I wrote the piece below the line on September 7, 2006 as the "anniversary season", my terminology for 9/11 & Katrina, approached. I think the general gist of the piece still stands up pretty well after 5 year
The last days of August and the beginning days of September are usually the time associated with the end of summer and starting, or going back, to school, or going back to work.
In the US now, it is a time to mark anniversaries of two recent events, that have captured that country's public imagination.
The events are, of course, the destruction caused by hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, to Louisiana - New Orleans in particular - as well as, the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and the destruction of the World Trade Center's twin towers, in New York city, on 9/11/01.
Since Katrina was a natural occurring event, I'm betting that, with the exception of those directly effected, public remembrance of it will fade from significance relatively quickly. For the general public, and for history, it will likely become famous only as a symbol of official US administrative incompetence and always associated with the beginning of the decline of George W Bush.
The destruction of the twin towers is another story. Almost from the moment it happened, it has taken on a hugely prominent position in US history.
For example, it is normally characterized as, "the day the world changed", and the use of this phrase to characterize the events of the day began on 9/11.
Should we, or our MSM people, agree with this characterization of 9/11? Maybe. The CBC in announcing some of their programs for the anniversary, on Monday, have been referring to the day using the phrase. A Google search, on variations of the phrase associated with the date 9/11, returns about 56 million references.
Myself, I think there are other days which are more significant - the boxing day big wave for one - but my view fails to consider that the 9/11 event and that phrase - "the day the world changed" - could be used in an extremely successful way politically.
The symbolic significance for the US of 9/11 is beyond question. It has likely now surpassed 7/12/41 - Pearl Harbour Day. The latter, of course, being the "the day that will live in infamy". This anniversary is now fading from symbolic significance as those alive at the time simply die off.
On 9/11, I understood the use of the phrase by the MSM, but thought it was an exaggeration. That day it was the result of shock, fear, horror, finally defiance and determination to get back at "something". On 9/11/ even the MSM was being careful about what or who it was that needed to be gotten back at, however. No one wanted to make the same mistakes they had made after the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma.
Then, as now, for me, the awfulness of that day's events were best captured by the simple background sounds on the videos that had been recorded by amateurs as the second plane crashed into the north tower. I remember, still now, the voices on those videos. The truly human - "Oh my god" - reaction to what people were watching is what registered the effect of the terrible event on those outside the towers in NYC, and to me. For the poor souls trapped in the upper stories inside, the few uncensored MSM live commentator references, after the first plane struck and before the second hit, to people jumping provided a surreal sense of their awful situation (within less than an hour you go from having or serving breakfast to deciding to jump to your death from 1000 feet up).
The world did change after the planes hit the towers. Though, I don't think it needed to, or at least, it didn't need to change in the radical way it seems to have.
Whether democracies made new policies independently based on their own assessment of the events of 9/11 is a question in my mind to which I'm only likely to find an answer sometime in the future. For the time being, I suspect the US, both directly and indirectly, influenced the direction most democracies chose to follow in adopting new policies and practices regarding the "new" terrorism.
For example: the Center for Strategic and International Studies lists, as an accomplishment since that day, that the US administration and its allies "pursued stronger, harmonized counterterrorism laws and practices globally" (the original link seems to have gone missing over time so here is a link to a pdf publication CSIS compiled re the 5th year assessment of the war on terror). Some renewed cooperation would have occurred normally, but I'll bet, when countries were drawing up new anti-terrorist legislation the shadow of the current US administration was flitting around the legislative drafting rooms.
In some sense, since that day, the democratic world has gone a bit crazy. It seems that every new terrorist incident, or potential incident, provide more reasons for politicians to consider broader authoritarian powers.
The chain of events goes something like this: a terrorist bombing occurs or terrorist suspects are arrested for plotting something; a senior politician will give a speech or comment for the media that the freedoms we all take for granted are under attack -(terrorist, particularly of the Muslim variety, hate our freedoms); then, another senior politician or the same one that gave the speech or provided the comment, will suggest new legislative measures to limit the freedoms we take for granted.
I'm afraid but not of terrorists or bombings. I'm afraid that 9/11 will be considered "the day the world changed" by historians when they consider the events that provided an opportunity for politicians, in liberal democracies, to shift their societies more towards authoritarian rule.