When the Twin Towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001, they came crashing down on the Cortlandt Street subway stop on the No. 1 line. The station was buried under debris, its sturdy beams bent like paper clips.
For nearly 17 years, the station has sat unused — achingly missing from the New York City subway map — even as a new sprawling World Trade Center complex has sprouted aboveground.
At long last, the station reopened at noon Saturday with transit officials, politicians and eager riders gathering to welcome it back. Sleek, bright and airy, it bears little resemblance to its old, dank self.
According to Wikipedia, the September 11 attacks transformed the first term of President George W. Bush and led to what he has called the Global War on Terrorism. The accuracy of describing it as a “war” and the political motivations and consequences are the topic of strenuous debate. The US government increased military operations, economic measures and political pressure on groups it accused of being terrorists, as well as on governments and countries accused of sheltering them. October 2001 saw the first military action initiated by the US. Under this policy, the NATO invaded Afghanistan in order to remove the Taliban regime (which harbored al-Qaeda) and to capture al-Qaeda forces.
The war, however, is ongoing and has not been won. Critics point out that the Afghan conflict has contributed to the destabilization of neighbouring Pakistan and Afghanistan itself is far from at peace—Lord Ashdown, British diplomat and former international High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, has gone as far as to describe the country as “a failed state”. The US government has also asserted that the US invasion of Iraq is connected to 9/11.
The September 11 attacks also precipitated a focus on domestic security issues and the creation of a new cabinet-level federal agency, the Department of Homeland Security. The USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 was passed soon after the attacks, giving law enforcement agencies sweeping search and surveillance powers over US citizens without a warrant. This led to the creation in 2002 of the Information Awareness Office (IAO), led by John Poindexter. The IAO has initiated a program called Total Information Awareness, amended in May 2003 to Terrorist Information Awareness (TIA), with the aim of developing technology that would enable it to collect and process massive amounts of information about every individual in the United States, and trace patterns of behavior that could help predict terrorist activities. The information the IAO would gather includes Internet activity, credit card purchase histories, airline ticket purchases, car rentals, medical records, educational transcripts, driver’s licenses, utility bills, tax returns, and other available data. Critics of the IAO believe it goes too far in the sacrifice of civil liberties and privacy, putting in place an Orwellian infrastructure prone to abuse. Many major events the United States has hosted since September 11, 2001 have been designated National Special Security Events (NSSE), because of concerns of terrorism. Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia Chief Charles Ramsey made the point clear before the state funeral of former US president Ronald Reagan: “In a post 9/11 world we have to be very concerned about that and aware of the potential for something to happen.”
In the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the United States and other countries around the world were placed on a high state of alert against potential follow-up attacks. Civilian air travel across the US and Canada was—for the first time ever—almost completely suspended for three days with numerous locations and events affected by closures, postponements, cancellations, and evacuations. Other countries imposed similar security restrictions. In the United Kingdom, for instance, civilian aircraft were forbidden to fly over London for several days after the attack.
Part of the North Tower’s antenna mast displayed at the museum in Washington, D.C., behind it a panel of September 12 front pages from around the world
The attacks had major worldwide political effects. Many other countries introduced tough anti-terrorism legislation and took action to cut off terrorist finances, including the freezing of bank accounts suspected of being used to fund terrorism. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies stepped up cooperation to arrest terrorist suspects and break up suspected terrorist cells around the world.
The attack prompted numerous memorials and services all over the world with many countries, along with the United States, declaring a national day of mourning. In Berlin, 200,000 Germans marched to show their solidarity with America. The French newspaper of record, Le Monde, ran a front-page headline reading “Nous sommes tous Américains”, or “We are all Americans”. In London, the US national anthem was played at the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. (To mark the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, New York City lit the Empire State Building in purple and gold, to say “thank you” for this action.) In the immediate aftermath, support for the United States’ right to defend itself was expressed across the world, and by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1368. The Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, was in Washington D.C. at the time of the attacks and invoked the ANZUS military alliance as a pledge of Australian assistance to the U.S.
Reaction to the attacks in the Muslim world was mixed. Also, shortly after the attack, the media picked up on a number of celebrations of the attacks in the Middle East with images of these celebrations being broadcast on television and published in print. Less publicized were public displays of sympathy, including candlelight vigils in countries like Iran.
An increase in racial tensions was seen in countries such as England, with a number of violent crimes linked to the September 11th attacks. The most severe example was seen in Peterborough, where teenager Ross Parker was murdered by a gang of up to ten Muslims of Pakistani background who had sought a white male to attack.
