The 9-11 Terrorist Attack’s Impact on American Life

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Americans’ relationship with God has regressed most significantly in the area of tolerance to the Islamic faith. Other areas of regression include the attitude towards God as an all-powerful being and the total number of believers. Terrorism contrasted religions, predominantly represented in America – Protestantism, and Catholicism, with Islam and created strong tension. According to Klandermans et al. (2008), although the attack aimed to undermine the political, economic, and social spheres, it acquired a religious background due to the Muslim origin of terrorists (as cited in Yuksek, 2017). The confrontation that arose in the aftermath between the West and the Muslim world correlates with Huntington’s (1993) view of a clash of civilizations (as cited in Yuksek, 2017). The confrontation led to stricter boundaries between the common religions in America and Islam and even to demonizing this religion (Cimino, 2005). As a result, many biases against Islam and a negative image of Muslims arose.

The attack had a short-term and long-term impact on citizens and their appeal to religion. For example, according to Uecker (2008), in the months after the tragedy, the increased number of young people turned to religious practices for comfort. In total, about 90% of Americans turned to faith for spiritual reassurance (Schuster et al., 2001, as cited in Uecker, 2008). As a result, there was a hypothesis that religion will regain its influence and importance for citizens (Uecker, 2008). However, the trend quickly changed, and the expected revival of spirituality and religiosity did not occur.

Among individuals who have lost close people, the influence on religiosity is different. Seirmarco et al. (2012) interviewed more than 800 people who lost a relative, friend, or colleague, and 608 of them provided answers about the importance of their religious beliefs after the attack. While most did not note changes, 11% pointed to the increased influence of religious beliefs, and 10% – to a decrease in their significance (Seirmarco et al., 2012). Regression in the importance of faith correlates with greater severity of the injury – people from the second group survived the direct impact of an attack or loss of a child. Nevertheless, the study also supports the findings that changes in belief are generally modest.

Some surveys show shifts in attitude towards the Lord and his authority. According to Barna Research Group’s (2001) study, there has been a fall in the belief that God is omnipotent and is the ideal Creator from 72% to 68%. Moreover, the view of Satan also changed – 5% more people began to believe that he was a symbol, not a creature (Barna Research Group, 2001). These trends reflect the decline in the number of people viewing the world and good and evil concepts through the prism of faith.

Considering the long-term consequences for the whole population, the attack affected the number of religious and non-religious citizens, increasing the latter’s share. Notably, the percentage of religiously unaffiliated Americans by 2018 was 23% compared to 14% in 2000 (Thompson, 2019). The decline can be traced to critical historical events – the connection of the Republican Party with right-wing Christians, the end of the Cold War, and 9/11 (Thompson, 2019). The first phenomenon since 1970 created a negative image for religion. The end of the Cold War, in turn, removed the association of non-religious with the national enemy – the atheistic USSR. Finally, the events of September 11 demonstrated that such an enemy could be a devout state. Subsequently, an increasing number of citizens do not find it necessary to belong to any confession.

Americans’ Relationship with Money

Americans’ relationship with money has regressed most significantly in the areas of the budget deficit and increased security costs. Other regression areas include property losses, human losses, unemployment, losses in the aviation sector, and damage to the business. The difficulty of assessing the events’ impact on the current situation is that after the crisis of 2008 year and the great recession, there were some upward trends. However, a new problem, COVID 19, arose and made its amendments.

The economic consequences of the terrorist attack appeared on the day of their incident and pulled several other influential events for the economy. According to DePietro (2019), the destruction of the twin towers cost about 14 billion, harming enterprises in them – 22 billion. Aviation suffered severely – 74 billion losses for 2001-2010, the cost of additional time for security verification over ten years – another 100 billion, and support for Transportation Security Administration – several billion per year (DePietro, 2019). In the stock market, closed for several days, the Dow Jones index fell by 694 points. Moreover, GDP fell by 0.5%, unemployment increased, and about 600,000 people lost their jobs (DePietro, 2019). Miley (2020) notes that by 2011 most indicators worsened – the unemployment rate increased from 4.9% to 9.1%, housing, oil, and gold prices have risen. This damage is only part of the loss and cost that America suffered after 2001.

