20 things you should know about 9/11

Everyone has a story about what they were doing on Sept. 11, 2011. Our world changed when terrorists flew airplanes into New York's Twin Towers and killed more than 3,000 people. Here are twenty things that have changed since 9/11.
Written by Boonsri Dickinson, Contributing Editor

Everyone has a story about what they were doing on Sept. 11, 2011. Our world changed when terrorists flew airplanes into New York's Twin Towers and killed more than 3,000 people. Today, millions more struggle with psychological aftereffects. It left a massive scar on the American psyche and made us feel vulnerable.

Ten years later, air travel security has tightened, our understanding of traumatic events has improved, and our adoption of social networks has allowed us to share stories about 9/11 in a more connected way. Here is a look at how 9/11 has impacted our lives and shaped our understanding of the world:

1. Flying used to be more fun. It's more of a hassle now.

2. There are rules, rules, and more rules. Take your shoes off when you go through airport security. No water. No scissors. No normal-sized grooming necessities.

3. Some might argue, the new body scanners reveal way too much. Millimeter-wave scanners can see through clothing! (Apparently now, there's software to take the nakedness out and make you, the passenger, more comfortable).

4. But opting out of machine screening, means opting into a more physical experience. The patdown procedure may involve touching passengers' inner thighs and women's breasts. One passenger recorded the screening process, posted it on YouTube and it became a viral hit.

5. Hard to believe, but we didn't have Twitter or Facebook back then. On the day of the tragic event, pain was shared one-on-one. Today, people can share their stories on their social networks.

6. Some still deal with 9/11 everyday. Especially the thousands of 9/11 responders who are sick. Many have the World Trade Center cough. That's not all, studies show there's a link between 9/11 exposure and cancer. Fifteen-thousand ground zero workers are being treated for chronic diseases.

7. Post-9/11 lessons help protect public health today. We learned it's better to be prepared: Just look how much better we prepared for Hurricane Irene than Katrina.

8. Mental-health professionals used to see Post-traumatic Stress Disorder on a case-by-case basis, but after 9/11, PTSD was widely observed. Before 9/11, PTSD was associated with war veterans. But 9/11 brought that condition home to nearly every community in America. Researchers have come to understand looking at how well communities recover from mass violence and disaster situations provides a glimpse into the overall mental health of the nation.

9. The mental health of 9/11 survivors depends on how close they were to the event. People who are exposed to trauma are more likely to get PTSD, so rescue workers who got to the scene first were more likely  to get PTSD. People living south of Canal Street were more likely to get PTSD.

10. Imagine seeing the 9/11 attacks from space. An astronaut shares what he saw from space. "Tears don't flow the same in space," said Culbertson in a letter he wrote on Sept.  12. "It's difficult to describe how it feels to be the only American completely off the planet at a time such as this. The feeling that I should be there with all of you, dealing with this, helping in some way, is overwhelming."

11. Well, a piece of the World Trade Center is up on Mars.

12. Down on earth, experts are still IDing victims. For instance, they identified Ernest James' remains just two weeks ago.

13. That brings the number of 9/11 victims identified to 1,632 in an "unparalleled forensic achievement." 41 percent of the total who died, are still unidentified.

14. Ground Zero has turned up 21,817 separate human remains. Over time, the remains were found over the damaged Deutsche Bank, manholes, and a service road to the site.

15. Today, victim families can go to the new 9/11 memorial. One-acre sized pools represent each tower.

16. The memorial pools have bronze panels with names of those who died in New York, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. The pools are two of the largest man-made waterfalls ever built.

17. You don't have to be physically present to pay respect. Download an app that lets you dedicate status updates to victims. And other apps like The 9/11 Memorial: Past, Present and Future lets you see the the total life of the Twin Towers from construction to destruction. Explore 9/11 gives audio and photo tours around the site (narrated by first responders and eyewitnesses). Another app uses augmented reality to virtually restore twin towers in the sky and share stories.

18. Our skyscrapers are now built to be terrorist proof. Post-rubble, the "Freedom Tower" is beginning to emerge. It's built with a bomb-resistant base and a strong mix of concrete (enough to fill Olympic-sized swimming pools). The 1,776-foot skyscraper at One World Trade Center will be complete by 2013.

19. Advances in computer modeling post-9/11 could help make skyscrapers withstand the shakes of a major quake.

20. Robots called PackBots were sent to look for victim and check out the structural integrity in places unfit for humans to venture into. It's hard to imagine robots not being sent into disaster zones these days, but September 11 was the day the robots were "literally pulled out of the laboratory and taken to 9/11."

Photo via 911memorial.org

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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