September, 11, 2001, nicknamed 9/11, was first and foremost a human tragedy in the modern times, other than the World War I and World War II, claiming the lives of 2,977 innocent people in peace time and leaving, in its wake, incalculable grief, sorrow, pain, trauma and inseparable sufferings, anger, insecurity and loneliness in the world.
The attack would alter the lives of citizens in different parts of the world, Pakistan and India relations after US made its base in Afghanistan, US troops and their families, NATO troops and their families, inter alia which included troops from Germany, The Netherlands, UK, France, Australia and even from Canada, which sent laughable numbers and millions of people in Afghanistan and Iraq. It would set the course of political parties and help to decide who would, and who would not, who are either with them or against them in new world order or disorder. In short, 9/11 changed the world in demonstrable, massive and heartbreaking ways. But the ripple effects altered our lives in subtle, often-overlooked ways as well.
After the attack, American media bombarded through CNN and FOX TV, that how US is taking revenge and showed how powerful US is and it is taking all possible steps to throw out the terror outfits of ISIS, al Qaeda, Taliban, LeT, JeM and many other similar terror outfits, which to start with were created by CIA to control the crude politics of the middle east and the entire region.
The tradition of patriotic displays at major sporting events went to another level 20 years ago. After 9/11, sports leagues embraced their role of symbolising American unity and healing, and they did so by stitching more than just the national anthem into their game presentation. Patriotism was more in display both in words and deeds. And ‘God Bless America’, became a phrase of American nationalism, world over. Later, in the year 2015, the entanglement of patriotism and sports became problematic when it was revealed that the Department of Defense had paid teams millions for some of these acts, to create a nationalist fervour and perception that US is on the rise again.
Following the 9/11 attacks, many teachers returned to classrooms full of youngsters who were confused and scared, and they tried to figure out how to explain an event that had shattered a sense of security for Americans everywhere. Many children had witnessed the attacks on television; teachers had to comfort them and help them feel safe, even as the educators struggled themselves to come to grips with what had happened. The school complexes were wired with PTZ and dome cameras and everyone became a suspect, until or unless proved innocent and in the safe list. This created privacy issues and data was sold.
After 9/11, a myth propagated by the Islamic Republic of Iran became more pronounced and more accepted with regard to all Muslim-majority countries. These nations, with vastly different histories, nationalities, languages and cultures, were reduced to one aspect: religion. On the other hand movement from Islamic countries became more expensive and citizens from countries like Libya, Somalia, Iraq, Yemen, and Nigeria were given restrictive entries. My classmate from North Africa, a devout Muslim, tried his level best but could not get a US Visa. Visa processing became elaborate with photographs being taken from 3 positions and biometric fingerprints of all ten fingers for security reasons. Security attributes became the buzz words at the airports and gait analysis became a common norm.
What if, in the aftermath of 9/11, everyone you encountered in a normal American life suddenly perceived you differently? At the gas pump station, the driver next to you started staring. In the supermarket, people turn their shopping carts in another direction. At once, you feel unwanted, unwelcome, distrusted, alone. The impact of all this changes the self-esteem. Sikhs who also grow beard due to the religious belief were also attacked and ostracised and people were viewed between ‘us’ and them.
When President George W. Bush met with his Mexican counterpart, Vicente Fox, at the White House on Sept. 6, 2001, they spoke of their countries’ “special friendship.” Separately, the WhiteHouse commended the Senate for approving immigration reforms that would “make America more welcoming of new immigrants.” The following month, Bush’s Attorney General, John Ashcroft, moved seamlessly from terrorists to migrants, that is, from new acts of violence to age-old features of human mobility. “Let the terrorists among us be warned: If you overstay your visa, even by one day, we will arrest you,” Ashcroft said.
To prominent policymakers, immigration was a weakness in the nation’s armour. Soon Congress shifted many immigration affairs from Ashcroft’s Justice Department to the new Department of Homeland Security. America was with war in itself. I went to USA in April 2002, enroute Bogota Colombia, for a UN assignment with a red diplomatic passaporte and faced many questions. The world had changed and so was the travel as I had to remove shoes, socks, my belt and my prayer rosary were all scanned and scrutinised, minutely. All such scrutiny cost the US more money and they increased the cost of getting US, Visa. No free lunch any more.
On the day of the attack, the sky fell silent. As a precautionary measure, the Federal Aviation Administration grounded all commercial flights for the first time ever. When airports started to reopen a few days later, a dramatic shift in perspective had already taken hold. Planes had long symbolised freedom and adventure; now, by weaponising them, the terrorists had replaced those positive associations with fear and suspicion. The airline industry took almost three years to recover, and surpass, pre-9/11 passenger numbers. When travelers finally returned, they discovered a host of new restrictions that added more time and stress to the departure process. In India travelers were screened and searched 5 times before boarding the flight. Last being scanned with hand held scanner just before the staircase is climbed, to enter the plane.
Ever since 9/11, many Muslims, especially those living in Western countries feel like they are being watched and pried. They feel insecure because the burden of proof is on their shoulders to show that they are innocent. Even normal citizens were made to carry their passports along with them, which increased the chances of the passports being stolen and pickpocketed, stealing of passport is an international racket and while moving on the streets of Paris, I was pushed deliberately and some gang tried to pickpocket my hip pocket. I was lucky, I wear a special vest, which I use for keeping my important documents.
A new era of words like surveillance, perimeter security, concertina wires, cameras, boom bangers, tyre busters and bomb arresters and related technologies got developed. Things became expensive. Neighbourhood watch groups became a near normal, supermarkets started making profile of their clients other than the credit profile. Insecurity in the citizens increased, as entry to hotels, restaurants, mall, coffee shops were scanned. It became mandatory for hotels to share the details of their visitors and they have to be sent to the nearest police stations, especially overnight stay.
As a techno bureaucrat with a civil servant wife, having coffee once in 15 days at Taj Man Singh or at Taj Dhaula Kuan was quite affordable. We paid Rs. 100, which included a tip. We could walk in easily and spend some time, after 9/11 my car was to be checked for any bombs, there were boom bangers along with tyre busters, my glove compartment was checked and so was my back seat and dickey, after a go ahead as I walked the staircase, my wallet was checked, so was my cell phone, plus we were frisked by hand held scanners for possible bombs or IED explosives but with politeness, my picture was taken and checked in real time, if I was not a known criminal with a look out circular, some of them went ahead and took my voiceprints.
As I walked in I could feel that some secret eyes were prying me and watching me. The whole hotel must have been wired, for the security staff to pounce on me for any breach. Another post was created, chief security officer and IT companies just played on the minds of the management. 26/11 in India also changed perception of security. All this changed the scenario and costs increased.
Costs were added from another vertical. All goods, milk, vegetables and daily supplies and cartons were security checked before entering and being served on our table.
All these made cup of coffee very expensive!
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