On the other hand, hate crimes against Muslims also increased around the world. For example, Canada experienced a 16-fold increase in anti-Muslim attacks immediately a year after 9/11. In the year leading to the attack, there were only 11 reported crimes but a year following 9/11, there were 173 hate crime cases reported. The same also happened in the United Kingdom and Australia. In the latter’s case, a study conducted in Sydney and Melbourne revealed an overwhelming majority of Muslim residents who experienced racism or racist violence since the attack. Another study claimed that hate crimes “increased for all Muslims after 9/11, although the relative risk was much higher for those individuals living in countries with smaller Muslim populations.”
Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, George W. Bush’s job approval rating soared to 86%. On September 20, 2001, the president spoke before the nation and a joint-session of Congress, regarding the events of that day, the intervening nine days of rescue and recovery efforts, and his intent in response to those events in going after the terrorists who orchestrated the attacks. In the speech, he characterized the speech itself as being akin to the President’s customary State of the Union address.
The attacks also had immediate and overwhelming effects upon the United States population. People began rallying around the popularized phrase, “United We Stand,” in hopes of being resilient and keeping the American spirit alive in the face of a devastating attack. The majority of the US population rallied behind President Bush and the federal government in widespread support to the recovery and the expectant reaction to the attacks. Many people joined together to help the victims. Gratitude toward uniformed public-safety workers, and especially toward firefighters, was widely expressed in light of both the drama of the risks taken on the scene and the high death toll among the workers. Many people paid tribute to the police officers and fire fighters who died during the attacks by wearing NYPD and FDNY hats. The number of casualties among the emergency service personnel was unprecedented. The highly visible role played by Rudy Giuliani, the Mayor of New York City, won him high praise nationally and in New York City. He was named Person of the Year by Time magazine for 2001, and at times had a higher profile in the US than President George W. Bush.
Blood donations saw a surge in the weeks after 9/11. According to a report by the Journal of the American Medical Association, “…the number of blood donations in the weeks after the September 11, 2001, attacks was markedly greater than in the corresponding weeks of 2000 (2.5 times greater in the first week after the attacks; 1.4 times greater in the second to fourth weeks after the attack).”
Two major public reactions to the attacks were a surge of public expressions of patriotism not seen since World War II, marked most often by displays of the American flag; and an unprecedented level of respect, sympathy, and admiration for New York City and New Yorkers as a group by Americans in other parts of the United States. Some criticized this particular reaction, noting that not everyone who died was from New York City (for example, some of the passengers on the planes), and that the Arlington, Virginia community also suffered in the attacks. At the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show that took place in New York in February 2002, a tribute was paid to the search and rescue dogs who not only assisted in locating survivors and bodies from the rubble, but were also inside the World Trade Center buildings before they collapsed.
In the weeks following the attacks, there was a surge in incidents of harassment and hate crimes against South Asians, Middle Easterners, and anyone thought to be “Middle Eastern-looking” people—particularly Sikhs, because Sikh males usually wear turbans, which are stereotypically associated with Muslims by many Americans. Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh man, was one of the first victims of this backlash; he was shot dead on September 15 at the gas station he owned in Mesa, Arizona. In many cities there were reports of vandalism against mosques and other Islamic institutions, including some cases of arson. In the year after the attack, anti-Muslim hate crimes jumped 1,600 percent and this is further aggravated by a climate of prejudice that manifests in different ways.
The only death officially recorded as a homicide in New York City on September 11 was Henryk Siwiak, a Polish immigrant who was shot in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. While he had taken a wrong turn on his way to a new job onto a street known for high rates of robbery and drug dealing, his family has theorized he may have been the victim of a hate crime in the wake of the attacks, since he was wearing camouflage clothing, had dark hair and spoke imperfect, heavily accented English—all of which may have led someone to believe he had something to do with the attackers. The case remains unsolved; police are open to the family’s theory but have not classified the killing as a bias crime.
In 2008, author Moustafa Bayoumi released the book How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America. The author says mass arrests and deportations of Arabs and Arab Americans were conducted by the various government organizations, including the FBI, often with insufficient evidence to connect them to terrorism; that some were incarcerated indefinitely without notifying the detainee’s relatives, as if they had just disappeared. Bayoumi maintains deportation of Arabs and Arab-Americans significantly increased following 9/11, often at short notice, saying in one case a man was deported without his clothes.
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