9/11 is definitely a pivotal moment from the last 20 years, especially for the western world. It was a moment when an unanticipated attack took place which claimed the lives of almost 3,000 Americans. What followed thrust our nation into two (or more) wars and challenged our notions of civil liberties and privacy.  Emergency Management personnel extracted an entire encyclopedia of lessons as did people in the preparedness community. This is what I extract 10 years ago:

1) Religious extremism matters – We can no longer write off those that preach violence in the name of religion. In fact, they are far more dangerous than their secular counterparts.  Of course, some religious fundamentists are far more violently extreme than others. It is a worthy battle to confront the forces of religious fundamentalists and “explain” you will not submit.

2) Politics and leadership matters – Through the 90’s, I thought politics were a matter for the tabloids. During the time when a stained, blue dress was the center of attention, the 9/11 plot was hatched and executed.

3) The government cannot save you. In times of disaster, the government cannot be trusted to save you. You must be prepared to save yourself when the government is overwhelmed with pressing matters. You never know when you will be without all the systems of support on which we are dependent. Of course, this lesson was reinforced by Katrina, Rita and Ike in the subsequent 10 years.

4) Be careful what rights you abandon in times of crisis, you will never get them back. In the years after 9/11, I fully supported rendition, war, and spying on Americans all in the name of keeping me safe. In retrospect, there are zero safeguards to protect ordinary citizens from either extended stays in sunny Cuba or final rewards in unknown locations. What started in one administration will now be with us forever.

In the end 9/11 began to end my normalcy bias and open my eyes to what could and did happen. I take that lesson to heart each and every day while expressing my response by preparing for the unknown.

What did 9/11 change in you?

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