Thoughts on a sad anniversary.

As I’m sure you all know, tomorrow is the tenth anniversary of the tragic events of 9/11. I remember watching the first footage of the attack on the World Trade Towers, my hand on my mouth and my eyes nearly popping out of my head. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Then it got worse. There was also an attack on the Pentagon. The Pentagon! Then there was the plane that crashed before it could reach its target. Some said they were going to hit the White House. What the flamin’ heck was going on?

I remember seeing the footage of people walking out of New York, covered in dust, heading home as best they could. I had a weird, trivial in the circumstances, thought: How are the women going to walk so far in their high heels? I saw the firemen and police running into buildings that everyone else was running out of: so brave. Then, of course, there was the mind-numbing thought of so many people – not just Americans, but people from many foreign countries including Australia – who were lost under all that rubble, or dead from jumping out of the buildings from a terrible height. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that day. Will you?

I ask myself: what were the terrorists’ objectives? Does anyone know? They killed a lot of people, including muslims and people from their own country, but what else did they achieve? America is still America, but more determined not to be pushed around. They (with our help) have invaded Afghanistan, in search of Al Quaeda, and given the Taliban a thumping in the process. I (sort of) get that. They (with our help) invaded Iraq, but I’m still not sure why that happened. (I have a sneaking suspicion Mr Bush just had to be seen to be doing something, and finishing what his Dad started was one option.) Surely Al Quaeda didn’t want a war on their doorstep? But then, I don’t understand the mind-set that produces such behaviour. The same question applies with suicide bombers. Has it ever produced any positive outcome? I don’t think so.

I think the world has become a more fearful, more distrustful place. Refugees used to be people in need that we were obligaged to help. Now they’re ‘queue-jumping potential terrorists’. We have to wear shoes without laces on airplanes, and the good Lord help you if you absent-mindedly forget to remove the nail-clippers from your toiletry bag.

I’ve noticed a change in literature as well; especially the ‘spy’ adventures. The regular ‘bad guy’ (for our part fo the world) used to be a Russian, or some form of communist. That was getting rather old once the Berlin Wall came down. In the late 90s, it was usually an Asian of some variety and drug lords from Hong Kong still feature quite strongly. But the present-day ‘baddie’ is now a generic Arab, or muslim fundamentalist, or Iranian, or Iraqi terrorist. They eat goat meat kebabs while planning to blow something up. I wonder who it’ll be in another 10 – 15 years time?

9/11 was a monumental tragedy on so many different levels. It showed us the extremes of human behaviour: we saw the depths of wickedness and the heights of bravery and self-sacrifice. If it doesn’t cement our resolve to be better, braver, more compassionate, more moral, more loving human beings, then the terrorists will have won. Don’t give them the satisfaction.

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