Understanding the Many Legacies of 9/11
Carl Sullivan / September 8, 2021
A resident of New York City since 1996, I found myself away for a conference on Sept. 11, 2001. In the aftermath, instead of feeling relief, I mostly felt guilty for having been away during the attacks. Such is the strong affinity many New Yorkers have for their home city. By the time I made my way back to NYC three days later, the country was awash with American flags and a sense of national unity unmatched in my lifetime.
Now, 20 years later, any unified sense of purpose forged in those early shellshocked days is long gone. America is deeply divided and like the rest of the world, on edge. The pandemic will dampen this year’s solemn ceremonies to mark the two-decade anniversary, but the media will be saturated with articles, remembrances and documentaries.
Beyond just reliving that awful day, many of us wonder what we’ve learned from 9/11 and the innumerable legacies that have fallen like dominoes in the last 20 years. To make sense of this history (which we are still living through), Flipboard’s “9/11 at 20” project asks experts to explore the impacts of September 11. They cover everything from the war in Afghanistan to the many ways it forever changed the lives of global citizens — our rights to privacy, the way we travel, the way we think and more. These thought leaders, listed below, dive deep into these topics, providing lists of must-read articles for anyone who wants to understand how things have changed over the past two decades. The collection is designed to remind you of all that has happened and to challenge you to ask questions. Did the U.S. make the right decisions? What could have been done differently? And where do we go from here?
- War reporter Carmen Gentile, who was injured in Afghanistan, tries to answer the difficult question: “Who won the war?”
- Arlene Getz, editorial director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, explains how the 9/11-inspired Patriot Act laid the groundwork for restrictions on the free flow of information.
- Garrett M. Graff, author of national bestseller “The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11,” curates a collection of his insightful coverage from the past 20 years.
- Veteran investigative reporter Michael Isikoff examines the many mistakes and misjudgments of the 20-year “war on terror” that was unleashed.
- CFR.org Managing Editor Robert McMahon walks us through the last 20 years of American foreign policy. There were successes (no major terror attack on the U.S.) but they came at a high price.
- “PBS NewsHour” Chief Correspondent and substitute anchor Amna Nawaz details how 9/11 and the government’s response forever changed what it means to be Muslim in America.
- Through photo collections, photographer Phil Penman chronicles how New York City has recovered and changed since 9/11.
- TIME columnist Susanna Schrobsdorff examines how the events of September 11 shaped a generation of American children.
- Author Asma Uddin looks at how the aftermath of 9/11 further politicized Muslim Americans and polarized religion and politics.
- USAFacts contributes a collection of data points about the last 20 years, including how many Americans have died in terror attacks since 9/11.
- Investigative journalist Kim Zetter takes a look at the massive government surveillance programs instituted after the attacks, which lead to Edward Snowden’s leak of NSA documents.
- Author Tony Williams, a senior teaching fellow at the Bill of Rights Institute, explains how four presidential administrations have expanded war powers since 9/11 while Congress ceded control.
- The Points Guy founder and CEO Brian Kelly reminds us what travel was like before September 11 and recaps the many security enhancements that followed.
On this anniversary, we encourage you to go deeper and explore the ramifications of 9/11. By learning our history, we as Americans can “know thyself,” hopefully allowing our society and government to make the best decisions in the face of any crisis.