Human losses also have severe financial consequences for the country. Estimating the price of injuries, deaths, and lost property, Bardwell and Iqbal (2021) highlight the 9/11 attack as the largest in 2000-2018, with economic consequences of 40.6 billion. Kunreuther et al. (2003) also included in the calculations insurance payments, compensation to employees, and the cost of business interruptions and called 80 billion the cost of damage. It is also critical to note that from the budget surplus in 2001, the war on terror led to a deficit in 1.3 trillion (DePietro, 2019). Heavy debt and other problems led to the 2008 crisis and recession, and only after them, a recovery began.

Before the new crisis, the country leaders worked to improve the economy. For example, for 113 consecutive months, wages and the number of jobs increased (“Chart book,” 2021). However, the country was not ready for a new crisis, and the recovery stopped in 2020. At the same time, there was still an increase in the budget deficit (“Chart book,” 2021). Thus, the deficit is the longest-term and most serious consequence of 9/11.

The terrorist attacks of 2001 were initially aimed at destroying American life, in particular its economic component. Osama bin Laden, the head and founder of Al-Qaeda, which has been behind the attack, realized that it is necessary to destroy the superpowers from their economy (Klein, 2011). The aftermath of the 9/11 attacks included the costs of improving security, fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which resulted in significant debt and led to the crisis of 2008 (Klein, 2011). At the same time, these measures and their scale were not mandatory but were taken out of fear – the feelings terrorists manipulated. According to several sources, the resilience of the American economy was relatively high, but anti-terrorist measures brought significant waste (Gholz, 2020; Jackson, 2008; Rose & Blomberg, 2010). Thus, terrorists caused panic and achieved the goal of economic regression.

Americans’ Relationship with Politics

Americans’ relationship with politics has regressed most significantly in the area of the preservation of human rights. Other areas of regression include ignoring threats to foreign and domestic policy due to excessive focus on terrorism. The 9/11 attack showed the vulnerability of the strongest country globally and destabilized its foreign and domestic policies. In the international arena, the US has launched interventional wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that have distracted them from other threats like China and Russia (Newman, 2021). Thus, regression manifests itself in the strong contradiction of policy and ignoring some threats to please fear.

Significant changes in domestic policy have raised a wide range of issues. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created, but many problems about establishing working processes and relationships with other bodies took many years (Newman, 2021). Strong security measures provoked concerns about privacy and human rights violations (Regilme Jr, 2019). Examples of debatable actions include preventive detention, interception of messages, ethnic profiling, and similar situations (Goderis & Versteeg, 2012). Surveillance measures also generate debate about discrimination and privacy violations.

The events of September 11 for a long time determined the choice of policy and even politicians. The attack occurred during President George W. Bush’s term, and in 2008, he was replaced by Barack Obama. According to former deputy national security adviser Rhodes (2020), 9/11 influenced Obama to become president, as he opposed interventional wars and attempted to create a new US foreign policy agenda. However, he was forced to balance between the aspirations for a new era and the post-9/11 president’s duties (Rhodes, 2020). At the same time, some politicians and the population still demanded war with radical Islam and experienced fear of refugees, which Donald Trump took advantage of (Rhodes, 2020). His election victory and policy were the embodiment of fear trends after 9/11.

