Like 9/11, COVID-19 dramatically changed life for Americans

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee city leaders remembered the attack on the World Trade Center towers differently in 2020, holding the yearly memorial ceremony at the War Memorial Center without anyone in attendance.

“Good morning to the people of Milwaukee, who are joining us virtually this year, obviously due to the coronavirus pandemic," Milwaukee Common Council President Cavalier Johnson said, leading off the event.

Mayor Tom Barrett remembered lives lost, and the actions and sacrifice of first responders on Sept 11, 2001, for an event that remains in the nation's consciousness 19 years later.

“They were there for us when we needed them," Barrett said. "And we should be thankful for every firefighter, police officer, social worker, member of the clergy, who was there for us.”

Milwaukee County Historical Society Assistant Archivist Steve Schaffer said COVID-19 has had the most profound impact on daily life since 9/11. He said 9/11 immediately instilled fear in most aspects of daily life for Americans.

“There was a heightened sense in 9/11 of the potential for everything being a terrorist threat,” Schaffer said.

Schaffer said the COVID-19 virus had a similar effect.

“The hoarding of toilet paper, and food articles.” 

The terrorist attacks created lasting change in travel restrictions, from security at airports, to even now, mandating a federally approved ID to fly.

Schaffer said COVID-19 could have a similar effect.

“The social distancing, the hand washing, the way we interact, I think is going to be a permanent change.”

Schaffer says one major difference between the two events is 9/11 brought the country together, while COVID-19 has divided the country.

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