Daniel W. Drezner

9/11, eight years on

I found out about the 9/11 on the phone in Heathrow Airport waiting to board a plane home.  I was trying to call my wife (and having difficulty getting through) to let her know that my flight had been mysteriously delayed.  Then she told me what happened.  My first thought once I recovered from the ...

I found out about the 9/11 on the phone in Heathrow Airport waiting to board a plane home.  I was trying to call my wife (and having difficulty getting through) to let her know that my flight had been mysteriously delayed.  Then she told me what happened. 

My first thought once I recovered from the shock?  It could have been worse. 

It really could have been.  For the next few weeks, I kept imagining follow-up scenarios to ratchet up the mayhem and panic.  Thankfully, none of them have come to pass.  But I wasn't the only one to envision ever-worsening scenarios. 

I found out about the 9/11 on the phone in Heathrow Airport waiting to board a plane home.  I was trying to call my wife (and having difficulty getting through) to let her know that my flight had been mysteriously delayed.  Then she told me what happened. 

My first thought once I recovered from the shock?  It could have been worse. 

It really could have been.  For the next few weeks, I kept imagining follow-up scenarios to ratchet up the mayhem and panic.  Thankfully, none of them have come to pass.  But I wasn’t the only one to envision ever-worsening scenarios. 

Eight years on, it’s good to see that the scar of 9/11, though always present, has faded.  In the New York Times, N.R. Kleinfield interviews various New Yorkers about their post-9/11 expectations — and their pleasant surprise that the city’s vitality has exceeded those expectations:

So much has been said and written about what happened on 9/11. The following day is forgotten, just another dulled interlude in the aftermath of an incoherent morning.

But New Yorkers were introduced that day to irreducible presumptions about their wounded city that many believed would harden and become chiseled into the event’s enduring legacy.

New York would become a fortress city, choked by apprehension and resignation, forever patrolled by soldiers and submarines. Another attack was coming. And soon.

Tourists? Well, who would ever come again? Work in one of the city’s skyscrapers? Not likely. The Fire Department, gutted by 343 deaths, could never recuperate.

If a crippled downtown Manhattan were to have any chance of regeneration, ground zero had to be rebuilt quickly, a bricks and mortar nose-thumbing to terror.

Eight years later, those presumptions are cobwebbed memories that never came to pass. Indeed, glimpses into a few aspects of the city help measure the gap between what was predicted and what actually came to be.

If the best revenge is living well, then the city of New York has exacted its revenge many times over. 

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. He blogged regularly for Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2014. Twitter: @dandrezner

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