I’ve always been fascinated by how peoples’ habits change in the wake of major events, particularly in unexpected ways. After WWII, for instance, Americans started eating more organ meats, like kidney and tongue. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, people in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi started buying more expensive brands of beer, but less expensive brands of toilet paper. And that small shift in buying habits persisted for almost two years.
And, of course, lots of things changed after September 11th. What’s fascinating is also how much things stayed the same. In this New Yorker post, Steve Coll describes how his family shifted (and how it didn’t):
My kids belonged to Washington’s Code Blue generation. We all assumed that another attack was quite possible, one in which my wife and children would evacuate toward the mountains to the West, and I would go into work in the city, and try to find them later.
Each family car had maps marked with back-road routes to Hagerstown, Maryland, on the assumption that the main highways would be gridlocked. We had no particular connection to Hagerstown, but it was a town I had passed through as a child, on the way to visit relatives in Western Pennsylvania, and it seemed a safe but manageable distance away. …
Yet the anxieties that gave rise to these plans spiked only once in a while. Mostly the contingency plans were ignored and the tape on the maps came unstuck. There was a “Terrorism Jar” in the kitchen—actually, a tin can imprinted with a map of the London Underground—with hundreds of dollars of cash inside. Every six months it would turn out that the cash was depleted—all spent on unauthorized pizza deliveries.