Sunday, September 20, 2009

Post 9/11: Life is better.....right?

About a week ago marked the eighth anniversary of the terrorist attacks that significantly altered how our nation approaches life.

Let's face it; a whole lot has changed. Since 2001, we have been at war in Afghanistan and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Plus, homeland security is being taken much more seriously than it was back then.

The event has had a huge impact on the political landscape. Every politician running for office has to be ready to answer questions that specifically address our nation’s safety.

However, though this event had a profound impact on us, we continue to effectively adjust to post-9/11 life. An excellent example of this is how we commemorated the event last week.

In the first year or so after the attacks, discussion and analysis of the events was very low key. Media coverage often focused exclusively on memorial services that remembered the events, but not much more than that.

We rarely saw the re-broadcasting of the planes as they slammed into the World Trade Center towers in New York or the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C.

That is pretty remarkable when one thinks about it. In this age of 24-hour-a-day news coverage, even the most unremarkable news stories get overanalyzed if they have compelling video to accompany it.

Or heaven forbid that a big celebrity should die. Michael Jackson died in late June and some cable channels still regularly run programming featuring him. Never mind that these same channels would not touch him with a 10-foot pole in the weeks leading up to his death.

If somebody like Jackson will generate good ratings, our media will beat the story to death.

This did not happen with the 9/11 attacks. Despite having some of the most compelling video of the television age, most media outlets showed remarkable restraint when it came to showing it.

In one of the rare instances of common sense winning out over the push for ratings, the video of the plane attacks was rarely shown. I suppose it was out of respect for those who lost loved ones and for the nation as a whole.

In recent years, this has changed. Last week, there was a lot more analysis and commentary about the tragedy that I can remember since it happened. On the anniversary, the History Channel devoted most of its programming to this event. If it wasn't the actual attack itself, then there was substantial programming about the history of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. For the most part, the shows were thoughtful and tasteful. In other words, it was an excellent history lesson for us all.

Perhaps the must important aspect in the aftermath of 9/11 is that another attack like it has not happened on American soil. When the attacks first happened, there was rhetoric that these attacks ushered in an age in which the United States would now have to deal with life similar to other countries.

This has not happened. The United States has not turned into a larger version of Israel, which has to deal with terrorist attacks on its soil on a frequent basis.

For all the criticism our government receives, it deserves credit for this. When observing how easy it is for people to enter this country illegally, it makes our country that much more vulnerable to our enemies.

However, the United States remains relatively safe from outside forces.

Let's hope our leaders continue to make homeland security a point of emphasis.

We made ourselves vulnerable once before. We better not get that complacent again.

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