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A Year Ago Today


A year ago today I was sitting in Charles De Gaulle airport in France. I’d just spent a week climbing in the forests surrounding Fontainebleau and I was waiting with one of my friends for our flight back to England. I was tired, suntanned and looking forward to getting back and washing all my kit. Then I got a text message from my brother.

It said: “You’ll never believe what’s happened”.

I replied with: “What?”.

He said: “Terrorism in America on a massive scale”.

Me: “Yeah right”.

Him: “They flew a plane into the World Trade Centre. It’s incredible”.

Me: “That’s not funny”.

Him: “I’m not joking”.

Then our flight call came, I switched my phone off and thought nothing more of it. My brother and I joke around over text messages so I just assumed he was winding me up. But as soon as our plane landed and we were waiting to get off I saw a girl switch her phone on and get a text message. She read it and said “Oh that’s not funny”. At which point I realised that my brother wasn’t joking.

My friend went to get the car from the car park and when he picked me up he had the radio and said something like “the world’s gone mad”. And we listened in silence to people being interviewed about what was happening. The shock, fear and madness in their voices was quite terrible to hear.

When I got home 20 minutes later I put Sky News on and was presented with the picture of the Twin Towers on fire and the endless replays of the planes hitting them. It was, as you know, a terrible atrocity and many people just couldn’t believe that sort of thing could happen for real. It’s okay to see it on a film. After all, it’s just a film. It’s not real life. But if I’m honest about it I wasn’t that surprised that something on that scale could happen. If I look inside my own heart I know that deep down there is darkness. There is nothing blacker than the heart of man and any person – no matter how good natured – is capable of evil. If you don’t have darkness how do you recognise the light?

But there’s no argument. It was a terrible crime and innocent people paid with their lives. There can be no excuse to kill and in a modern civilised society it is inexcusable. So 12 months on, what’s changed? I’m not sure that a lot has on a world stage. Certainly a lot of Americans have realised that there is a world outside the USA and that their government’s foreign policy can have dire consequences when it goes wrong. A lot of people who used to feel safe in a civilised world realise that it just takes a handful of fanatics to break down those walls of protection, and they’ll never feel the same way again. But on a world stage it was small potatoes. It sounds callous, but I’m afraid it’s true.

A great many more people have died from the actions of evil men in recent years. I could mention Chechnya, Rwanda and Bosnia to name but a few. There are millions of people dying from AIDS, famine and war throughout the Third World and their suffering continues. But modern civilised people have a short attention span and once something’s been on the news for a few days they lose interest in it. For example, had President Bush decided to invade Iraq 12 months ago I’m pretty sure he’d have had great public and international support for the move in the wake of the WTC. But a year on the American public are not so keen. And I’m not keen either. We’re fickle creatures. I think that sometimes people forget that outside of CNN broadcasts, Fox News specials and BBC reports there is a real world out there with real people who are suffering terribly.

Maybe by going and looking at ground zero people can realise that things they see on TV are real. Terrible things do happen to good people. And maybe the next time people are put out of their homes by dictators, or genocide is committed on innocents and we see it on the news, then maybe we’ll take a bit more interest in their plight rather than changing the channel to something more palatable. It’s a big nasty world out there. And you can’t change it by closing your eyes and pretending it’s not there. If September 11th 2001 has done anything, it’s opened people’s eyes.

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Creator of John's Background Switcher. Scotsman, footballer, photographer, dog owner, risk taker, heart breaker, nice guy. Some of those are lies.

