The mind plays peculiar tricks as you get older. These days, I can’t remember where I put my car keys from one minute to the next, or where I’ve parked my car in the mall, but I can still remember exactly what I was doing on 9/11, 2001.
When I was growing up in London, terrorist attacks at the hands of the IRA were commonplace, but it never stopped us from shopping in Harrods or catching a bus.
We didn’t give in to the demands of terrorists then and we won’t now.
It’s thirteen years since the full weight of terrorism wielded its ugly power in the USA and a superpower realized that even it was not exempt from attack. The events of 9/11 shocked the world – not just the US. Before that terrible day, we all secretly ridiculed the US for what looked like a narcissistic obsession with nationalism, but when it was attacked, we suddenly realised just how vulnerable we all were.
I had a four year old Kurt at home with me on that day and it seemed like any other day of parenting – still desperately seeking the secret to toilet training and praying his kindergarden never discovered the refusal of his bowels to comply with society’s expectations. And so somehow the news passed me by until the old man called me mid-morning; from which point I was transfixed with the rest of the world by the escalation of horrific events shown on television. It was the first time any of us had witnessed the full scale of terrorism, ‘live’, in our homes.
It was horror on a grand scale.
Watching that live footage was like living a nightmare where you just wanted someone to pinch you; yet it was equally mesmerising too, in its appallingness. When those towers fell and the plumes of white smoke engulfed New York and its victims, so quickly and without any real warning, the images sent a shudder of united disbelief around the globe for the loss of those three thousand innocent victims caught up in the game of politics.
Kurt, who has a morbid obsession with morbidity, (borne out of anxiety), replays 9/11 footage often – yet to this day I can’t watch it.
So many precious lives wasted and shattered in the name of religion and politics.
There is footage of some of the victims holding hands and jumping from the towers together. United in death. You can’t begin to imagine the absolute desperation behind that choice.
No-one should have to make a choice like that and it reminds you that there is such a fine line between life and death.
And so, thirteen years on, the war against terrorism continues and seemingly intensifies, because it has to. Because we can’t allow fanatics to tell us how to live our lives or impose their evil will and ideals upon our democracies in the hope that we will crack eventually.
Just as we did in the first and second world wars, we will fight to the bitter end for our kids and our kids’ kids.
And yes, there will be more loss of life, like the lives of those poor American journalists, so violently, shamefully and publicly slaughtered for ‘a cause’, (apparently), and the shooting down of our civilian planes. Then there’s the silent infiltration of these groups into cells that permeate our society like cancer, and condone evil that we thought had been eradicated a long time ago, such as genocide and the abuse of women.
I am no politician, as you can imagine – I can only speak as a mother of a future generation and from the instinct of someone who knows the difference between right and wrong. But we can’t let terrorists define who we are or let them believe that we powerless against them.
Violence has never been an acceptable negotiating tool in modern society.
Mankind has had to fight for its freedom since the world was created, whether in the face of natural disasters, world wars or at the hands of maniacs, and there is no doubt in my mind that we will be battling to the end.
Terrorism is not a new strategy, but what 9/11 and its victims did for the world was to make us more aware of how wrong it is, and far more determined to fight it.