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How the world has changed since 9/11

Two decades on and the world has never been the same.

20th anniversary of 9/11

It was the chilling occurrence that stopped the world – two hijacked planes flying directly into New York’s Twin Towers. 9/11 signalled the end of a nonchalant life free of terrorism fears.

No matter what you were doing on September 11, it has become a tragic episode in America’s history where everyone remembers where they were.

Exactly 20 years on from the devastating crashes that killed close to 3,000 people and injured at least 6,000, our world is starkly different to how it was in 2001.

Back then, the internet was still young, televisions gave you static electricity if you got too close to the big black box, people dressed up to go on a flight and Nokia was the popular choice of mobile phone.

At the time of the 9/11 attacks, where another hijacked plane flew into The Pentagon as another crashed into a field in Pennsylvania, the global community was not as interconnected and the events ultimately changed the world.

How the world has changed since 9/11

Heightened security

Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda was the terrorist organisation behind the attacks on the US, where Islamic terrorists effortlessly carried knives and box cutters through airport security.

This prompted major airports across the globe to tighten security to deter any similar terrorist plots.

Before 9/11, countries including Sweden, Norway and Finland didn’t have security checks for domestic flights. At best, some airports conducted random security checks.

As airport security increased, so did aircraft security measures. Before 9/11, it was normal for passengers to visit the cockpit where the pilots were. Following the terrorist attacks, many – if not all – aircraft now have locked and reinforced, bulletproof cockpit doors.

The US also established its No Fly List. The list includes some 47,000 individuals deemed a threat risk to air travel in 2013.


At the time of the terrorist attacks, TV was the main source of information. In fact, 90 per cent of people heard the news about 9/11 from TV, compared to five per cent of people being informed by the internet, according to Pew Research Centre.

News now spreads much faster and further than ever before. More than 86 per cent of US adults get the news from a smartphone, computer or tablet, the Pew Research Center found in 2021.

Wider accessibility to breaking news means people can be more prepared to take action in similar instances. However, it can also prompt the spread of misinformation, particular opinions and what you can view (determined by algorithms).

Afghanistan war

One of the almost continuous impacts of the 9/11 attacks is the war in Afghanistan. A month after September 11, the US dropped bombs on the country because the Taliban-run government refused to hand over Bin Laden.

Two decades later and it has become one of the US’s longest wars. Following the death of Bin Laden on 2 May 2011 by US special forces in Pakistan, the US slowly began withdrawing troops. On 30 August 2021, all US troops had left Afghanistan and the Taliban regained control of the country.

The war-time efforts included some 980,000 US Afghanistan War veterans, of which 507,000 served in Afghanistan and Iraq. During the 20-year war, 2,455 US service members were reportedly killed – a conflict costing the US Government about US$2.3 trillion.

Lack of confidence

The worst terror attack on US soil saw a drastic decline in air travel. Caused by a collective feeling of fear and vulnerability, people lost confidence in travelling in commercial planes.

Increased security meant plane travel was no longer fast and fuss-free, and regular travellers had to become accustomed to the new screening measures.

Domestic US flights were reduced by 10 per cent, causing a US$10 billion drop in revenue each year between 2001 and 2006, which also saw an increase in road fatalities. It’s believed an additional 1,200 driving deaths were attributed to the aftermath of 9/11.

Greater communication

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s the power of Facetime. But without the ability to make video calls in 2001, loved ones were left to say goodbye using landlines or mobile phones.

Unfortunately, mobile phone services were shut down after the Twin Towers were struck, making it incredibly difficult for desperate final words with those nearest and dearest.

It’s incredible to see how far telecommunications has grown since that day 20 years ago – a service now taken for granted.

Linguistic developments

With any crisis comes new terminology, and 9/11 was no different.

For the first time in modern history, the weight of terms including ‘terrorism’, ‘ground zero’, ‘let’s roll’, ‘war on terror’ and ‘enduring freedom’ really resonated.

After all, as Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: “Language is the archives of history”.

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