9/11, Six Years On


Some archival material about the 9/11 attacks as we mark the sixth anniversary of those despicable acts:

The destruction of the World Trade Center and the assault on the Pentagon may well represent an effort to overcome Western media speed and diffusion, and to do so by staging a startling cataclysm involving potent national symbols. But more than that: It would represent an adjustment of the scale of potential terror to the scope of available media. That is, it would not merely have overcome a diffused and quickly distracted media, it would have used the real-time abilities of the new media to stage an epic of murder and destruction, immersing a worldwide audience in horror and confusion as the events occurred. In the end, it would not merely have used media as a tool to disseminate an idea and demoralize an enemy, it would have used the media as one of its primary weapons, and made the audience participants in the apocalypse itself.--Charles Paul Freund, September 11, 2001

Yet, except for the devastating loss of life, these are all changes of degree, not kind. Even the psychological burden of feeling ever vulnerable to attack has a precedent in the Cold War, with omnipresent and credible threat of imminent nuclear annihilation lasting through the 1980s. The brute fact is that daily life in the United States will not change significantly in Tuesday's aftermath. Adults will get on with their work, students with their school, children with their play. Churches may be a little more crowded in coming weeks, and airplanes a little less. But we'll move on, even as we mourn.--Mike Lynch, September 13, 2001

With the destruction of the World Trade Center and much of its surroundings in lower Manhattan, there are serious questions about what to do next, with some suggesting that a memorial park be built on the site of the single greatest act of terror and destruction in U.S. history. Such thoughts are eminently understandable and certainly it will be a long time before the physical debris is removed, much less the psychic scars healed. But it would be a far greater tribute to the American character and to those who died on September 11 to rebuild on the site of the World Trade Center not a replica of what was, but a newer, larger, forward-looking complex--one that would hallow that bloody ground by providing the next generation with even greater possibilities for the future.--Nick Gillespie, September 13, 2001

In the gates, some of the traditional shops were closed. (With only ticketed passengers allowed through, many of these airport businesses could be in trouble.) McDonald's was closed, as was Bow Wow Meow, purveyors of assorted animal kitsch, and Brookstone, merchants of traveler's aids both useful and whimsical. Both airport bars were open, but each with less than a handful of customers. I had never seen an airport concourse more empty before midnight. My flight, a shuttle at the beginning of the weekend, had only around 40 passengers. Normally, it would have been packed. I watched one flight arrive, travelers trudging off forlornly with no eager spouses, kids, or friends to greet them; such familiar scenes of reunion may be a thing of the past. The canned message over the loudspeaker, one I was quite familiar with, reminded us all that solicitors are not sponsored by the airport, and that you needn't pay them. However, with the new ticketed-passengers-only policy, the kids selling candy and deaf people selling pencils had all disappeared.--Brian Doherty, September 17, 2001

I've long opposed American intervention abroad. Self-defense, however, is an entirely different matter. Obviously, the Kojak model is ideal, but I can live with Bronson or Bugs. The important point is to aim our fire at the murderers, not at civilians or at anyone who merely happens to be a usual suspect--and to limit ourselves to a well-defined mission, rather than a vague, all-encompassing "war on terrorism." The Caesar option would lead to further tragedy; the Strangelove path, to utter disaster.--Jesse Walker, September 21, 2001

"Several of the most worrisome provisions," observes the Electronic Frontier Foundation, "appear to be part of a general law enforcement 'wish list' rather than a specific response to terrorism." Remarking on the Justice Department's attempt to hurry the process, Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), asked, "Does it have anything to do with the fact that the department has sought many of these authorities on numerous other occasions, has been unsuccessful in obtaining them, and now seeks to take advantage of what is obviously an emergency situation?" In circumstances such as these, skeptics of state power like to haul out a famous remark by Benjamin Franklin: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." When it comes to deciding which measures will enhance safety and which aspects of liberty are "essential," of course, there is room for debate. At least, there ought to be.--Jacob Sullum, October 2, 2001

Here's a compilation, current through 2005, of articles related to the attacks, foreign policy, civil liberties, and more.

Our December 2001 issue, which was in production when the attacks occurred and includes a symposium on civil liberties, is online here.

On the first anniversary of the attacks, we published a special issue titled "What Price Safety?"

reason's ongoing coverage of terrorism is online here. Search the Topics page for related material.