“America will never be the same.” This phrase has been repeated over and over again by journalists, anchors, and much of the American public. But it’s true. America, once thought as untouchable, impenetrable, and worlds away from the problems that plague so much of our planet, now has come to the realization that we are not as separated from these problems as we once thought. In a matter of an hour on September 11, 2001, two symbols of American power, economically and militarily, became the targets of 19 people who, in the name of their God, aimed to bring the country to it’s knees.
In some ways, these 19 people were successful. Within minutes after the attacks, the cities of America were thrown into chaos. Center City Philadelphia, normally jammed with traffic, became jammed with people fleeing office buildings and high-rise apartments, fearing for their lives. The Schuylkill Expressway and other highways going into the city became eerily quiet, while outbound lanes were moving at a snail’s pace as people tried to distance themselves from what they thought would be the next targets. Businesses, government agencies, schools and universities citywide shut down. States of Emergency were declared. Mayor John Street scrambled to calm the city down, urging citizens to stay inside. Major landmarks and areas where large numbers of people normally convene were evacuated. For all intents and purposes, the city of Philadelphia was shut down.
And this just wasn’t happening in Philadelphia alone. The scene was repeated across the country. Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle. In almost every major city, people decided the best thing to do was be at home with their families, watching this terrible tragedy unfold, and pray for their safety and for those lost. No matter which channel you turned to, the horrible images of a commercial airliner flying into what possibly may be the most recognizable landmark in America were being played time and time again. MTV stopped their regular programming and began simulcasting CBS News. The Home Shopping Network cancelled its programming until further notice and was carrying live coverage. Americans felt numb and hopeless. How could such a ghastly act occur on our shores?
Within hours of these attacks, the figures began to roll in. 50,000 people worked in the World Trade Center. As many as 5,000 people were missing and unaccounted for. Companies began to inform the media that their entire staffs working in the building were missing. At least 100 were missing at the Pentagon. The New York Stock Exchange closed for four straight days as economists worried that the panic created by these attacks would plunge the market into a deep sell off, causing a recession in an already weak and meandering economy. Americans came to the realization that this was much worse than Pearl Harbor. In fact, to them it was much, much worse.
But what these terrorists underestimated was the resolve of the American people. The American Red Cross, suffering a serious shortage of blood, feared that the catastrophe would overextend its network. But that was not to be. Thousands upon thousands of people turned out to give blood. Many centers had to turn away people, as they could not handle the outpouring of support. A television station in Denver raised over $300,000 in a matter of 24 hours to aid in the relief effort. Flag sales shot through the roof. A person in New York City reported that he had sold 300 flags on a street corner in a matter of ten minutes. Americans, once listless in a time of uncertainty, had found a renewed sense of patriotism in their country. President Bush, who had vowed to change the tone in Washington but had not succeeded much in doing so, found a Congress completely united behind him regardless of political affiliation, without him having to do a single thing. Not a single member of Congress voted against a resolution to provide assistance to the relief effort and for future retaliation against those responsible. Almost overnight, a country responded to assist their fellow Americans and vowed to find those responsible and punish them.
If this tragedy has shown me one thing about America, it is that we are not as self-centered and selfish as I once thought. Even with all the partisan bickering in Washington, the racial tensions in our streets, and the lack of spirituality among many in our country, we have pulled together in a time of despair and need to heal those that need healing, care for those who need caring, and help those that need helping. It is a testament to the power of this country. We are no longer African-Americans, Latino-Americans, or even Arab-Americans for that matter. We are Americans, and darn proud of it. Maybe the journalists and anchors are right. America WILL never be the same.
God bless all the families and friends who have been directly affected by this tragedy, and most of all, God Bless America.
Journalism Student, Temple University