It was the day after the parliamentary election, and the Labor Party had a central board meeting to discuss the election defeat. At the same time, two passenger planes were hijacked and on their way to the twin towers at the World Trade Center in New York.
No one knew that this day was the beginning of great changes that would intrude far into people’s privacy, worldwide.
At the central board meeting were the then Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and his personal secretary, Jonas Gahr Støre.
– I was out of the meeting and in the room where the press was waiting, when the first plane had flown into the twin towers. That news was shared with the central board, but the story was then that it was an accident, Støre recalls.
– Then I was out again, and stood and watched on the TV screen that another plane flew in, he continues.
Then there was no longer any doubt. The world was facing the most horrific terrorist attack imaginable.
Støre informed Stoltenberg about the incident in the press room, and the moment was captured by NTB’s photographer Knut Falch.
– What was then a central board meeting with a sad backdrop because we had lost the election, got a dramatic change to that this was a terrorist attack. It became necessary to return to the Prime Minister’s office and it became a topic of whether one could be unsafe in tall buildings in Norway as well.
– It was a very, very serious atmosphere, and there were pictures on the screen all the time, says Støre.
The seriousness of the disaster became clear through the television images that were broadcast live on the American channels. But the seriousness took on a new dimension as one realized who was behind it.
– When it became clear who was behind it, the discussion began immediately. It was clear that this was a world historical event that would lead to dramatic changes, says Støre.
Afghanistan was quickly located as the country where the terrorist plans were laid, and the place people were trained to carry out the attacks. It was not many weeks before the United States went on the offensive.
In the early days after the terrorist attacks, the United States received sympathy and support not only from its longtime allies, but also from many of its staunch opponents. However, the wave of sympathy gradually faded.
Afghanistan was attacked by the United States a few weeks later that fall. The 20 years of presence in Afghanistan have ended with many of those who ruled at that time being back in government, says Støre.
– It’s a big defeat. Not least for Afghans who will experience the Taliban regime again, but also for all the countries, including Norway, which have been there in the hope of achieving something other than what has happened, says the AP leader.
September 11 has had major consequences for people both in and outside the United States. Governments around the world have, among other things, adopted comprehensive security laws – with consequences for the population’s privacy.
Millions of people in both the United States and Europe have had to get used to security camera surveillance, and private communications can be intercepted by covert surveillance tools.
One of the most noticeable was the change in air traffic. Airports have become security mazes, and passengers have to abide by a number of rules and controls.