13 Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Good article. Public interest is indeed fickle, but then so is interest at governmental level. Rather than governments ignoring international situations, these things should be delt with politically & diplomatically AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE. Whilst this would not resolve ALL issues, it could help prevent many wars and terrorist activity. Ignoring problems doesnt make them go away, it just makes them fester, and encourages extremist activity whether by the state or the individual. On another note, I was fully in favour of taking military action to reduce the effectiveness of Al-Quaida, but even with Afghanistan, I was very dubious when one of the stated war aims was “to remove the existing regime”. Whilst it is easy to condemn “bad” governments for specific actions, I find it difficult to agree with replacing a government with one chosen by outside parties, particularly when those parties are one or two countries. This is what it looks like the US & UK are heading towards with Iraq. Who is so above reproach that they can decide who is fit to govern another country? Nobody really. If action IS taken to remove the Iraqi regime, the ONLY way that this should even be considered is with the full support of the international community. Every country, just as every individual has different ideas about what is right and wrong, that’s why each country has it’s own laws. It is no more right for one country to dictate to another how it should behave than it is for one person to tell another how to behave. Individuals (generally) behave in the way that is set out in law as the right way to behave by the wider society of that country. Nations should abide the rules set out by the wider society of the international community, and not behave as only they see fit.


  2. It’s a tricky situation, but I can’t help thinking about 30 years terrorism, funded by NORAD, in the UK….. The IRA were freedom fighters according NORAD supporters in America. Aren’t Al-Qaeda just freedom fighters for some? Discuss………


  3. The only way to deal with global terrorism is through justice. We need international institutions such as a fully empowered and credible world criminal court to define terrorism and dispense justice. There should be a distinction made between freedom struggles based on human rights and self-determination, and terrorism (this should also include state terrorism as is the case with Isreal).


  4. When the Towers were hit I remember seeing people dancing in the streets in the same time..I can also remember the Americans writing names of loved ones on missles during air attacks…tell me which one is right ? Which one is wrong? Who is right or wrong, and who has the right to determine what is war and what is terrorism ?? Coz I sure as hell don’t know……


  5. That was my point manxlennie – one man’s terrorist is another mans freedom fighter. I’m as shocked and horrified by 9/11 as the next man, especially when I was looking into Ground Zero this April. I was saying to John yesterday that if the west pulled all support for Israel, then that would calm things in the middle east, and maybe we’d save a few lives by not invading Iraq. But I guess it’s all gone a little bit too far now, though it’s quite reassuring to see that public support for the war is wavering. We live in interesing times….


  6. I remember people cheering and partying in Times square in New York When Bagdad was bieng bombed by America in 91′ They termed it “Fireworks over Bagdad”. So do you blame other people cheering at America.


  7. Yes Ade…I was agreeing…Basically it all comes down to our cultural diversities does it not..the media condemned the pics of the Palestine baby dressed as a suicide bomber (link). but don’t we dress our children up as soldiers and give them toy guns etc ( A tad hyprocitical..arent we in the west.) I suppose we could debate this topic for ever as our fore fathers have, what frightens me is the fact that my daughter is growing in this world watching and hearing bias media reports that form her concepts of the “baddie”..Then we wonder why our children discrimanate and become self observed with preserving what is suppose to be theirs!!!???..Gosh I do go on …:)


  8. There are some americans that don’t get it: I was shocked when I received that letter in my e-mail last year. That’s just as mad as terrorist attacks, IMHO. I’m glad not everybody feels that way, I mean, you may “feel” it if it happened to close people, but you don’t really want it, or do you?


  9. manxlennie – you’re absolutely right, it’s so much easier to create prejudice than it is to dispell it.


  10. I came back to watch again your amazing “keepie-ups” video and stumbled on to this. Some of us Americans (most of us) don’t get it, but a growing number of us do, and a few of us always did. There’s absolutely no justification for the imminent war on Iraq. 49% of Americans believe we should not go to war. It behooves us to remember that governments’ actions don’t always speak for the people they presume to govern…


  11. It just goes to show that governments don’t always represent the best interests or opinions of their people. The UK is exactly the same.

    What concerns me will be the years to follow. Iraq are certainly no match for the US and allies, but Hussein isn’t the biggest problem. This action will further flame the fires of anti-western hatred. I hate to see what will happen next.


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