OPINION: 9/11 and its impact on national security


Graphic done by Megan Fisher

Price Wilborn, Commentary writer

September 11, 2001 is a day that will forever live in the minds of Americans.The day one of the strongest nations in the world stood still.

The impacts the 9/11 Attacks had on the United States, both on individuals and as a nation, are innumerable. All aspects of American life were changed; from the way that we travel to the way that we walk on the street. The beacon of freedom in the world was paralyzed, and no one knew how it was going to recover.

Twenty years later, the 9/11 attacks are still fresh as ever in the minds of Americans old enough to remember it. The attacks led to the implementation of countless national security measures, the impacts of which are still felt today.


Many of these changes took place in the realm of air travel. Just two months after the attacks, President George Bush signed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act into law.

This act, among other things, created the Transportation Security Administration to make sure travel was monitored. All baggage was now required to be checked before boarding and the cabin doors of all planes were reinforced.

Congress also passed the USA PATRIOT Act. According to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, “The purpose of the USA Patriot Act is to deter and punish terrorist acts in the United States and around the world.” This act allows the US government access to information to help prevent attacks by using surveillance and other methods to gather information.

One of the largest changes resulting from 9/11 was the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. This new cabinet-level department was created under the Homeland Security Act of 2002, bringing together 22 federal agencies and departments.

DHS has a wide variety of tasks it performs, from protecting US borders to stopping terrorism threats to helping when hurricanes and other natural disasters strike. Since 9/11, national security at home has become an issue on which politicians are constantly working to improve, and the creation of a cabinet-level department was the most effective way to streamline this process.

In my life, all of these security measures have just been normal practices. By the time I was born in 2003, the United States was already fighting the War on Terrorism overseas in Afghanistan and Iraq. My entire life has been overshadowed by the actions the nation has decided to take to not only protect its citizens, but to prevent any attack, especially one of the magnitude of September 11th, from ever happening again on US soil.

Because of my age, I will never fully understand the impact that 9/11 had on Americans. I’m able to recognize that. For this reason, I didn’t feel comfortable writing a piece of this seriousness without talking to people who were able to remember and reflect on that day.

I had the chance to conduct a phone interview with Lieutenant Colonel Morgan Greene, Professor of Military Science and Leadership at Western Kentucky University. Greene was in his senior year at the United States Military Academy when the 9/11 attacks took place.

I asked LTC Greene what he felt when the attacks took place. Being twenty-one at the time, he felt that he didn’t initially understand the implications of what was happening. He remembers feeling concerned and wondering, “were there other planes out there, possibly heading to West Point?” He also felt a sense of what was coming. He knew that himself and those at the academy would get the chance to use their training and lead, “and come it did.”

“And come it did.” These are the words that stuck with me the most. Four words summed up the magnitude of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in a way that I was never able to fully understand before. The seriousness and importance, not just of these wars, but of all of the national security changes that resulted from 9/11.

In my US History class my junior year of high school, we took several days to watch a documentary titled “120 minutes that changed America,” about the day of September 11, 2001. This documentary included no commentary, but instead was a collection of home videos, news reports, and other sources that were arranged to mirror the events of the day in real time.

It was that documentary that has had the most impact on me as an American about the events of that day. Yes, one can read about what took place online and in history books, but they will never do it justice. That documentary helped me realize that the steps taken by the US Government in terms of national security were some of the most important pieces of legislation in recent history. 

Working to secure the nation was the most important thing the US Government could have done immediately following the attacks. Paranoia swept the nation, and Americans were afraid another attack could happen at any moment. Grounding flights and passing legislation not only kept the nation safe, but brought together Americans in a way that was most needed.

Internationally, the US government made choices that could now be seen as unnecessary and even problematic. Actions taken have caused America to stay involved in the Middle East longer than ever imagined. This has caused enormous military growth, but has stagnated growth in other areas of domestic policy. 

Going to war, along with all other actions taken, was the right thing to do. It helped to unify the population at a time when it needed it most. Creating this sense of unity, safety, and wholeness in the hearts and minds of all Americans was the most important thing that the US Government could have done at the time. 

I ask readers to set their political views aside to take time to reflect and remember. This is never an easy time for those that lost a loved one in this terrible tragedy. It is to these people who I forever send my thoughts and prayers. While I will never be able to comprehend the immense pain and sadness you have experienced, I want you to know that myself – and the nation – will never forget. 

Commentary writer Price Wilborn can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @pricewilborn.