As America approaches the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people, the time is ripe to look at how the most deadly attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor continues to affect us as a nation and as individuals.

As America approaches the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people, the time is ripe to look at how the most deadly attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor continues to affect us as a nation and as individuals.

A lot has changed in the past 10 years, including how we think about and confront the threat of terrorism. Some things have stayed the same though, especially the sense of sadness, loss and confusion over the attacks.

Ten years have passed accompanied by a sense of vigilance that some people would do us harm simply because they hate what America stands for as a nation.

“Our homeland is more secure that it was 10 years ago and indeed more secure than it was two years ago,” Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said in her State of Homeland Security speech in January. “The kinds of threats we now face demonstrate that our homeland security is a shared responsibility. ... No matter who you are – from students and professors to first responders to everyday citizens – we all play a part.”??

Keeping vigilant

How do Americans feel about 9/11 10 years later? Do we feel safer? Do we think the government is doing all it can to keep us safe?

“Despite some fluctuations tied to specific events like thwarted attacks, the level of concern or worry has been about the same over the past 10 years,” said Mike Angley, the senior military adviser to Henley-Putnam University, formerly known as California University of Protection and Intelligence Management, which specializes in the strategic security sector. Angley is a retired Air Force colonel and a retired career Air Force Office of Special Investigations special agent.

“Gallup has been surveying Americans’ attitudes toward terrorism since even before the attacks of 9/11. Surprisingly, ‘worry’ about terrorist attacks has not changed much over time. On average, about 40 percent of those surveyed were ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ worried about becoming victims of terrorism,” he said.

America achieved a “major victory in the fight on al-Qaida” with the death of Osama bin Laden in May, bringing “a sense of closure” and an opportunity “to heal,” Angley said.
Even with that achievement, now is not the time to rest on our laurels, he added: “We should be concerned about terrorism for the simple fact that terrorists still exist and they continually make plans to conduct attacks.”

Americans should be concerned enough not to let their guard down but not let themselves live in fear to the point that they give up basic freedom in the name of security. “If we do that, then the terrorists win,” Angley said.

We’re all in this together, said Adam Fetcher, assistant press secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. In July 2010, DHS launched a campaign called “If you see something, say something,” a program to raise public awareness of terrorism and violent crime that emphasizes the importance of speaking up when you see something suspicious.

This campaign was effective in thwarting a 2010 Times Square bombing attempt. A T-shirt salesman saw something out of the ordinary — smoke coming from a vehicle — and reported it to authorities, who prevented the explosives from detonating. The car bomb had been ignited but was dismantled before it could explode.

Feeling safer

Most Americans remain confident that the Obama administration can keep Americans safe and protect us from the threat of terrorism, according to a CNN/Opinion Research Poll released in January. Nearly two-thirds of people questioned in the poll say they have a moderate or great deal of confidence in the administration to protect the public from terrorist attacks, up 2 points from August. Thirty-five percent say they have not much or no confidence at all, down 1 point from August. The poll also indicates no increase in overall concerns about terrorism.

Travel remains a concern for many, but “the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Safety Administration have taken significant steps to keep Americans safe since 9/11, including constant enhancements and evolutions in our layered approach to aviation security through the deployment of new technology, and application of the latest intelligence to our security measures in real time,” said Jonella J. Culmer, a spokesperson in the TSA Office of Public Affairs.

Simply the presence of these governmental agencies that were created after the terror attacks of 9/11 may be a deterrent to further attacks on American soil.

“While it is impossible to completely eliminate risk,” Culmer said, the Transportation Safety Administration continues to evolve and refine its procedures to be used as a deterrent and a highly effective security system.