So I’m rereading Netherland, Joseph O’Neill’s “post-9/11” masterpiece. I agree with the noun, but I’m not sure I understand the adjective. As Dwight Garner pointed out, all books are post-9/11 now. Indeed the attacks happened more than seven years ago, and a lot of books have been written since.

Where was I that fateful Tuesday? I was in my first weeks of college, lacking friends and perspective. I got that 9/11 was a big deal because my fifth day of classes were canceled and later my English professor made us write in our journals about it. But I didn’t realize then I was in the chasm of pre-9/11 and post-9/11, which in retrospect, was the hardest part of the whole attacks for anyone who wasn’t directly affected.

I suppose there is a difference in our mindsets before and after that fateful day, I just don’t know what it is. But terrorism is sort of like the threat of a car accident: a danger we do our best to avoid but ultimately might be out of our powers to stop. “Post-9/11” is just a new existentialism.