"The world changed on September 11."
This phrase may have been the work of the cliché-driven media, but it rang true with many, especially in the United States. The "new" spectre of terrorism combined with the sudden barrage of international politics was a significant step away for the norm, again, especially in the u.s.
In truth, however, if the world did change, that change lasted for about a month, then slowly faded away.
When television anchors lowered their brows and said "the world," they meant the United States. The scale of the 9–11 attack was something different for everyone--a far cry from a car bomb or even a simple highjacking. However, terrorism itself is new to Americans, not to the people of London, Tokyo or Israel. The astonishing visual of the two towers falling jolted anyone with a television regardless of age, language or nationality, because it was a new human tragedy. Floods, wars and hunger all jolt people in the same way, but these have now become commonplace while people flying airplanes into buildings was something never before witnessed by the human eye.
Human tragedy invokes the same knot in the stomach no matter what it is, it is only the scale that changes. A murder is commonplace, so people think, "too bad." A hurricane is more spectacular, so people think, "I'm glad I'm not them." Mass graves in Yugoslavia get an "Oh my God." It takes planes flying into buildings--in New York--to finally get people to say, "Today my life is different."
However, once the shock wore off, even the u.s. returned to normal. It took a couple of months, and maybe it'll take a couple of years for New Yorkers, but American attitudes are back to where they were before "that fateful day."
Bipartisan politics are back in full swing, and rich people are taking advantage of the poor. Prisons are full of blacks and Hispanics just like they were before and people are flying again. The crime rate is back to what it was (except in New York), and the same empty sitcoms dominate what Americans consider entertainment.
September 11 did not change the status quo. True, there is a recession, but Osama bin Laden did not work for Arthur Anderson. There is a war, but the average American is not involved. Finally, post 9–11 politics continue with the same ferocity, and George W. Bush's heavy handedness is simply applied to different issues now.
The people whose world changed are the friends and families of those who died. Everyone else is still watching Friends, sipping on Starbucks coffee, and living their lives just as they did before.