I wrote the following article, originally titled “911 THREE YEARS ON” Now we can add five more years and nothing much has changed. I have therefore lightly edited the article but republish it today more or less as I originally published it:
The world will never forget 911. A year ago I said it felt like yesterday, and it still does. I am not American, and until early 2003 I had never been to New York. On 9/11, I didn’t lose a loved one or a friend. But I remember seeing the second plane hit the building live on TV and, just as promised, it was a day that changed history.
It was a day that marked the expansion of the global village. Somehow the world seemed to immediately know something had happened- it was as though a sharp intake of breath occurred simultaneously around the globe. Work was forgotten. Holidays cancelled. Business trips prolonged or postponed. We all remember where we were that day and how we headed for our homes just as quickly as we were able to.
It was a day when family and friends were suddenly more valued. In a moment security could never again be taken for granted. Five years ago, when I first wrote this article in the UK we were awaiting the attack me felt in that moment to be imminent, and our leaders were telling us was inevitable. In the end, we were spared by something of a miracle the same extent loss of life when Islamic extremists attacked our underground system. If their devices had been more potent, everyone on each of those subway trains would have died. Just in the last few days through the conviction of those responsible for the liquid explosives plot to destroy multiple planes over the Atlantic we have been reminded that the risk has not gone away.
It was a day when a war was declared that by our own admission can never be won. It was a day that we all pray will never be surpassed in the sheer scale of its cruelty, although the same evil displayed has been amply displayed since in various attacks.
It was a call to fight, but also a call to reach out. It led immediately to many unanswered questions- How could people act in this way? Why was anyone willing to be sympathetic to the views of such men? Why was condemnation not forthcoming from every member of the world? Why did some people hate Americans?
What really saddens me to this day is that even such an act, or acts such as torturing and murdering schoolchildren is not enough to make every single person throughout the world state “this is evil and we renounce it totally” I hope that today brings shame to those who in the past have toyed with terrorism- the Irish Terrorists and those who funded them, for example. For Irish terrorism and other groups around the globe helped to lay the foundations and show the way for small groups of people to hold the entire world to ransom. I may not have been in New York before this year, but I have felt the blast wave of two IRA bombs in London.
In the end 911 was, however, a single day. A very important day, but it was nonetheless just a day. Part of history that can never be erased but just one day. We have had evil days before and we will have them again. Without minimising the pain of this day, or for a moment suggesting that we should turn back the clock or stop commemorating it, it was just a day. Somehow such days must be integrated and life must continue, as indeed it has.
I am glad that for my family this date in the year we also have positive connotations to remember it by in the future. Today (five years ago) my brother got married. I am glad that this was on 9/11 because why should we let the terrorists totally occupy the territory of one of our 365 days? Do they also now own another one after 3/11 in Spain? What about 7/7 when they attacked London? Can nothing good ever happen again on 9/11?
I thank God today, a few hours before Americans will realise its 911 for all the marriages that have taken place on 9/11, for all the babies that have been born, for all the human achievements that have been completed, and in short for all the lives that continue this 9/11.
Our very resilience and determination shows that terrorism will never beat the human spirit. Sadly, one of the costs of living in freedom is that evil men will always have the opportunity to strike again. I am glad that I am not the leaders responsible for trying to minimise our risks. It is easy to criticise, but today of all days lets pray for wisdom for Obama, for Brown and for all other world leaders.