President Trump showed racism, a tendency to authoritarianism, and violation of human rights, which contributed to the decline of morality and US power. For example, he threatened Amazon since its owner Jeff Bezos also owns The Washington Post, which covered scandals related to the president (Regilme Jr, 2019). Considering immigration issues, although many deportations occurred in all presidents after 9/11, the Trump administration began to review the naturalized citizens’ cases and divided children and parents on the Mexican border (Regilme Jr, 2019). There is also a considerable negative impact on the Muslim population of the United States of anti-terrorism laws. For example, 63.3 people surveyed felt that the USA Patriot Act singled out Muslims (Alshrari, 2020). At the same time, about one-third of Americans support anti-Muslim policies (Haner et al., 2019). Therefore, the actions of some politicians contribute to undermining the fundamental values – freedom, tolerance, and equality.

Terrorism also had a short-term effect on the political involvement of citizens. While terrorists sought to destroy the social unity of the Americans, the attack had a stimulating impact on civic engagement, which, however, was as short-lived as in the case of appealing to religion (Sander & Putnam, 2010). Levels of trust in fellow citizens, political participation, and community involvement fell significantly in the second half of the 20th century (Sander & Putnam, 2010). These indicators and solidarity, patriotism, and faith rose after 9/11 (Schmierbach et al., 2005). However, a regression of civic engagement followed, which negatively affected social capital.

Americans’ Perception of Social Justice and Race Relations

Americans’ relationship with social justice has regressed most significantly in the area of attitude towards Muslims, exacerbating discrimination. Other areas of regression include attitudes towards other minorities and marginalized groups. The taken anti-terrorist measures were directed against the Middle East countries, their citizens, and immigrants because of the terrorists’ national origin. Some people were subjected to racial and religious profiling, and laws expanded the capabilities of law enforcement agencies (Welch, 2019). Part of American citizens supported the policy criminalizing Muslims as they feared for their own security and associate such initiatives with its guarantees (Aizpurua et al., 2017). The before-mentioned measures have contributed to the strengthening of stereotypes and biases by unevenly interfering in the lives of minorities, especially Muslims.

Although representatives of various races and appearances profess Islam, a stereotypical image of a Muslim was created – a beard, Arab origin, brown skin, and similar signs. Researchers disagree about how appropriate racialization is for understanding prejudice against Arabs and note that Muslim Arabs are more likely to be discriminated against than Christian Arabs (Jamal & Naber, 2008). In this way, a unique form of discrimination directed at Muslims was created – Islamophobia (Considine, 2017). It is supported by media coverage of terrorism, the entertainment industry, anti-Muslim groups, and even foundations supporting them as the Russell Berrie Foundation or the Donors Capital Fund (Considine, 2017). The stereotype image of Muslims leads to discrimination and various incidents, such as Khairuldeen Makhzoomi’s case, who was taken off the flight due to the security concern of other passengers (Considine, 2017). Thus, biases applied primarily to those who look different than Americans should be.

There were many hate crimes and violent incidents against Muslims after 9/11. Of all hate crimes in 2001, about 27% were against Muslims, and about 83% of them occurred after 9/11 (Byers and Jones, 2007). Researchers found that a significant surge happened in the first eight weeks after the attack, then the level decreased but remained higher than before the tragedy (Byers and Jones, 2007). Observing biased tendencies at different periods, Muslims feel threatened and can change their behavior. For example, Hobbs and Lajevardi (2019) tracked that during the 2016 election, amid Trump’s discriminatory rhetoric, some of Islam’s American representatives changed their behavior and retreated from public life. The sense of insecurity of citizens due to the actions of their government is another manifestation of regression in America, giving reason to believe that terrorists have achieved their goal of intimidation.

The victims of biases generated by fear are not only Muslims. Activists for racial justice also attract the particular attention of law enforcement agencies and special services. For example, in 2017, the FBI created a report on the dangers of black extremists (Patel, 2021). Notably, a few days later, the extreme right march in Charlottesville took place, which resulted in several victims (Patel, 2021). Bias also affects Americans of Chinese descent, especially those working in the field of technology and science – they are suspected of espionage for China (Patel, 2021). The courts also unfairly treat national minorities using the pretext of national security. For example, Hawaii v. Trump, which challenged the president’s ban on entry for citizens of several predominantly Muslim countries, was considered using the lenient standard (Sinnar, 2021). Discrimination contributes to the regression of social justice and equality.

