Increased security, worry, and a more united AmericaReprinted from and courtesy of Junior Scholastic, November, 26, 2001
After September 11, everything changed. If you follow the news, you've heard it a thousand times—the idea that, since the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., nothing in America will ever be the same. In many ways, things have changed. There's more security at airports, sports events, and even schools. Classes have canceled field trips to big cities, and families have put off long-planned vacations. Sports fans must go through metal detectors to enter stadiums and arenas. Workers fear that the next letter they open could be poisoned with anthrax. All over the country, people are having trouble sleeping, worried about what might come next.
Go to Disney World—Please
Many Americans canceled plans to fly after September 11. The airlines say they lost 19 million bookings in the six weeks after the terrorist attacks. As a result, as many as 150,000 airline workers worldwide have lost their jobs. Attendance at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, has dropped, and the park has asked employees to give up 20 percent of their hours and wages. President Bush has publicly encouraged Americans to visit the park as a patriotic act. Those who still fly face lengthy delays, as security workers and National Guard troops check bags for knives or other weapons. The government has hired 1,000 armed marshals to accompany flights nationwide.
A New Kindness
The changes are not all for the worse. The country may be a scarier place since September 11, but it is also more united. "Two people in our neighborhood died in the World Trade Center," says Pedro Martinez, 12, of Freehold, New Jersey. "It scared many people, but now everybody is a lot kinder to each other." Paulina Kruzel, 13, of Chicago, Illinois, agrees. "What I've seen is a lot of people coming together now and helping each other out," she says. "And a lot more people are putting American flags up to show their support." More students are saying the Pledge of Allegiance in schools. And more Americans are finding ways to help their neighbors. As of October 26, Americans had donated $542 million to the Red Cross to help victims of the attacks and their families. From coast to coast, people are seeing their local police, firefighters, and rescue workers in a new light. After so many sacrificed their lives at the World Trade Center, people say they will no longer take their protectors for granted.
Changes have taken place in the home as well. The No. 1 album in the U.S. the week of October 15 was God Bless America, a benefit album featuring recordings by Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, and other artists. Record numbers of TV viewers are tuning into comfortable old favorites such as Friends and Everybody Loves Raymond—both are enjoying their highest ratings in years. As we become used to what some commentators call "the new normal," we may face more changes. We may have to carry national identification cards, or get used to more security cameras at malls, intersections, and other public places. But we'll also find reassurance as familiar patterns resume. As Paulina, who lives by Chicago's Midway Airport, says, "It was so good to hear the planes fly again. It had been too quiet."
What Has Not Changed
With all the talk of what's changed about America, it's worth remembering that much of what makes the U.S. unique has remained the same. We still enjoy our basic freedoms, including those of religion, speech, and the press. In schools that have recently reinstated the Pledge of Allegiance, for example, students have the right not to recite the pledge for religious or political reasons. In New York City, Schools Chancellor Harold Levy said that tolerance of different people was at least as patriotic as reciting the pledge. "This is what it is to be an American," Levy said as he urged students to be respectful of their Arab and Muslim classmates. People from around the world are still seeking the opportunity to come to America. "I ask you to uphold the values of America and remember why so many have come here," said President Bush in his address to the nation on September 20. "America is successful because of the hard work and creativity and enterprise of our people. These were the true strengths of our economy before September 11, and they are our strengths today."