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Life in America 10 years after 9/11: Sense of unity lost?

September 11th, 2011 12:58 am by Madison Mathews

In the decade that has passed since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the effects brought on by the events of that day can still be felt throughout the country.
Daniel Nunley was supposed to be in New York City on the morning of 9/11 for a business trip. He became ill earlier that week, causing him to stay in North Carolina, where he lived at the time.
After turning on the news that Tuesday morning 10 years ago, Nunley said he believed he had gotten sick for a reason, as he watched the events unfold throughout the day.
“It was kind of like watching a movie, where you see things get destroyed, but actually knowing that you’ve been to New York and walked in the World Trade Center and seeing that that was actually happening, I guess, brought it into a realization,” he said.
The thought of terrorism, especially an attack against the United States, wasn’t really something that passed through Nunley’s mind before 9/11. When looking at pictures and footage of the planes being flown into the towers, he said it’s a hard thing to forget when thinking about how the attacks and a decade of war have shaped the country.
“We are still the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave,’ but I feel that we’ve lost a lot of our freedom. There has to be a whole lot of checkpoints now in the United States,” he said.
Between the government’s response to the attacks, which sent the country into combat operations that are still being fought, the Patriot Act and ever-increasing security around the country, Nunley said he believes the post-9/11 American society has suffered.
“Because of that, our rights were being pulled back because of fear of terrorism and something like that happening again,” he said.
After 9/11, much of the country experienced a strong sense of unity following the attacks. Nunley said whatever unity had been there has definitely been lost over the past decade.
“Not putting our country down, but I believe America reached a point and a place that we kind of felt untouchable. Then we got attacked, and when we got attacked, we came together as a nation,” he said.
After just a few years, that strong sense of unity seemed to dissipate as “everybody went back to their own corners,” Nunley said.
“They stopped helping each other. I think that we need to remember that when we come together as a nation, that we can be more strong,” he said.
Thinking about the 10th anniversary of the attacks, Nunley said 9/11 is something that should be remembered and talked about, if not only to remember those who died, but also as a way for us to learn about who we are as a people.
For others, 9/11 hasn’t really affected life’s daily routine. That’s the case for Sue Clinton, who moved to Johnson City from Michigan just a few years prior to 2001.
Like many, Clinton remembers watching TV that morning as the newscasts began to air.
“I just went blank, just looking at the TV. You can’t think about how something like that would happen and then you realize that it happened and how it went wrong,” she said.
After watching the initial newscasts, Clinton said she quickly grabbed a blank VHS tape and began recording the event’s coverage as it was happening in order to document the tragic day.
While she didn’t have much to say about how her life has been impacted since 9/11, Clinton said she doesn’t think the government has changed much in 10 years, though she doesn’t approve of the Patriot Act and how it has been used.
“I don’t like the Patriot Act. It took away rights that we have with our freedom of speech, so I don’t care for that. Big business runs the country. The government doesn’t run the country. It’s no longer a country by the people,” she said.
While the additional security in places like airports has been one of the biggest changes to life in post-9/11 America, it hasn’t really affected those who don’t travel much.
Other than driving around the area, Tom Milligan has said his life in the mountains of East Tennessee hasn’t changed.
Milligan said the threat of terrorism is something that’s on his mind more often, but he’s never been fearful.
In many ways, Milligan said he thinks the landscape of America is still recovering from the attacks, which he believes is something that has continued to bring the country closer together.
“I think there were mistakes made that allowed it to happen and maybe we are not correcting those mistakes, or in some instances, we are overreacting in other ways, so who’s to know?” he said.

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