Wednesday, 12 September 2012

9/11: Lest not forget the facts

It’s scary and still as emotional as it was 11 years ago today to think that one of the nastiest, most shocking incidents of the century (and certainly in US history) rocked the world happened so long ago. On the September 11, four coordinated suicide attacks in the New York City and Washington DC areas saw nearly 3,000 people killed.

I remember the day vividly. I can remember by teacher, Mr Millard, looking upset and panicked when he told our class that his brother, who lived in Manhattan, had just witnessed one of the worst incidents known to man.

It was a day that changed the lives of many Americans, and many others too. Nineteen terrorists, al-Qaeda terrorists, hijacked four planes, the first two of which crashed into the North and South towers of the World Trade Centre, New York City. The third plane crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, whilst the fourth - bound for the United States Capitol Building in Washington - crashed into a field in Pennsylvania after passengers attempted to take control of the plane.

Al-Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden, claimed the attacks were in retaliation of US support for Israel, the deployment of US troops in Afghanistan and sanctions against Iraq. Condemnation of Al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden led to a full scale overthrow of Taliban forces in Afghanistan, and ultimately Osama bin Laden’s death in May 2011 (undertaken by the US).

Terrorism had hit home, it became real for many of us. Al-Qaeda was not just capable of killing their own people, but they were capable of attacking arguably the most important nation in the world. For America it will never be forgotten, and long will the tragedy of 9/11 stay in our minds. It reminded us of the terror of terrorism, the need for peace, not war. It saw a nation, in a state of national emergency, come together and support those who really needed our love.

But a lot has happened since then. The invasion of Iraq, 7/7, the Mumbai bombings and of course, the death of bin Laden himself. 9/11 was a catalyst for full-scale terrorism, terrorism that today, despite the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, is still being felt across the globe. In the Middle East, the story is altogether less rosy, and the effects of 9/11 are just as bloody and damaging as they were eleven years ago.

So how come, when I opened Twitter this morning, did I find myself reading tweets from angry people condemning schools in the UK for not holding a minute’s silence to mark the fall of the twin towers? With the 9/11 bandwagon accelerating throughout the day, it seemed appalling to many that school children were not being made to sit in silence.

You mean to say that they should sit in silence for a day that none of them will know about, or indeed understand the significance of? A Secondary school boy in Year 11 would have been 5 when 9/11 happened, is he really expected to remember that event or indeed sympathise with those that died? I mean come on, the majority of Primary school children weren’t even born then!

The minute silence might be symbolic to some people, but for school children it’s a chance to close your eyes and dream about being away from school, not to think about the consequences of a plane crashing into a building that happened over a decade ago. There’s nothing dignified about it, these are young, naive children. And away from school, people are busy at work or in the home, going about their daily lives. So why the condemnation?

If we think it’s important for children to know and empathise with what happened in America, maybe we should give them the full picture. That thousands, indeed millions of innocent people had been killed before and after the event by US, and indeed UK forces in the Middle East. Or that the involvement of UK forces in Iraq in 2003, which came about from the post-9/11 terror scare, is a possible reason for the deaths of 52 Britons on July 7, 2005. 7/7 is another event that many children are unlikely to know the significance of.

Before I’m subject to abuse and condemnation myself, let me point out the Americans felt similarly with our own suicide attack. During a memorial tribute played in the Olympic Opening Ceremony, American broadcaster NBC decided to skip the memorial paying tribute to those who died in 7/7, and instead skip to an interview with Michael Phelps. Some called this “disrespectful and insensitive”, but why? NBC executives claimed that they skipped the tribute because it didn’t “tailor to American audiences”, and in a way they’re right. 7/7 affected London, it is much more symbolic to us here in the UK then to an American. And it’s the same with 9/11. Why should UK school children and many others be told to sit in silence for an event which, yes left the world stunned, but mainly affected American people.

I’m sure there are many of us that can’t remember the true facts, or indeed remember to take a minute out of our lunch break to sit back and reflect. The horror of the event lives on and it won’t be forgotten, but why thrust it on other people? Is that the way we should remember the lives of those lost; by turning it into a media circus, condemning people for not remembering just because they aren’t taking a minute’s silence, or indeed because they weren’t there.

The BBC and many others media platforms today chose not to mention the anniversary of 9/11 in their bulletins, yet the memories and shock live on. The innocent victims of those involved will not be forgotten, and may they rest in peace - but don’t judge people for forgetting to take a time out to rest and reflect.

Pictures courtesy of Wikipedia

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