Americans, War, and Foreign Policy

Americans’ relationship with has war regressed most significantly in the area of waging war against terror. Other areas of regression include the level of support for citizens of military operations and the influence of the United States in the world. Moreover, according to Suri (2017), post-9/11 wars had a special regression effect. Previous wars gave America a chance or opportunity for improvement – the Civil War abolished slavery, World War II drew attention to the well-being of citizens (Suri, 2017). The period after September 11 is associated only with decline, increased discrimination, cruelty, and human rights violations.

Among the most apparent consequences of the September 11 attacks is the outbreak of intervention wars against terror in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their goal was to deter and destroy terrorism, protect the American population, and support weak governments in eradicating the causes of terrorism through the promotion of democracy (Thrall & Goepner, 2017). However, as a result of the wars, the number of terrorist attacks only increased: “Statistical modeling indicators for every additional billion dollars spent and 1,000 American troops sent to fight the war on terror, the number of terror attacks worldwide increased by 19” (Goepner, 2016, p. 111). Moreover, although Osama bin Laden died, according to 2015 data, the number of terrorists increased from 32,200 in 13 terrorist organizations to 100,000 in 44 groups (Thrall & Goepner, 2017). In improving the conditions for preventing terrorism, the United States also failed to achieve success. Thus, wars had more negative consequences and could not attain goals.

Failures in politics, in particular wars, can negatively affect the level of support for citizens and even their patriotism. According to surveys, a few months after the attack, about 90% of American citizens supported the war on terrorism (Pobst, 2002). Over time, priorities have changed, and 2020 polls show that 34% of interviewees advocated the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, and 25% opposed (Afzal & Saber, 2021). At the same time, some respondents refrained from answering, which probably meant a lack of an accurate opinion on the issue. Sahar’s (2008) study also notes that views on the causes of attacks changed in society after a few years. In 2005, US foreign policy was considered one of the most likely reasons compared to the popularity of jealousy and poverty in 2001 (Sahar, 2008). Thus, there was a decline in social support for military operations against terrorism.

An extended period of decline affected foreign policy, and as mentioned earlier, the focus on terrorism forced other warnings to be ignored. Besides China and Russia, security threats are also a pandemic, climate crisis, cybercrime, and other phenomena (Hjelmgaard, 2021). At the same time, America has been the leading state in the world since the Second World War. The 9/11 attack was seen as a confirmation of this role, and the United States needed to support the idea of the state needed by all the world (Wertheim, 2021). However, excessive self-confidence has led to failures in foreign policy and a rethinking of America’s role (Dobbins & Tarini, 2020). The number of foreign policy successes decreased from one per year before 2001 to one every four years after 2001 (Dobbins & Tarini, 2020). Thus, regression arose due to the disregard of threats other than terrorism and faith in the superiority of the state.

Americans’ Relationship with Nature

Americans’ relationship with nature has regressed most significantly in the area of environmental protection. Other areas of regression include the effect of pollution from the attack on the towers on citizens’ health. First of all, the 9/11 attack on the world trade center itself became an environmental disaster. A large amount of dust and garbage from the destruction settled in areas close to the collapse. A study by Natural Resources Defense Council showed that the air began to return to a condition before the attack by the beginning of 2002 (Nordgrén et al., 2002). They also noted insufficient actions to manage environmental consequences from the city authorities (Nordgrén et al., 2002). According to Landrigan et al. (2004), dust “consist predominantly (95%) of coarse particles and contained pulverized cement, glass fibers, asbestos, lead, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and polychlorinated furans and dioxins” (p. 731). Such a severe impact on people has long-term consequences for their health.

