How has America Changed Since 9/11?

On April 3, a panel was held in Knott Auditorium to discuss how America and Americans have changed since the attacks on 9/11. The panel was moderated by Dr. Timothy Fritz and comprised of four Mount faculty members, President Dr. Tim Trainor, Dr. Pratibha Kumar, Dr. Timothy Wolfe and Professor Bill Prudden. Each panelist looked at a different aspect of how Americans adapted to the new post-9/11 America.

Dr. Fritz started off the hour and a half talk by explaining why he himself couldn’t give the talk alone and recounted his memory of September 11. He began by talking about how amazing the 90s were in comparison to the Cold War era. He did this to show how Americans felt slightly untouchable, even with the first attempt on the World Trade Center in ’93. He also set up the general thesis for the whole talk which was the idea that the attacks called for people to re-evaluate American life and culture.

The floor was then turned over to President Trainor who spoke about the changes in the military post-9/11.  He focused his talk on three main points: how strategy and doctrine evolved, changes impacting military personnel and the impact on the nation. Under each of these bullet points he gave examples of what the military looked like pre and post the attacks, as well as a list of the pros and cons of these changes. First, he compared the way operations were conducted before 9/11 versus the way they are now by using specific examples of military strategy.  Then he went into further detail of how the military physically changed, i.e. allowing women to join, getting more ‘boots on the ground,’ battlefield medicine, etc. Finally, he examined how enhanced security impacted the nation in general.

Then Dr. Kumar took the stage, where she talked about privacy and security from a technological standpoint. Just as Trainor did, she framed her segment around a few main points. She first gave her account of the attacks from an immigrant and journalist’s view, which gave a very interesting and different perspective to the audience and panelists. She then briefly defined what the First and Fourth Amendments are and how they were effected after the attacks, namely the PATRIOT Act. She, like Trainor, weighed the positives and negatives of the government having access to our technology and followed that up with Americans’ feelings towards this intrusion. Kumar then looked into the differences between privacy and security and really gave a clear difference between the two. After displaying the benefits and problems with collection and surveillance, she concluded that this data needs to be better regulated.

Dr. Wolfe was up next with his view of the changes in security and intelligence from a sociologist’s view.  Just as the previous speakers did, he told his account of the events that day, and also followed the model and touched on three points. First, he looked at the structural changes to security and intelligence, which included the creation of homeland security, TSA and the PATRIOT Act. Then he observed how the public reacted to 9/11 and the naturally heightened patriotism and embrace of loved ones but also the increase in fear and hate crimes.  Lastly, he looked at the effect the attacks had on veterans and their families and how soldiers with PTSD are treated but civilians, soldiers and otherwise.  Wolfe came to the conclusion that we are resilient people, but even we have limits and because of that, veterans need more support.

Last up was Professor Prudden who looked at the genetic and scientific changes 9/11 caused.  He looked more closely at how the children of 9/11 were affected, even though they were not born prior to the attacks. Furthermore, he examined how nationally we were changed emotionally, so how we once were tough as nails but now we are more brittle and emotionally charged. He helped prove this through his account of the attacks and his lack of stress caused by them. With that he started in on how we process trauma both pre and post 9/11. He claimed that the attacks did in fact change the way we process loss, fear and trauma.

“We must not forget the event, our reactions to it, and the life lessons it revealed,” Dr. Wolfe said.


Photo Courtesy Michelle Whistle

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