October 16, 2014 – If you lived in New York City during the September 11 terrorist attacks, you can attest to one rather remarkable fact: Nobody really panicked. On a day when Manhattan looked like a scene from some horrible, over-the-top sci-fi production, the vast majority of people kept calm, carried on, and watched out for their neighbors. In the hours following the attacks, even though many people were certain another shoe was about to drop, countless New Yorkers left their apartments to line up at blood donation stations across the city.
New Yorkers, of course, are a notoriously tough lot. But across the country, the reaction of most Americans mirrored that of Manhattan’s. Weeks later, when the World Trade Center site was still smoking, friends flew in to visit. People were nervous to fly, but they sucked it up and did so anyway. The instinct across America, admirably, was to band together, not hole up in a stockpiled panic room.
Early on, official narratives from the CDC and the president loudly assured Americans that they could catch Ebola only from “close contact” with exotic “bodily fluids” like blood and semen. Americans were simultaneously assured that there was no way you could catch Ebola on, say, a bus or a plane, and that they were silly and paranoid to think otherwise. Later, of course, the CDC quietly admitted that the Ebola virus can survive on dried surfaces for hours and could even potentially be passed through a sneeze.