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THE NEW WORLD

Ripple effects

Five years after 9/11, Current asked nine people how the events of that day changed their lives

September 10, 2006

FOR HISTORIANS of the United States, the events of 9/11 reminded us of the broader context of our work. We may focus on particular political movements, urban geographies, cultural trends, social groups or any number of specific topics, but ultimately we cannot understand the past -- or the present -- without some knowledge of the rest of the world and the contested place of American power and American culture within it.

In universities, the trend toward "transnational" history or toward the "internationalization" of American studies was well underway before Sept. 11, but the terrorist attacks accelerated it. My students now show greater interest in international affairs, and my own research attends more to the transnational circulation of ideas and to the effect of world events on American social thought. These changes may not be due entirely to Sept. 11, but they aren't divorced from it either.

Joanne Meyerowitz, professor of history and American studies at Yale University, is the editor of "History and September 11th."

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The bookseller

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By Kerry Slattery

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SOON AFTER 9/11, we set aside space in the store exclusively devoted to books on the Middle East and current events because customers were hungry for information on these subjects. It was separate from our politics section. It has become the most important part of the store. Before 9/11, these books, mostly published by university presses, collected dust. After the attacks, these books, plus new works on the Middle East, were quickly snapped up. We sold the Koran, books on the Taliban and U.S. involvement in the Middle East, Noam Chomsky's book on 9/11. We thought this little section at the front of the store would be viable for only a few months, but it continues to hold some of our bestsellers.

Kerry Slattery is general manager of Skylight Books.

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The Architect

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By Barbara A. Nadel

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IN OUR litigious society, in which building owners and architects can be liable if their structures and designs do not take into account the possibility of catastrophic events, the standard of care after Sept. 11 has risen.

I generally advise clients and colleagues to consider several post-9/11 design strategies. For example, widening exit stairs in a new high-rise, and opening them to the outdoors rather than to a lobby, facilitates faster building evacuation and gives first responders better access. Laminated glass, which shatters in place, or blast windows, developed in Israel and widely used in high-risk facilities, offer greater safety because they prevent flying glass pieces from causing fatalities. Finally, to guard against the progressive collapse of a building as a result of a blast, more structural redundancy and robustness can be designed into the building. In basic terms, structural loads are more widely distributed so that a blast won't cause the building to immediately collapse, as was the case in Oklahoma City.

Architect Barbara A. Nadel is editor in chief of "Building Security: Handbook for Architectural Planning and Design."

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The movie director

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By Paul Greengrass

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THE 9/11 COMMISSION'S report had a powerful effect on me. I knew after I read it that I wanted to do a film on that day. Last summer, as I was looking into doing a film on United Flight 93, the subway and bus bombings in London happened. That further motivated me to make the film.

In a sense, cinema flourishes when political arguments and divisions are deep and loud. Cinema is one of the ways we seek common ground. It's right and proper that filmmakers should join the 9/11 conversation.

The unique thing about the people on United Airlines Flight 93 is they knew what we on the ground didn't understand. We watched the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on television, aware that something terrible was unfolding but not really understanding what it was. Those passengers were the first people to inhabit our world today, the post-9/11 world. That's what gives their story such immense power.

Paul Greengrass directed "United 93."

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The Arabic professor

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By Ismail Poonawala

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THERE IS a good outcome to this tragic event. Enrollment in Arabic language classes, as well as in Islamic and Near Eastern history courses, has dramatically jumped at UCLA. In the last five years, Arabic and Islam courses have been added at other universities.

Before 9/11, I taught an introductory Islam course for a number of years. After the terrorist attacks, enrollment has grown to more than 120. It could even go higher if there was more funding for teacher assistants.

Ismail Poonawala teaches Arabic and Islam at UCLA.

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