The disaster influenced many New Yorkers, and service members involved in rescue operations were especially badly affected. Liu et al. (2019) found that the intense effect of dust on firefighters caused air trapping in 21% of the studied, bronchial wall thickening in 20%, nodules in 10%, emphysema in 3-6%, and other anomalies. Air pollution and additional irritants after 9/11 worsened the symptoms and complicated their management for people who have asthma (Yung et al., 2019). Moreover, Currie and Schwandt (2016) are confident that the cloud of dust and toxins has affected the increase in preterm birth and low neonatal body weight. Thus, the environmental disaster caused by 9/11 contributed to the decline in public health.

As mentioned, the post-9/11 focus on terrorism did not allow to pay enough attention to other threats, including environmental degradation. This danger is global and applies to all countries without exception. Its consequences include water, soil, and air pollution, rising temperatures, melting glaciers, increasing natural anomalies and disasters, and similar changes (Wuebbles, 2017). The United States in the 21st century has already experienced several disasters, for example, fires in California. Temperatures are expected to rise, coastal floods, droughts, hurricanes, and other disasters increase (Wuebbles, 2017). At the same time, part of the population still questions the reality of climate change.

The leading cause of environmental degradation is human activity, and therefore the fight against it requires considerable effort from humanity and its leaders. In the United States, the 9/11 attacks, as mentioned, led to the choice of Donald Trump as president, and his policy backtracked all previous efforts to save nature. Not believing in climate change, Trump emphasized fossil fuels, negatively affecting the climate (McGrath, 2020). Moreover, he contributed to the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement designed to reduce carbon dioxide and sought to abolish other environmental standards (McGrath, 2020). Such actions have negatively affected the nature and international image of a country seeking world leadership.

Public attention is also focused on the importance of environmental protection. Over the decade, the number of Americans concerned about the problem has grown to 64%, compared to 41% in 2008 (Funk & Kennedy, 2020). Moreover, citizens are confident that the government is not doing enough to protect the environment, especially the waters (Funk & Kennedy, 2020). New generations are more concerned with the degradation of nature and consider it a higher priority than terrorism.

Americans’ Relationship with Education

Americans’ relationship with education has regressed most significantly in the area of its affordability. Other areas of regression include the quality of education, the relationship between students, in particular foreigners, and the inaccuracy of teaching the history of events 9/11. Education is one of the areas most affected by the events that followed 9/11. Although the main problem is the decline in funding of educational institutions, it is very large-scale and entails other issues.

Waging wars requires considerable financial waste, and in the case of the 9/11 wars, this led to a financial crisis. The consequences of these events are the problem of reducing budgeting in various areas, especially education (Shannon, 2019). Mitchell et al. (2017) report that the low level of funding for colleges and universities negatively affects student opportunities and the quality of education. Educational institutions trying to compensate for the lack of financing raised school fees, making it less affordable and had to reduce teachers, worsening the education quality (Mitchell et al., 2017). Moreover, the high cost of education has become a severe problem for graduates. An increasing number of them suffer from the burden of student loans and difficulties in paying them. Such events indicate the degradation of higher education in the United States.

The content of courses in various directions has also undergone significant changes. For example, many special centers and programs have been created to study security issues, the psychology of conflict, helping veterans, and similar topics (Hopkins, 2011). The militarization of education contributes to situations when its institutions provide services to the military, which calls into question education democracy and independence (Giroux, 2008). Lane (2011) also notes the restrictions on academic freedom that arose after 9/11. They can appear in various situations, for example, when a researcher expresses ideas that do not correspond to the general opinion about the attack or is afraid to tell them due to public disapproval (Lane, 2011). Restrictions can also affect some data, such as the location of the fiber optic network because terrorists can use it (Lane, 2011). These examples highlight regression in knowledge availability and freedom of its dissemination.

