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Six Months After

As many predicted, as people everywhere feared, September 11 changed the world.

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The putrid clouds have cleared from lower Manhattan's skyline, yet somehow they still cast shadows over world civilisation

"Nothing will ever be the same as it was before" - the ominous warning sounded out by commentators after September 11 is still ringing loud and clear as the world marks six months since terrorists felled the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York.

Indeed, the events of September 11, 2001 have shaken the world with far-reaching political and economic consequences.

In America especially people began to think differently about their vulnerability, their power and freedom.

But in the world outside America, which only witnessed the immensity of the attacks through the media, how much has really changed? How many of the immediate responses to September 11 were mere knee-jerks?

For a start, Western interest in Islam has boomed. Entire bookshelves on Islam, life behind the burqa or veil, and Huntington's "Clash of Civilisations" were snapped up in a matter of days. Critics of Islam and experts on the faith went on air, writers eager to cash in on the event wrote at breakneck speed, and hapless film-makers whose uncannily similar action flicks were primed for release were at pains to declare they'd made the film months before terrorists probably even hatched the plan to fly into the towers.

The world for a while became a sadder place to live in.

Empathy with America's deep sorrow led to mournful tones setting the trends. Nowhere was this more evident than on the catwalks of the world, where svelte models counteracted sorrow by parading in white, the colour of hope and peace. White became the year's new "black" for a while.

A respected fashion magazine in America even came out with a piece saying "celebrities were out and ordinary people were in" referring to the bravery of the firemen at Ground Zero. Catwalks in America even saw firemen uniforms and security maintenance garb receiving wild applause, albeit for a brief period.

As gloom and insecurity seized the world, there was an increasing tendency to look for warmth and comfort within the family or four walls of the house. The international furniture fair that kicked off in Cologne in January this year cashed in on "cacooning" – the "need to protect oneself from the harsh, unpredictable realities of the outside world". Home design and furnishings focused on alleviating stress and increasing home comfort.

There was a surge in people acquiring domestic pets. Nothing like cuddling a furry kitten especially if you live alone. The need to reach out and be loved was probably never stronger.

But that was six months ago.

Now, if you want to go about your life without hearing another "that's because of the events of September 11", you are not alone. Perhaps like the American comedian who pleaded recently in a newspaper for the right to make light of the events or he'd be stifled under the weight of the gloom, you need a break too.

Yet with talk of a widening war and US President George W. Bush’s warning Monday of "catastrophic terrorism" threats, there’s a sense that the seeming normality of life – at least in most of the world – is illusory, fleeting. That, above all, is because of the events of September 11.

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