9/11 Effects In The USA

On September 11, 2001, three airplanes were hijacked by terrorists to attack the two World Trade Centers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DC.  The death toll was about 3,000 people.  This series of events is the single largest concerted attack on US soil, right along with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  The 9/11 events are made all the more visible through the coverage of modern media, such as live television broadcast of the collapse of the towers.  As such, the impact on the country are deep and wide.

Immediately after the attacks, domestic air flights were stopped immediately for several days, for fear of further attacks.  Gradually, airplanes were allowed to fly again under additional security.  Air travel volume dropped precipitously, as businesses and citizens curtailed traveling.  According to the Travel Industry Association of America, more than 500,000 travel-related industry workers lost their jobs nationally.  Other public places (malls, restaurants, movies theaters, etc) also saw decreases in attendance in the immediate aftermath because they represent potential targets for terrorist attacks.

There was a report that 30% of New Yorkers suffered post-traumatic stress disorder over the next six months in the form of sleeping disorders, nightmares, alienation/estrangement and depressions.  This is an unverifiable incidence since PTSD sufferers may not be aware.  Whether or not a person can be medically classified as such, there is no denying that there are major psychological effects for many people.  A cataclysmic event has the psychological consequence of making us aware of the fragility of our existence.  This is a moment to gain perspective on life and focus on those things that really matter.  Most prominent is the need to connect with loved ones.  Patriotism, altruism and religious spiritualism figure too. 

For most Americans, these attacks appear to have come out of the blue.  The ensuing events were also volatile and unpredictable as American troops were sent to Afghanistan and other related developments unfolded between Pakistan and India, and between Israel and the Arab world.  Media usage increased as people sought to find out about the events, understand the causes and monitor new developments.  Unfortunately, higher media usage does not necessarily translate to better understanding, given that the President's explanations consisted of naive statements such as "Why do they hate us so much?  They hate our freedoms our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote..." and then "I'm amazed that there's such misunderstanding of what our country is about that people would hate us ... I just can't believe it because I know how good we are."

We will now cite some survey data from the 2002 MARS study.  This is a mail survey of 22,097 adults in the 50 states of the USA conducted during January-March 2002.  Within this survey, there is a section that begins with the question: "Due to the tragic events of September 11th, would you say that you are doing each of the following more, less or no differently than you did prior to that date?" followed by a list of activities.  In the next chart, the survey results are displayed.

These survey results are consistent with our prior discussion.  Decreased activities are: traveling, dining out, going to malls, going to movies/theaters; Increased activities are socializing, family visits, spending time with children, religious activities, saving money, donating to charity and usage of all types of media.

A few weeks after the 9/11 events, there was a series of terrorist activities in the form of anthrax mail.  The connection, if any at all, between the two series of events is unclear at this time.  Nevertheless, the anthrax attacks were terrifying because anyone in the population can be victimized.  Within the 2002 MARS study, there were many more people who answered that they now take more precaution in opening mail.  We are mindful that this was a mail survey with a 58% response rate, and these results are obviously based upon those responders who opened their mail and completed the survey questionnaire.  The incidence of affirmative answers to this question would probably be higher among the non-responders. 


(posted by Roland Soong, 7/18/2002)

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