Five Years Later: A Different America

Generic five years how safe are we september 11 CBS/AP

Five years ago, the United States changed when two planes hit the World Trade Center, a third attacked the Pentagon and a fourth crashed in a Pennsylvania field.

Many Americans' routines may be the same, but CBS News correspondent Wyatt Andrews reports that the way they think might have changed — especially in New York and Washington.

"Certainly I would say you spend a lot more time thinking about your surroundings," a pedestrian told CBS News. "'Oh no — is that a package left alone?' It's a lot scarier, I think,…and you realize that maybe the world isn't as safe as it once was."

E.J. Dionne, Jr., an op-ed columnist for the Washington Post, said he thinks it's natural for people to adjust to their new climate. They move on with their lives, even though that added fear factor may still exist.

"Thank God the human spirit kind of rebels against the idea of constantly living in fear, because you can't live a good life if you constantly live in fear," he said.

The most noticeable change around the country is the heightened security at sports arenas and airports. CBS security consultant Randy Larsen says airport security costs Americans time — and more than $5 billion a year.

"We're safer," he said. "There is some deterrent effect here. If you were a terrorist and looked at that, you…might be deterred from doing that."

For all the inconvenience at the airports and the lingering sense of fear, the real change and sacrifice has come to the lives of people in uniform. For example, thousands of service members and their families simply weren't prepared for a three-year war and multiple tours in Iraq.

"Bless all those people who are fighting for us," Dionne said. "But we don't go through those disruptions. They are going through those disruptions."

It could be the great contradiction of our time: Five years later, we are still at war — but besides that, life is back to normal.
  • Caitlin Johnson

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