Traumatic events like September 11 change people and significantly affect culture. The attack influenced the creation of not only new courses but also creative works trying to reflect traumatic events (Newman, 2021). This tendency served as a significant cultural shift, contributed to an understanding of the relationships in the world and of global problems (Newman, 2021). However, for modern students, these events are history and part of the curriculum. The sensitivity of the topic creates a burden for teachers, and sources for learning may contradict each other creating additional problems (Waxman, 2019). Thus, an understanding of the events of 9/11 and the era after them have not yet been completed.

The attacks created tension and fear that adversely affected the lives of students of various ages. For example, according to DeRosier’s (2004) study, there was a significant drop in popularity among peers for Middle Eastern students after the attack. The tendency also affected emigrant students reducing their numbers and complicating their stay conditions due to visa difficulties and additional monitoring (Gaia & da Silva Leite, 2019). The situation reflects the social tendency of increased bias against people with an appearance close to the stereotype image of Muslims.

Americans’ Relationship to the Media and Misinformation

Americans’ relationship with media has regressed most significantly in the area of influence on public opinion, as media were widely used for manipulation. Other areas of regression include a fair representation of Muslims in the media and trust provided to journalists. While the media must be independent and democratic, politicians can use them to promote their own ideas. Moreover, even a decreased level of trust allows the press to form the opinions of society.

The impact of the horror of the 9/11 attack was significant due to the comprehensive coverage of events in the media. Although it is essential to inform citizens about the events, the methods of providing information may differ depending on the goals sources want to achieve. To gain support for military action, the Bush administration used the contrast of good and evil, demonizing Osama bin Laden and using the expressions like “eradicate evil from the world,” and the similar to it (Kellner, 2004, p. 45). Such actions and general fear contributed to the support of the post-9/11 wars among society.

Moreover, the number of media reports about the necessity of war and their content speak in favor of manipulation of public opinion. Hayes and Guardino (2010) found that President Bush’s administration occupied the most significant media space after 9/11 and were sources for 28% of the news. Moreover, the messages were aimed at supporting military operations, and the arguments of opponents of this idea received almost no coverage (Hayes & Guardino, 2010). According to Arsenault and Castells (2006), Bush and his team used false information about Iraq’s connection with Alkaida and the presence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the country. Thus, fear also affected the degradation of objectivity and independence of media sources.

Media also influenced the generally negative perception of Muslims in society. Bleich and van der Veen (2021) conducted a lexical sentiment analysis of the tone of references to several religions – Catholicism, Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam in newspapers from 1996 to 2005. They found that 81% of the study sample represented stories that mentioned Muslims more negatively, including those published before 9/11 (Bleich & van der Veen, 2021). In turn, Saleem et al. (2019) prove that a negative image in the media harms the self-identification of Muslims as Americans and contributes to distrust to the government. These data demonstrate media regression in the representation of marginalized populations.

The increase in the number of sources of information and their availability makes society more skeptical of the media, but it still has a strong influence. A survey by Gottfried et al. (2020) showed that 63% of Americans believe that it is necessary to be critical in attitude to the media and 75% believe that the level of trust can increase. Nevertheless, the threat of misinformation is high and can lead to negative consequences. For instance, Gelfand (2018) believes that artificially exaggerated threats separate society and do not give a genuine reason for unification. The author cites examples of the danger of immigrants against whom President Trump sought to ward off the wall, although their flow decreased significantly (Gelfand, 2018). To spread misinformation, people’s emotional reaction is used, which makes it convenient to create tension and increase fear (Broadnax, 2020). Thus, media regression is also observed in the amount of misinformation disseminated and its danger.


The terrorists’ attacks of September 11, 2001, had a regressing effect on various areas of American life, which means that the attackers were able, albeit partially, to achieve their goal. The regression’s reason is the reaction and decisions about the action, which were based on fear and belief in US exclusivity. The most affected areas can be considered economics, education, social justice, and foreign policy.


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Premium Papers. (2023, February 9). The 9-11 Terrorist Attack's Impact on American Life. Retrieved from


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Premium Papers. "The 9-11 Terrorist Attack's Impact on American Life." February 9, 2023.