For several years now on September 11th, I have re-posted this article with minimal edits. In many ways, nothing much has changed as the years have gone by. I think therefore that this is for me the most appropriate way to mark the ten year anniversary of the most shocking event of my lifetime.
The world will never forget 911. Each year I say it, but it still feels in a way like yesterday, despite the fact it is an age ago. We now live in the post 911 world. 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. I remember sensing that something had happened from inside my room in the office I then worked in. For all of us, work was immediately forgotten. As I went out of my room to find out what it was that I somehow knew was wrong, a colleague told me what had happened and we all went upstairs to watch the terrible events unfold. Holidays were canceled. Business trips were 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. In 2003, when I first wrote this article, here in the UK we were still awaiting the attack we had all felt in that moment to be imminent, and which 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, every person on each of those subway trains would have died, possibly with even greater loss of life than New York had experienced. At another point, the conviction of those responsible for a liquid explosives plot to destroy multiple planes over the Atlantic reminded that the risk has not gone away.We would be foolish to conclude we are now safe.
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 do some people still hate Americans? Why are some apparently respectable Muslims at least partly sympathetic to the terrorists?
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 is also the anniversary of the day 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? They got their wedding cheaper because most people did not want to marry that day.
I thank God today, a few hours before Americans will awaken to 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 one of the leaders responsible for trying to minimise our risks. It is very easy to criticise, but today of all days lets pray for wisdom for Obama, for Cameron and for all other world leaders.