What were you doing.. Eleven years ago ..on 11th of September 2001? That was the morning when 2 hijacked passenger airplanes were crashed into the World Trading Centre in America, and another 1 was crashed into the Pentagon – America’s military HQ.
I was at work, as an Administrative Officer in the Immigration & Nationality Department. It was just after lunch time, when the news had spread through our very small unit (about 8-10 of us max. It’s a big department now ). At first I wasn’t entirely sure what had had happened. And then we all realised that America had been attacked. As we worked in a Home Office, a sort of unofficial panic spread – that what if the terrorists would attack the government buildings in UK…ie us?!! Well, thankfully that did not happen (well, not for some years! And sadly it did happen to London in the other now well abbreviated `7/7′ event).
This takes me back to some 25+ years ago, when back in Sri Lanka, my family & I were fleeing for our lives, as racism & racial violence against Tamil people was sweeping my native island (I was about 13 yrs). It takes me back to those panic stricken days, fears, terror and confusion. We did not know if we would survive or not then, so it doesn’t take me much to empathise with the people of America who on that fateful day of 11th September 2011, would have had confusion and fear…as their City was being attacked from air by not 1 or 2 but 4 airplanes!
And on that fateful day, myself and my family here in UK were fearing for the safety and lives of our own relatives who lived in New York, USA. We waited for ages to hear from them and were relieved to hear that they were well and safe.
I am sure some will argue that the lives lost on that day are nothing compared to the number of deaths that still occur every day in other parts of the world – even today. But, on this day, 11 years on, as the people of America remember what they had lived through, my thoughts are with them. And in loss and pain, numbers do not matter – for every life lost matters.
One death does not equate to another death…or does it? Here in lies the whole debate of the causes of terrorism, and justifications of terrorist acts by those who employ it. No one is born evil, and I do not believe neither do those who become terrorists. But despair, conflicts, oppression, ongoing persecutions by other over-powering entities and authorities – can over time create the stimuli that pushes individuals to take up arms and rebel. And such rebellions do become extreme. We have only to look at the world at large now to realise it.
Sometimes, such rebellion is welcomed and even encouraged by other countries. Examples are how the USA and UK and much of the western nations were in support of the Egyptian, Iraqi and other middle-eastern world rebellions last year. It is only when some rebellions turn extreme, and attack us, that we suddenly condemn it, attack it back with all our might.
Coming from a race of people who have been persecuted in my native land, and having fled that land and sought asylum in the UK some 25+ years ago, I have perhaps some grey-ish ways of looking at these social issues. As I said, one death does not justify another. But I can understand on an emotive level, why some people take up arms. After all, don’t many of us look to Robin Hood..the ultimate Rebel?! Social and political issues remain. Only bows, arrows and spears have changed…to missiles, bullets and aircrafts that fly into Buildings!
Nearly 3,000 people ( including all 227 civilians and 19 hijackers aboard the four planes) had died on that day ..11th September 2011. (At that time, the population of America was about 283 Million, and the approx number of births was 4 million!). I am not trying to say that 3,000 deaths is nothing! But in other war torn countries, deaths can be more than 3,000.
- For example, Casualties of the conflict in Iraq between 2003 to 2006 has a lowest estimate of 151,000 according to a wikipedia page).
- Sri Lanka’s decisive 2008-09 military offensive against the country’s separatist Tamil Tigers may have resulted in the deaths of as many as 40,000 civilians, most of them victims of indiscriminate shelling by Sri Lankan forces, according to a U.N. panel established by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. (That is just between 2008-09. I can only imagine the loss before and after that period. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/un-sri-lankas-crushing-of-tamil-tigers-may-have-killed-40000-civilians/2011/04/21/AFU14hJE_story.html) )
I bring this up to give perspective. And let me reiterate I am not at all in favor of any sort of terrorism that is killing innocent civilians. In some cases. it’s the entities that purport to be fighting terrorists who are the `hidden real terrorists’ – and it is their killing actions hat reveal why others too up arms against them in the first place!
The 2,980 people who died in 9-11 attack were innocent victims – someone’s parents, siblings, teachers, mentors, lovers, partners, sons & daughters. That human loss can not be replaced or justified. But then, neither can all the other deaths in all the other wars around the world! And the rest don’t get a `9-11′ or a 7-7′ or some other fancy historical naming! That is what enrages me! In fairness, we should be marking every day of the year for that! The 1-1, 1-2, 1-3.. and onwards for every single of the 365 days!
What we perhaps need is a `World human-death day’ to mark all those other nameless deaths.