Today marks 16 years since one of the most tragic days in recent history. On the morning of Tuesday 11th September 2001, the world woke up to the tragic news of one of the most horrendous terrorist attacks on western soil in years. We pause to remember those 2,977 innocent victims who lost their lives, to send our prayers to their families & to pay tribute to the heroism of the first responders and volunteers who responded to New York’s time of need with courage and dedication.
Countless lives lost in an instant. Hijacked planes flying into the World Trade Centre – it was something no one had imagined in their wildest dreams. 2,977 lives were lost and a further 6000 others were injured. Families shattered, loved ones lost. It still sends shivers down the spine. The images of the collapsing towers engulfed in flames, the smoke and debris still feels fresh to this day. President Bush declaring in response
Terrorist attacks can shake the foundation of our biggest building, but they cannot touch the foundations of America.
He wasn’t the most loved President at the time and still continues to divide opinion; but at the time, his words provided assurance to people all over the world and helped show defiance to terrorists who tried to break the spirit of our freedom and tolerance.
I still recall – being a 9 year old child at the time. Hearing about the incident, going into school the next day – still deeply disturbed by the events of the day before. Only to see a devastated teacher at school who’s son had gone to New York on holiday. The look of desperation on his face was something I had never seen before. Glued to his phone – he was anxiously trying to get hold of his son but was having no luck. We learned from him a few days later that his son had been admitted to a New York hospital suffering from smoke related injuries but was safe.
This single fateful day reshaped the world we live in drastically. The idea of terrorist attacks on such a large scale in the West were unthinkable – especially at the turn of the new millennium, when significant world events had occurred to aid our quest for world peace. Peace in Northern Ireland had just become a reality – with the Good Friday agreement just a few years prior. A jubilant Tony Blair as British PM in Paris in 1997 had declared proudly:
Mine is the first generation able to contemplate the possibility that we may live our entire lives without going to war or sending our children to war.
Little did anyone know, that just a few years later – the attacks on September 11th would reshape global geopolitics in such a way that the western world would once again be plunged into a endless conflict with the Gulf states. One who’s effects still seems to continue to this very day.
Not only did the attacks on September 11th redefine America, but also the whole of the western world. The resulting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq paved ways for radical preachers to capitalise on the casualties of these wars and use the deaths of civilians as a fuel to ignite their fires of hatred in the hearts of many young people throughout the west. We continue to see the effects of this even today. After September 11th, terror attacks became more common throughout the west. From the 7/7 bombings in London the following year, to the recent attacks in Paris, Brussels, Manchester and London once again. Terror attacks on western soil orchestrated by home grown terrorists have become a sad but regular occurrence in our lives. While the root cause behind these can be attributed to many factors – ranging from hate preachers brainwashing innocent youth to lack of integration and hatred for western values. One thing remains true – the attacks of 9/11 have deeply scarred the world and its dark legacy continues to haunt us to this day.
On my visit to New York in 2012 for a conference, I decided to take some time out and visit the 9/11 memorial on ground zero that had just been newly opened at the time. Despite being 11 years on since the attacks, the area still has a deeply unsettling feel to it. As soon as you step into the vicinity of the grounds where the tall and grand towers once stood – every other thought escapes your mind. You can’t help but feel overcome with emotion. The scenes of suffering and terror that you once saw on the TV start to flash through your mind. The monument houses two fountains honouring those innocent lives that were lost, with plaques hearing the names of all those 2,977 kind souls who lost their lives in 2001 and the 6 who lost their lives in a bomb attack on the World Trade Centre previously in 1993.
Despite all these years, countless military operations and arrests; justice still remains elusive for the families of the victims of this tragic atrocity. The five men accused of masterminding these attacks remain in US custody – awaiting trial. Despite hoards of evidence stacked up against them including tapes of their ring leader boasting of orchestrating the attacks to press media in 2002, a date for the trial remains provisionally set to start in 2019. Despite there being enough evidence to convict, the trials have been repeatedly put off potentially due to some of the methods used to obtain information – with one of the convict alleged to have been given the controversial “Waterboarding” treatment 183 times in a single month alongside rectal rehydration. Thus potentially jeopardising the Prosecution’s claims.
The biggest disservice in all of this is to the families of the victims – seeking closure. From what it seems – Justice is a long way away for these families.
The 2,977 individuals who lost their lives on that tragic day act as a reminder to us all of our duties to fight any form of extremism – especially in these times where we are seeing a rise in extremist ideologies across our nations.
On behalf of everyone at Graduates of Democracy, I, as President of the board would like to pay my respects to all those who lost their lives, their families and loved ones. I would also like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all the first responders and volunteers who responded in the toughest hour in New York’s history. Their heroism and selfless acts are a testament to the unwavering spirit of New York.
By Mu-Hamid Pathan
– President – Graduates of Democracy
– Former Member of UK Youth Parliament for Leicester South & Media representative for UKYP East Mids
– Mentor to Leicester Children’s Council
– Freelance Politics, policy and participation advisor
– Young Advisor to O2 mobile on youth strategy and Think Big CSR
– Steering group member for Young Researchers network