One thing I noticed (I happened to be in London on the day of the bombings), was a radical difference in the attitude of the general population between the UK and the US. Now, the World Trade Center attacks were a couple of magnitudes bigger in terms of body count, and all evidence I have is strictly anecdotal, but I still find my observations interesting.
After the attacks in New York the reaction, besides sadness, condolences and so forth, was anger and aggression. Let’s find who did this and kick his ass. Let’s kill ten of them for every one of us they killed. Let’s turn the Middle East into a parking lot.
In England, I saw very little of that (one old Scottish lady I spoke to on a train did say she hoped they’d find out who did it and string them up). The general attitude was one of passive defiance, the same attitude that you saw during the Blitz. The Churchill quote “You do your worst and we’ll do our best” was re-used. It was all about standing up in the face of adversity, not primarily about striking back.
Somehow, I can’t imagine that “DEFIANCE” was the headline of New York papers on September 12th, 2001. “VENGEANCE”, possibly.
One comment I loved went along the lines of “You did your worst, and you managed to disrupt our public transportation system and get a death toll in double figures. That happens all the time anyway. Was that really the best you could do?”. Another was something like “We lived through Danes, Scots, Normans, the Black Plague, the Great Fire, the Thirty-Years War, the Hundred-Years War, and the Nazis. You guys are amateurs.”
I think it comes down, at least in part, to having lived through a war on your own soil. Americans haven’t had a war in their own country since the Civil War, but the Blitz is still a living memory in London. Londoners were there, or have parents who were there, or at least grandparents who were there. London has been attacked before. Many, many times before, many times worse than this.