As the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks approaches, half of Americans say the nation has changed for the worse while more than one-quarter (28 percent) believe the country is in a better place, according to an AARP Bulletin poll.
More than three-quarters of those surveyed say the 2001 tragedy has made them appreciate their families and friends more, and adults 50-plus expressed a heightened appreciation for police and firefighters (76 percent), more than people under 50 (69 percent).
Among all age groups, more than two in three (73 percent) say they're now more aware of events overseas. About one in six (14 percent) say the attacks did not change the country at all.
"I most definitely appreciate my family more," says John Hutson, 59, of Artesia, N.M. "I don't take anything for granted anymore."
The survey of 1,003 adults was conducted in July to gauge public sentiment ahead of the anniversary of the worst terrorist disaster on American soil. Nearly 3,000 people died in separate attacks in New York City, at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pa.
President Obama and former President George W. Bush are among the dignitaries who will participate in the Sept. 11 ceremony at Ground Zero, site of the destroyed World Trade Center in New York. Obama will also travel to the other sites to commemorate the anniversary.
It appears that the attacks also had an impact on patriotism among Americans, according to the poll. Nearly two-thirds of respondents say their patriotism increased (61 percent), particularly among older adults compared with their younger counterparts (66 percent vs. 57 percent).
"I remember immediately after the attacks that patriotism certainly increased, and that was positive," says Aubrey Bush, 75, a retired engineering professor in Atlanta, who was working in Washington on Sept. 11, 2001. "But the impact was also negative because it led to creating the Iraq war."
Nearly half (44 percent) of those polled say the tragedy intensified their faith, while 46 percent say they've become more suspicious of others, and 48 percents are more concerned about their safety. More than one in four say they now have an emergency plan or keep a disaster supplies kit on hand (30 percent).
The Sept. 11 tragedy also led respondents to volunteer (29 percent), travel less by air (26 percent) or decide to move (5 percent), and it led respondents or others they know to join the military (26 percent).
Also of interest: The new patriotism. >>
Carole Fleck is a senior editor at the AARP Bulletin.