20 years after 9/11: How the world has changed

How have we changed since Sept. 11, 2001?

HOUSTON – How have we changed since Sept. 11, 2001?

“In many ways we are different,” says Dr. Asim Shah, Executive Vice-Chair of Baylor College of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry.

However, Shah also admits his response would have been different up until recently.

“Three weeks ago, I would have said that people are sort of forgetting about 9/11,” says Shah. “They are kind of relaxed, they are forgetting about Afghanistan.”

The past is very much coming to life again in recent weeks with the exit of Americans from Afghanistan.

“People have reimagined the trauma of 9/11. The memories and all that, and some of them are reliving that memory,” Shah said.

Shah added that the events can be a trigger for those veterans coping with PTSD, a disorder not often discussed prior to 9/11, but addressed much more openly in the aftermath of the attacks and the War on Terror.

There is no doubt 9/11 impacted America’s psyche on various levels, but it also created other changes.

The biggest difference for Houstonians can be found in the sector of that morning’s greatest failure, airport security.

Dallas-based Attorney Steven Badger spent nearly 10 years as a lead lawyer in legal actions taken against airlines and aviation security companies after 9/11.

“The way security was prior to 9/11, and I’ve got videos showing what it was like on the morning of 9/11 as the terrorists were walking through Dulles airport, it was atrocious,” says Badger who is quick to point out that security is “tremendously better” since the creation of TSA by lawmakers.

In fact, following 9/11, there was a newfound focus on safety on Capitol Hill, sparking much innovation.

“Technology has advanced at a much greater capacity than it normally does as a result of 9/11,” says Sal Lifreiri, a corporate security adviser for the developer at the World Trade Center.

Lifrieri highlights two key legislative acts as keeping the nation safer through technology. The now controversial Patriot Act, which was intended to intercept and obstruct terrorism. The other is the SAFETY Act, which was, in essence, an innovative call by the feds to outside developers.

“They wanted companies to be able to create some research and development and develop new technologies that could be used to counter terrorism,” Lifrieri said.

U.S. Representative Troy Nehls, a combat veteran of the War on Terror, tells KPRC 2 Investigates that “some of these initiatives or these programs that have been created have done a pretty decent job keeping the American people safe.”

Changes evident in travel, security and the battlefield, according to U.S. Representative Dan Crenshaw, a member of Seal Team 3.

”It would be a very, very, very rare thing if a seal ever did a combat mission in his career prior to 9/11. Post 9/11, you’d be doing 100 or 200 on a deployment,” Crenshaw said.

However, Crenshaw also pointed out that “there have been a lot of changes, but only for a very small part of society.”

Society is much more divided in 2021, and because of this, Crenshaw wonders how America would respond today if a similar attack took place.

“I’m not even sure we will really rally together when we are down anymore like we did on 9/11,” he said.

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