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Sept. 11, 7 years later: Where are we now?

ASSOCIATED PRESS

She says she feels a kinship with the Sept. 11 lost because Britt was sent to New York with the Navy to help uncover remains. And when she thinks about how the country has changed, she answers: Not much at all.

“They don’t give a damn about the war,” she says. “Unless you have someone that is actually defending you, you don’t give a damn. You’re secure. You’re doing your daily thing.”

Seven years means Kathy Agarth, who in 2001 lived in a Washington suburb and today teaches second grade at a private school in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., must find a way to explain the attacks to children with no memory of it and little understanding. To these children, Sept. 11 is no different from Memorial Day.

She says her students know the term “9/11” and they pray for the soldiers and may write letters to them this year. But they do ask her about it from time to time, and she chooses her words carefully:

“Some men were angry at the United States. They crashed their planes into some buildings. Their actions were evil.”

Evil. That the word resonates in American life, and particularly in American politics, is a sign we are not too far removed from that day.

Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in California, asked last month: “Does evil exist? And if it does, do we ignore it? Do we negotiate with it? Do we contain it? Do we defeat it?”

Sen. John McCain answered simply, “Defeat it.” Sen. Barack Obama said it exists in many places, and that it is “God’s task” to erase it from the world.

Seven years means Somerset County, Pa., where United Flight 93 went down is trying to figure out how to get the curious visitors who stream in from all over the country to stay awhile.

“You’re here looking at the memorial. There are other opportunities,” says Brian Whipkey, editor of the Somerset Daily American. “You can do whitewater rafting, you can do skiing, biking, hiking.”

Sept. 11 as a segue to recreation: How far we have come.

Think back to flying after Sept. 11. Right after. Think about the sheer will it took to board an airplane, what it felt like to eye the other passengers, to startle at the slightest turbulence.

“People were mortified,” recalls Jewel Van Valin, a flight attendant for Delta Air Lines who is based in Los Angeles. “They were all hoping, ‘We’re not going down, are we?’”

The months after the attacks were not kind to the airline industry, and about a year later, Delta opted to save a little money by replacing its linens in first class with paper trays. Van Valin decided to pass out crayons.

She did this because she thought the paper trays were tacky. But after 9/11, flight attendants were also there for emotional comfort and the crayons provided a means of release.

Back then they drew firefighters and flags, police officers with tears in their eyes, the skyline of New York. They drew airplanes and they wrote, “In God We Trust.”

Now they draw palm trees and hammocks, tropical drinks, Disney characters. They draw destinations. They draw moving on.

Associated Press writers Matthew Barakat, Kelli Kennedy, Ramit Plushnick-Masti, Solvej Schou and Amy Westfeldt contributed to this report.

(Associated Press)