9/11/11

I was at home.

It was the first summer of university, and I hadn’t yet returned for lectures. My dad called home to tell us to turn on the TV; at that stage, he’d only heard there had been a terrible accident in New York City. We were regular visitors to the States, and had many friends there; there was an awful immediacy to what we then witnessed live on the BBC. I have never quite been able to imagine that feeling magnified, as of course it must have been on the other side of the Atlantic.

A couple of years later, a friend thought back another decade, to the First Gulf War: with the precocious ignorance of schoolchildren, she and her class had laughed when they heard the first Gulf War had broken out. She wasn’t – we weren’t – laughing anymore. As much as I have some sympathy for Adam Kirsch’s assessment that America has been remarkable in its retention of liberal values during the last decade, I find it sadly difficult to think back to that first summer of university today without also thinking of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo. I think it’s possible to do this without doing a disservice to those who died on 9/11 as a result of a premeditated crime devised with the express objective of mass civilian death; it is possible to feel not resentful of today’s proper remembrance, but rather even sadder at their passing.

Today as ten years ago, then, I sit down at a keyboard and type, to American friends both present and past, that my thoughts are with them. As our understanding of the attacks has broadened in the last decade, thoughts can also be with the families of those of other nationalities who died that day … and who have died since. In this spirit, one hopes now for a less fevered, more filial, decade to come.

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