Old World Order: 9/11 Didn’t Affect Much

Did 9/11 change Americans' way of life?

By Matthew Hutson, published on September 1, 2009 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

Eight years later, we're still hearing about our "post-9/11 world." But is this world so different? Has it changed the way Americans live? Not really, according to new research.

When asked to look back on your life and recall the dates of autobiographical experiences, you'll frequently rely on personal landmarks: "I bought my car while living in Boston, so it had to be before 2004." Moving to a new city makes a good reference point because it changes the fabric of one's life.

A team of researchers led by Norman Brown of the University of Alberta asked people in 10 cities to think aloud while dating personal events. Twenty-four percent of Bosnians who explained their reasoning mentioned a public event-particularly their civil war (1992 to 1995). Thirteen percent in Izmat, Turkey, noted an earthquake that ravaged the city in 1999. But in most other cities-even New York-less than one percent of people referenced any public event at all. So while the attacks may have influenced emotions and attitudes, the biggest practical difference for many may be having to remove their shoes at the airport.

Life Goes On

I asked some long-term New Yorkers if 9/11 changed their lives.

"Nah, except for those stupid patriotic songs I still hear on the radio."
        —Tracy, 30

"I noticed a rise in compassion everywhere that lasted for months."
          —Susan, 47

"I volunteered at the site for six months and it cost me my health."
          —Michael, 48