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20 years later, we’re still absorbing the meaning of 9/11 for ourselves and for our country

Andrew Kydd, a new assistant professor, tries to get The New York Times web page to load in his Harvard office — a stark, unlived-in place with a scattering of books.

Tommy Thompson, the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary, views television coverage from his office in Washington, D.C., and knows the day’s meeting — a discussion of pandemic flu preparations — is history.

“At the end of the ’90s some intellectuals thought, ‘History is going to be kind of boring for a while,'” says Kydd, now a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“My memory is that 9/11 was unlike anything I’d ever seen before and potentially disastrous in terms of the follow-up. A lot of us were thinking about chemical plants, oil refineries, nuclear power plants. It struck me, if they could do this, they could probably do more. I thought this could be the precursor to a lot more high-casualty attacks.”