Thoughts on 9/11

September 11, 2011 — Leave a comment

Ten years ago today I was tuned into NPR on my car radio while on my way to work, just for a couple of hours before my daughter and I flew to London from Houston. I listened to the announcer saying incredulously that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center, and then another. At work I turned on the television to see what was at first thought to be a horrible accident, was in fact an orchestrated attack on the US.

It was the first time mainland America had been attacked on such a scale and the shock of 9/11 was felt globally. Suddenly the US did not seem so invincible, so superior, so inviolate. The resulting outpourings of sympathy, some from the most unlikely countries, was for a short while a catalyst for peace and a call for an end to the malevolence of terrorism; and the world was called upon to denounce the axis of evil and all those who harboured terrorists.

Before 9/11 other countries had faced outrages in the name of freedom for years, from the IRA, from ETA and many others. Some countries had been fighting themselves, denying their own citizens basic human rights, many still are; and two wars have raged in the last ten years in an attempt to free the world from tyranny.

We could be forgiven for becoming almost inured to the horrors flashed across our screens in the name of ending terrorism, from all sides, but complacency is not a pleasant trait and something to be guarded against. Terrorism on our doorstep has made us all wary and has sharpened us. Every time we see an unattended package on the Tube, every time we board a plane, we are reminded of the changes forced upon us.

The people directly effected by 9/11 and other atrocities, honour and mourn the victims and then with incredible fortitude return to their daily lives, which will never be the same again. A new norm: a life of going through the motions when hopelessness is sometimes the overpowering sensation, which for some continues the rest of their life.

If anything good can come out of terror it has to be the resilience shown not only by those effected directly but by ordinary people, who often in terrible situations become extraordinary. By the ‘fuck you’ attitude of the millions of unnamed people, who quietly declare, we are not going to be beaten by anyone whether a radicalised organisation, a drug cartel, a gang of thugs, or a single mad man: an attitude that offers solace through stoicism, and the inherent belief that the vast majority of people are intrinsically good.

My daughter and I didn’t of course fly that day, ten years ago, but every time us ordinary people fly, or take a train, or just continue with our lives wherever we are in world, we are saying we are not cowed, and never will be by those who attempt to inflict mayhem.

9/11 will go into the history books joining other momentous events orchestrated by evil, but it is the everyday people continuing their everyday lives who will ultimately win, always; and extraordinary people will continue to inspire us.

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