It is ten years since the two planes hit the World Trade Centre. The Pentagon was also attacked and a fourth aeroplane crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside en route to the White House. There were many horrors of that day, people leapt from the towers to escape the smoke and the flames, a very public way to die. It was viewed as some sort of horrible accident in the opening moments. I remember commentators on television were asking how on a clear New York morning, a pilot could fly into such a prominent landmark. Then the second plane hit, and all at once, as it made its arc towards the towers and its bull’s-eye hit on the South Tower. That was the moment when confusion became clarity. Nobody watching could have believed anything except what transpired to be true. These were hijacked jetliners used as missiles, debatably the opening volleys in a war we didn’t understand and still don’t know how to win.
I wish I had been older, to better appreciate the gravity of those images coming out of New York city on Tuesday morning. Hunter Thompson summed it up best of all. I was ten on that day, I’ll be 25 when the last coalition troops leave Afghanistan. I have sometimes felt like a child born of those jet fuel flames. I turned teenager as those astounding pictures came out of Baghdad of all-American flames lighting up a city once again. I remember staying up late with my parents, they told me I’d remember it for a long time, they weren’t wrong. Now all of that is gone. Grandstanding global gestures and public sabre-rattling are past. No more images of burning towers, the bombs exploding in pre-organised patterns to look good on TV repeats like a fireworks display. Now the images are grainy CCTV footage of a car bomb blowing a market in Pakistan to pieces, clocking up ten percent of the Septermber 11th death toll shortly before cutting to Sports, or pristinely black convoys winding their way through picturesque English villages with a coffin full of bricks representing what was left of someone’s blue eyed boy who volunteered to go out and defend our freedom. This is when we bother to watch at all when there isn’t any good celebrity gossip to fill up the paper.What was most horrifying to people about the September the 11th attacks was not the all American aeroplanes exploding their all-American fuel across those all-American towers, or the people leaping to their deaths, or the promise that that wrathful hammer of American military might was to smash some small nation to pieces before Christmas; the thing on that day that really put the fear into people was the act. Someone had thought this up, and had the luck not to get caught and the will to execute it. It was quite simply a genius plan. It took only 19 men to bring the world’s most powerful nation to its knees and cost virtually nothing compared to what it achieved. Compared to our blunt, tone deaf response, the September the 11th attacks were piercingly effective.
On this, the tenth anniversary there will be much watching of the horrors of that day. The 102 minutes between the hit on the North tower and its eventual collapse. You’ll watch the TV and probably get quite riled up about it all. How dare ‘they’ et cetera. The media will be half-heartedly justifying what happened next, trying to stop the last movement of this Greek tragedy we’ve built for ourselves. The more conscientious stations will probably show the bombing of Baghdad. What they won’t show, won’t be able to and wouldn’t even if they could; is how we have treated Arabs and Muslims in the western world since that awful day. What I want you to remember on the tenth anniversary, is not hatred either for Al Qaeda or the American military sensibility. Feel remorse for all the senseless deaths of everyone involved. Those killed in the initial blast and those who threw themselves from the windows; those who suffer from dust inhalation and the Iraqi children who have to learn to write with their other hand after a cluster bomb exploded while they were playing with their friends. Think about all of these victims, and make your mind up for yourself on this point, with all the Islamaphobia we perhaps perpetrate, and all that we allow at home and as a matter of policy abroad; what sort of a memoriam are we leaving to all those who were robbed of their lives?
Words - Steven