In the United States, the impact on people's personal lives in the days following the attacks seemed immediate and drastic.
There were reports of marriage proposals being made, divorces being called off, young singles hitting the bars in search of physical comfort "terror sex" it was quickly dubbed and people who had religiously gone to the gym each day and devoted themselves to low-fat, high-protein diets deciding to re-embrace the sybaritic pleasures of chocolate. Across the Atlantic, however, where the threat of terrorism has been a way of life for decades and where lunch in a Tel Aviv pizza parlor or a night out in a London pub can quickly turn deadly, the impact has been more subtle, more measured.
For many Europeans, in fact, it seems as if the biggest change since mid-September has been in how they view the U.S. itself. "The security that America gave us, that sense of impenetrability, is gone," says Renato Pellizzari, a 44-year-old owner of a cappuccino bar in northwest Rome. "If it can happen to the U.S., it can happen anywhere," agrees Donell Ali, a 22-year-old station assistant for the London Underground. "I'm not scared of the I.R.A., but I'm concerned about safety now." Ali recognizes similar fears among the Underground's riders: "You can see it in their faces."
The post-Sept. 11 world has, for some people, meant a seizing of life's simple pleasures. "Business is better now," says London bartender Simon Ervin. "Our regulars are more regular." Rome newsstand dealer Germana Leo says she still does "everything I did before ... even more so. Go out to restaurants. Go to the movies. Getting on with life helps get over the pain."
But others say that the terrorist attacks have them questioning some of life's basic decisions, some temporarily "I've buckled down financially and I've put off buying a flat," says London lawyer Victoria Froud and others perhaps for some time to come. "I would not want to [bring] children into a world where people are continuously fighting each other," says 23-year-old Berliner Nada Todorovic. Explains Prague resident Alena Svobodova, a 57-year-old retired opera producer: "I have realized that any long-term planning is pointless because you don't know what is going to happen tomorrow."
And while there is widespread empathy for Americans, there is some resentment that terrorism seems to have taken on a new prominence simply because it has now hit the world's superpower. "When the E.U. declared that every member nation would honor three minutes of silence for the victims of Sept. 11, we all thought that was too much," says Stockholm resident Monika Ericson. "Normally we do just one minute and we feel this was imposed on us because it was America instead of Rwanda or Bosnia."
For some people, it seems ignorance is indeed bliss. "I find the whole thing terribly depressing, and every day there is something worse," says an 80-year-old retired Czech social worker. "My doctor even told me to stop reading the papers. He said, 'Look at me. I don't read the papers, and how do I look?' He looks great."
Sept. 11 has had a profound impact on people's sense of security, on their personal priorities and on how they view the world.
Will it last?
For some, perhaps no more than a few days. For others, forever.