Almost ten years later, a chapter in US, indeed, global history, has been closed with the killing of Osama bin Laden. But as the intense protests against the building of a Muslim community centre near Ground Zero last year indicate, the legacy of the attacks will haunt society in the US for years to come.
It's hard to fault President Obama for his remarks announcing bin Laden's killing. There was no smugness or cockiness, as President Bush was wont to display whenever he boasted of successes real or imagined. But the thousands of people who gathered outside the White House and around Ground Zero in New York had a much more Bush-like mood; one that indicates just how removed so many of us have become from the realities of not only the original attacks, but all that has happened since.
Network coverage showed people driving around with US flags on their cars, the way sports fans do on the day of the big game. People were chanting "USA! USA!" like they did when the US beat the Soviet Union in that famous hockey game at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics. In New York, scores of young people, most too young to have experienced 9/11 in any meaningful way, sang the words to 1969 hit "Na Na Hey Hey, Kiss Him Goodbye," which has also become ubiquitous at sporting events whenever victory for the home team is near.
Commentators and celebrants alike were comparing the festive gathering of citizens to the end of conflict in World War Two, which produced such memorable celebrations on the streets of New York. But victory in the "War on Terror" is not near, not least because the war was never primarily about terrorism.
Instead, the Bush administration used the excuse of al-Qaeda's attacks to radically reshape the political economy of the United States towards the kind of military-petroleum-finance-led system that Obama has found almost impossible to challenge - much to the detriment of the transformative agenda with which he entered office.
As damaging as both the erosion of our constitutional freedoms, which in many cases the president has actually affirmed since taking office - and as Obama alluded to during his speech - the erosion of the sense of unity that every country needs to prosper in good times, and to rebuild a sense of purpose and vision in the wake of tragedy and violence.