FIVE YEARS LATER How We've Been Affected

The Subtle Changes Since 9/11

By Stephanie McCrummen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 11, 2006

Five years later and 40 miles west of the Pentagon, beyond a guard and iron gates and as the sun falls into a warm evening on Chalfont Drive, Roya Lovell does not think about Sept. 11, or terrorism, not exactly.

She thinks about what she can make her three kids for dinner -- "Should we order a pizza?" her husband asks, arriving home with them from taekwondo class -- whether she feels like a walk, what she has to do to get ready for a business trip to California in a few days.

Across the wide street, a lazy sprinkler waters a lawn, and several neighbors stand outside watching their children play in the cul-de-sac, discussing vacations and the spate of hot weather.

In this particular corner of Piedmont, a gated golf-course community in western Prince William County, no one lost friends or relatives in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. No one ran down stairs, dived under desks or felt such imminent threats as a rolling cloud of choking dust.

If you ask how the largest terrorist attack in U.S. history has affected everyday life here, people tend to answer, not much at all. Most of the time, life hums along, perhaps with longer waits at the airport.

And yet it is also true that as the emotional urgency of Sept. 11 receded like a huge wave, it left behind an altered landscape here on Chalfont Drive, both mentally and materially.

For some, there are lingering fears, almost more annoying than frightening, that have become part of the ebb and flow of day-to-day thought. For others, fears have settled into questions about all that has come after Sept. 11 and what it means. Questions have settled into a sober desire to understand the world. And even among those most supportive of U.S. policy after Sept. 11, there is skepticism now -- what one woman calls a "more cynical" view of U.S. power and its limits.

Then there are the more personal, elemental changes that have become such a part of daily life as to escape notice.

Pulling into driveways on this evening, for instance, are several neighbors who moved to Piedmont, in Haymarket, precisely because of the attacks, because they wanted to be far from the bull's-eye that the Washington area seems to have become.

Among them are an Iranian, an Iraqi and two couples named Parsons, comfortably affluent professional couples with young kids living in a booming part of the region very much defined by optimism: a strong economy and brand-new streets, just-planted begonias and vaulted ceilings -- a place that depends on the hopeful and that promises a measure of escape.

Playing in the cul-de-sac is Amber, who is 4 now and who owes her existence to the emotionally intense fall of 2001, when Nicole Parsons and her future husband decided that life is short and had a child. Across the street are Tanya and Scott Charbo. They moved from Colorado when Scott got a high-level position at the Department of Homeland Security, an agency that did not exist before Sept. 11.

Next door is the mom who quit her job to be home with her children after the terrorist attacks and only last month returned to work. A few houses down is the minivan whose gas tank never drops below half-full, a practice begun after Sept. 11 that has become habit.

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