Franco Bull Essay
How 9/11 Changed America and Future Generations
by Franco Bull
Holt High School and Lansing Community College Early College
December 4, 2011
The day of September 11, 2001 will be remembered as a day which scarred and terrified Americans and the world in the deepest recesses of their minds for many years. The images of watching people leaping from windows to escape the impenetrable flames will not be easily forgotten by those of us who watched. So shocking were the events that the only question Americans could ask was why; why someone would murder 3,000 human beings, many with children, wives, husbands, parents. However, it’s not quite the towers falling that will leave the most lasting mark on America domestically and internationally; it influenced our decisions as a nation afterward, and it is our response which is what will have a larger section in future generations’ history books. While those of my generation have lived through the towers falling, the future generation will live through the American response, and that is what will make or break the country in the future.
One notable observation that can be noted regarding September 11th is the heroism that served as an example for the nation to follow and revere. Flight 97 is one such example, the story of the brave passengers of the plane who came together, voted on the best course of action, and took the fight to the terrorists. That has been described as the very first victory in the war on terror. There are also the many firefighters, police, paramedics, volunteers and all sorts of people who devoted themselves and sacrificed life and health to clean the city and search for survivors. Stories such as these motivated Americans and were (and still are) viewed as heroes, the winners of the first battles of the war on terror. That response by the people certainly changed the nation, most certainly for the better.
When a lot of people view America’s response to the terrorist attacks with regards to the international stage, it is generally negative. People view September 11th as a low point for international relations. However, this is refuted by the fact that millions of people all around the world gathered together in support of the United States. Even people in Iran gathered together in support of the United States despite Iran’s relatively anti-American stance. The anti-American sentiment came as a result of the United States’ retaliation which, despite official statements regarding the motivation, was accelerated by September 11th. The invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan would never have occurred without the terrorist attacks. The terrorist attacks could very well have not spurred any action whatsoever. Instead, however, the United States invaded two nations in the Middle East because it recognized that there was a new threat in the new millennia. The result of this retaliation was two decade-long wars with thousands of soldiers dead or wounded, and billions of dollars spent. Whether it was just or not doesn’t matter so much as the fact that the two wars alone cost more, resulted in more dead, and lasted longer than the actual towers falling. It’s important to consider.
There is also the matter of legislative action which is still being written due to the terrorist attacks, the most notable among them being the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act was a result of the terrorist attacks, and it has certainly had a tremendous impact on our nation. Once more it’s shown that what’s truly important to the nation is its response to disaster, not the disaster itself. TSA is another notable example of America’s legislative reaction to the terrorist attacks. Both of these are the most well known actions by the United States government in response to the new terrorist threat.
This is not to say that the actual event of the attacks is not significant; that would be a fallacious statement to say the least. September 11th is easily the second most significant attack on the United States in its history, behind only Pearl Harbor. September 11th and Pearl Harbor share many similarities and America’s response in both cases were similar, as would be expected. In both instances there was legislative action on the part of the government, the citizens felt a sense of unity and willingness to support the nation, and there was a clear change in foreign policy from that day forward. Many people died and several million dollars of equipment was destroyed. That much is true. However, it’s undeniable that the result of the attack was even more significant. Had the United States not reacted by declaring war on the axis powers, American history would look very different. In the same vein, had the United States not reacted to September 11th the way it had, today would look very different. Had the United States not invaded Afghanistan, Bin Laden might still be alive, and a second attack might have occurred.
Many people would question why we as Americans need to be reminded that our reaction is more important than the disaster itself. The answer is that the disaster lasted a mere three hours, but America’s reaction will last for centuries, and the proof is in America’s aforementioned response to Pearl Harbor which certainly changed the world. It’s imperative that Americans never forget September 11th, the history that led to it, and most of all, the response from the United States. Mistakes were made in the response, but many good things also happened. As was stated before, America’s response to September 11th is the most important thing to consider; it is this response that is still being initiated that will determine if America survives the new world that the terrorist attacks have created. The war on terror isn’t fought in the present, but for the future.