog needs walking and the cat box needs shoveling. At night there’s homework for the kids and their prayers before bedtime.
On the weekend there’s softball practice, that game of golf or tennis, and your favorite team playing on the television. And, of course, there are your weekly church services.
Weekday or Saturday the mailbox is filled with magazines and refinance offers and your neighbor’s mis-delivered mail. And, of course bills, bills which are due to be paid each month.
You have birthday and holiday gifts to buy. There are the twice-yearly dental check-ups. There are leaves be raked in the fall, snow to be shoveled in the winter, and annuals to be planted in the spring. There’s your son’s graduation to attend, your daughter’s wedding to plan, your retirement to anticipate.
Day in and day out, week in and week out, month after month, year after year, your life progresses with its ups and downs, with births and deaths, with illnesses and with deaths. There are days filled with joy and days filled with sorrow. For most Americans did 9/11 change any of the things I listed? No…9/11 changed none of that.
Now, I have already stated that 9/11 did change America. And the administration’s reaction to 9/11 has changed a lot of things for many Americans.
Yes, Americans have changed some behaviors and become more vigilant. We endure tighter security at the airport.
We remember each 9/11 anniversary and those who perished that day.
We honor the soldiers, sailors and Marines who protect us and those who have given their lives defending America, especially in the wake of 9/11. We mourn with the families of America’s fallen heroes and realize that their lives have changed forever.
Yes, there are many things which changed on that fateful day six years ago.
But as far as I can tell, the rally cry of “9/11 changed everything” has been used mostly to justify an unnecessary war of choice in the Middle East and to pass draconian laws intended to subvert the Constitutional protections we all enjoy. In that respect “9/11 changed everything” has (unfortunately) worked quite well for this administration.
But the truth is: 9/11 did NOT change EVERYTHING.
On a final note: One thing which did change for me: Having a wife who works as a flight attendant, I now find it difficult, if not impossible, to watch videos from 9/11, or even watch the recently released movies about that day.