On the morning of September 11th, 2001, tragedy struck when two hijacked airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center towers in New York City. After that, everything changed. For the past twenty years, America has grappled with the question of “could it happen again?”

Where would the attack come from? What could we do to prepare? And could we stop it?

The attacks on the World Trade Center took the lives of nearly 3,000 people and consumed America with outrage, fear and grief. The thought of a large-scale attack on Americans in their own country was no longer unthinkable, it was on everyone’s mind.

What if terrorists did strike again? What if this time they use biological weapons? Or even nuclear weapons? Which city would be the next target? Would Washington, DC be next?

Needless to say, the collective consciousness had changed forever. 20 years later, we’re still asking these questions. With American troops pulled out of Afghanistan, tensions once again rise whether there could be another attack on U.S. soil. Would America be prepared for another attack?

Well, here’s the thing. This isn’t the America you knew from 20 years ago. Over the last two decades, the U.S. government has gotten a major upgrade to its defensive and offensive capabilities. The big one being its intelligence community.

Let’s break it down. Beetween 2002 and 2017, the United States spent an estimated $2.8 trillion on counterterrorism. So, you’ve got CIA, FBI and National Security Agency, right? All getting expanded.

Then you’ve got a newly formed Department of Homeland Security. Plus, the special forces are doubling down on counterterrorism capabilities. They’ve now got access to a whole new, densely tangled network of intelligence collection technologies.

This tech collects all types of signals that can be used to target individuals or groups who may be planning attacks. Since 9/11, the United States has conducted more than 15,000 counterterrorism strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

Now more than ever, it’s harder for terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda to organize an attack similar to 9/11. With today’s far more advanced intelligence agencies on alert, a mass-casualty attack is a lot less likely to slip through the cracks.

But it’s not impossible. Even with all the preparation in the world, an attack on American soil could always a possibility. There are hundreds of places around the globe that could house terrorists organizing attacks on American targets.

But it won’t be another 9/11. The events of September 11th, 2001 were a heartbreaking tragedy, and a defining moment for Americans. There was life before 9/11 and there was life after 9/11. Government, travel, media, society, everything changed.

Another attack in America wouldn’t be a repeat of 9/11. It would be something new entirely.

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