The instant wisdom formed after the terror attacks on the United States 11 years ago today was that we would never be the same. As the memorials of that day enter their second decade, it is clear this judgment did not anticipate all that would happen.
Certainly, the nation has settled into the new normal with security concerns a major part of life. Ever since 9/11, airline passengers know they will not board any flight without the standard ritual of inconvenience -- shoes off, possessions in the tray, luggage scanned, perhaps a pat-down.
In public spaces, cameras watch the crowd and warnings are posted to report suspicious activities. A forgotten box or briefcase is a matter for the bomb squad. Not being casual about security is one identifiable way the nation has changed. Never has the old adage been more closely observed: Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.
But what becomes routine also becomes less fearful. While they do not have their guard down, Americans go about their everyday business with less obvious concern. The dark shadow of terrorism has lifted in the home of the brave to the extent that we are in the midst of a presidential election campaign which is largely being fought on the state of the economy, not on which candidate is more likely to keep us safe.
The killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in May 2011 certainly boosted the country's sense of ease, for not only did it avenge the 3,000 innocent victims of 9/11 but it also proved that we should not live in fear of terrorists -- they should live in fear of a roused free people. The public regard for the armed forces remains as high as the stars in the flag.
Indeed, the once ubiquitous phrase "war on terror" is not much heard these days and is not much missed. Meanwhile, the fight against terrorists has not stopped. Drones patrol the skies above countries such as Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
At Ground Zero in New York City, at the Pentagon and at the scarred field at Stonycreek, Somerset County, Americans will gather today to mourn those who should never be forgotten and ponder the significance of that day which became another day in infamy. America has changed, but America has regained its equilibrium -- itself a proof the terrorists did not win. They never will win.