The Malta Independent 14 November 2019, Thursday

15 years of a world forever changed

Sunday, 11 September 2016, 20:16 Last update: about 4 years ago

As the world, today, marks the 15th anniversary of the 11 September terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C., one cannot but also mark the fact that few are the ways in which the atrocity has not affected our lives and changed the world forever.

Not only was the heinous attack an attack on the United States, nor an attack on the Western world – it was an attack on the entire world. Of course, terrorism was no novelty back in 2001 but the sheer magnitude of the death toll of innocents, some 3,000 people, undeniably changed the global mindset forever.

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The way in which we travel, for starters, to the basic way in which many view the world and trust one another will never be the same after the events of that pivotal and terrible day. Terrorism in the post-9/11 world has taken on not so much a new meaning but, rather, an enhanced meaning.

The multiple memories of that tragic day have left an indelible mark on our collective memory. Utterly reprehensible in every way, those heinous acts represent a condemnable and twisted view of one of the world’s great religions, and the perpetrators through their despicable actions rendered a great disservice to its followers. The sad fact is that those Muslims who do not subscribe to extremists’ warped interpretation of their religion have borne and suffered the many consequences of their actions. Since then, with the rise of al-Qaeda and later the Islamic State, that burden which they bear has become all the heavier.

The ramifications of that fateful day 15 years ago have reshaped the very parameters of the world in which we live. The attack’s perpetrator, Osama bin Laden, was slain after a 10-year manhunt but the minions that sprouted up in the wake of 9/11 and his death, are still very much active as evidenced, for example, by the recent terror attacks in France and Belgium. Some governments, meanwhile, have stepped up intelligence and surveillance activities to such an extent that civil liberties and privacy are being heavily trampled on.

One could ask what the world would be like today had 9/11 not happened. Would Afghanistan still be under Taliban control, would Saddam Hussein still be in power in Iraq, would the Arab Spring have even taken place, would ISIS have been conceived?

The answers to these and several similar questions will never be able to be answered with any large degree of certainty but there can be very little doubt that the tragic events of 11 September, 2001 have permanently and irrevocably changed the world in which we live.

That change is symbolised succinctly by this editorialist’s recollection of a fine summer evening in July 2000, standing in the plaza that once lay between the twin towers of the World Trade Centre and gazing upwards, as millions of others have done, at their seemingly endless rise into the night sky. The events that were to take place there a little more than a year later were, at the time, utterly unimaginable.

Looking at that spot a year after the 9/11 attacks, by then renamed Ground Zero, one was greeted by an altogether different scene – one of devastation and destruction, a sight unfathomable a year earlier. Today, the site has been gloriously rebuilt in a symbolic sign that the world will not be beaten down or held to ransom by those seeking to impose their twisted ideologies upon the rest of the world.

Short of sparing a moment of silence for the thousands of victims and their families, it is difficult to commemorate such a terrible day with anything but a deep sense of poignancy and, for many, tears. Tears for the thousands of innocent lives taken that day, and the thousands more that have been needlessly taken since then. But in a number of countries, in the United States and elsewhere, millions of people mark today’s anniversary by carrying out good deeds, and in so doing they, each in their small individual way, fight back against the evil that was perpetrated that day 15 years ago.

We should all follow that example. After all, what better way to at least partially offset the evil and terror permeating so much of the world today than to spread love and compassion?

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