For most of the nation, the events of Sept. 11, 2001, shattered a long-held sense of American invulnerability and stirred dormant patriotic feelings. For people of this region and of greater New York, it meant something else as well: a fundamental change in the way we view the workaday world.
Howard and the other Maryland and Virginia counties that ring the nation's capital each send thousands of commuters into Washington every day to do myriad jobs for the federal government, the U.S. military or the private industries that serve them. Here people use terms like "GS" and "liberal leave" in casual conversation, and it's understood in a wink-wink sort of way that if you ask someone at a party what he does for a living and his answer is a vague, "I work for the federal government," you can be sure he's with the National Security Agency atFort Meade.
Chances are that someone you know, or at least a friend of a friend, had a loved one in the Pentagon when American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into it.
The NSA and other arms of the U.S. intelligence community were in for a shakeup after that, and while that kept Congress and the talking heads busy, it also meant long hours and workplace upheaval for some of our neighbors.
Even if they had no connection to the federal government, those commuting to Washington and environs had to navigate new obstacles, as did the tourists who fuel a sizable chunk of its economy.
Individuals all over the country — including four Howard County residents who will be remembered with a moment of silence at an observance at Centennial Park on Sunday — endured deep personal losses on Sept. 11, 2001, and the national psyche bears a terrific scar. The fallout from that day has infused many facets of life for all of America, from our politics to some of our personal habits.
But as we observe the 10th anniversary of 9/11, it seems to hit a little closer to home for the people of this region than it did for anyone outside greater New York.