The marks of September 11 are still all-too-visible in New York today, exactly five years on. The memories still hurt for Americans. New Yorkers who see Ground Zero every day find it particularly hard to forget. “I have a daughter who was eight years old at the time and she has not been the same, she still has nightmares about this” said one man.
“It is just like a haunting feeling, where you look, you feel, you remember. And it is hard, very hard,” a woman added. The World Trade Center attack did not just change the New York skyline or American psyche. The Patriot Act has transformed daily life.
Critics say it is a repressive law but the public seems to have accepted it, satisfied with the trade-off between safety and sacrifice. “It just took five seconds of my time, I can spare five seconds”, said a commuter in a much-repeated reaction to the frequent subway searches. Security is now everywhere, an obsession for the last five years. Home security budgets have exploded by billions of dollars a year, while in the air industry; security has become a national priority. Despite the sacrifices, the threat is ever-present.
Micheal Chertoff, US Homeland Security Secretary said: “We have made a lot of progress degrading their ability, slowing them up. But we have not eliminated them and we certainly have not eliminated their desire to carry out a significant terrorist attack against us.”
Invisible attacks are the newest fear; nuclear, biological or chemical strikes at, say, an American port, which are particularly vulnerable say the experts. But are the experts so sure the usual terrorist suspects are up to it? Brian Jenkins, RAND Corporation terror expert said: “Do I worry about those? Of course I do. Do I consider those to be the most likely? Absolutely not. I can’t tell you that it won’t happen. But certainly we have no evidence to indicate that they are anywhere near having that capability now.” There is much more security today in the US but the country is not really safe for all that. Before September 11 such an attack on New York was unthinkable. Today, we can imagine the worst and the Americans have to live with this danger.