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Listening Post

Life after 9-11-01

October 04, 2001|By Michael Ollove

Early broadcasts about the crash of a Greyhound bus in Tennessee, after a man with a foreign accent slashed the driver's throat, included mention of an unknown: whether the incident had been an act of terrorism.

Later, it would be reported that the man was deranged, but the fact that the question of terrorism was even raised is a reminder of how drastically the American psyche was transformed on Sept. 11. Assumptions once considered safe no longer hold. Yesterday's tragedy, which left six people dead, was appalling. And yet it still conformed to our recognition that America can be a violent place. But until Sept. 11, what remained outside our self-image was the notion that we were vulnerable to invasion.

Now when a plane passes overhead, for the briefest instant we find ourselves imagining it as a lethal weapon. Walking into a crowded stadium today feels like an act of resolution, boarding a flight, a test of willpower. Our children ask if it can happen again. Instinctively, we want to tell them no, of course not, but then we catch ourselves. Impossibility has shifted to improbability, however here in America we aren't yet accustomed to deriving comfort from low odds.

How far have we come since that awful day? We learn that six people died because of a man out of his mind, and somehow we feel relief.

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