New York City celebrated the beginning of 2001 with its annual party in Times Square.
February 2001 brought a foot-and-mouth crisis in Britain.
Convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was executed in June.
The world watched on live television as a second plane hit the World Trade Center and both the towers subsequently collapsed.
The U.S. mail became a delivery system for terrorism as letters containing anthrax arrived around the country.
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2001: Before and After

Top Ten
1. September 11
2. War in Afghanistan
3. Failing economy
4. Anthrax scare
5. Mideast conflict
6. Stem cell research / cloning
7. Timothy McVeigh execution
8. Milosevic handed over to The Hague
9. Senate switch
10. American Airline crash (tie)
10. The case of Chandra Levy (tie)

(CNN) -- We entered 2001 cautiously, still wrapped in the fog of a muddled presidential election as rumors of impending layoffs began to swirl. The economy was our main concern. The fate of America -- and of the world -- seemed tied to the Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange in the "new economic order" wrought by globalization.

Then came September 11.

We woke up to the fact that capitalism was not the only force that had become multinational -- terrorism had undergone a globalization process of its own. Al Qaeda operates with an international reach, technological expertise and an intensive training program for workers.

The eight months prior to September 11 seem like a distant dream. Wasn't it only last June that the United States executed Timothy McVeigh for the biggest act of terrorism ever committed on U.S. soil?

How quickly we went from debating the futuristic era of cloning and stem cell research to worrying about the age-old plague of smallpox.

September 11 has been called the demarcation of the 20th and the 21st centuries. It was the day that crushed the complacency of the last remaining superpower. Most of the world condemned the attacks and offered support, but a hidden vein of Third World resentment against the United States burst into view.

Why did young Muslim men who had international experience and a middle-class background feel compelled to drive passenger jets into U.S. symbols of financial and military might?

We may never know the full answer. Sociologists point to culture, psychologists point to troubled minds. Theories, sound and otherwise, abound. But as we move forward, the newly interdependent world becomes frighteningly more complex.

"If you are not with us, you are against us," President George Bush said.

A simple demand. If only compliance could be that simple.

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