Byline: Opinion by Richard Galant, CNN
(CNN) -- After terrorists in hijacked planes brought down New York City's World Trade Center 20 years ago, a little-known government agency investigated the structural collapse of the 110-story Twin Towers.
Its work helped change building design, wrote S. Shyam Sunder, who headed the study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Construction became "more resilient," he noted -- wider stairways with harder enclosures, more fire resistant structural frames, tougher fireproofing materials, more robust emergency radio communications capability.
But while NIST's findings led to more than 40 major changes to US building and fire safety codes, Sunder wrote, they weren't aimed at fortifying buildings to withstand the impact of aircraft. "It would be better instead to keep terrorists away from airplanes, and airplanes away from buildings."
On September 11, passengers on the hijacked Flight 93 foiled terrorists' plan to crash it into a target in Washington, DC. As former President George W. Bush said Saturday at a memorial where their plane came down in Shanksville, Pa., "Facing an impossible circumstance, they comforted their loved ones by phone, braced each other for action, and defeated the designs of evil."
To fight terrorism, the US plowed billions into air security, establishing safeguards familiar to every passenger today.
These precautions made the US safer from one kind of deadly enemy. Not surprisingly, they were useless against another, which health experts had long predicted: the new respiratory virus that spread around the world, carried on planes and through buildings big and small, at the beginning of 2020.
Terrorism is still a lethal threat. The lives lost on September 11, 2001 remain a national heartbreak. For many Americans, it has been a long time since they felt really safe.
Today a raging Covid-19 pandemic is reshaping the US and the world. The new concerns that keep people up at night are about the health of family and friends, overcrowded hospitals, breakthrough infections and the risks unvaccinated children may face.
"Many of us started the summer fully vaccinated and ready to celebrate," wrote Dr. Megan Ranney, an associate professor of emergency medicine. "I booked tickets for work and family trips, left my mask at home when seeing friends, and took a deep sigh of relief that the worst seemed to be behind us."
"But now Covid-19 cases are rising at my hospital. My colleagues and I are worried about kids going back to school while so many are ineligible for vaccination. Many businesses are telling their workers to stay home a bit longer. Daily infection rates are more than three times higher than they were last Labor Day in the US -- and in the coming days and weeks, we could be met with still higher infection rates as Covid cases that were picked up on Labor Day travels are detected."
The truth is, "our world is never going back to pre-Covid 'normal.' The sooner we accept that, the sooner we can move forward."
President Joe Biden announced a...