“A tragedy is nearly 3,000 people murdered one morning in New York. A tragedy is the mums and dads who never came home from work that day. A tragedy is people jumping from the towers after the planes hit.”
These chilling words by former UK Prime Minister David Cameron always ring true, particularly on the eleventh day of September every year. On that fateful day, but only more a year into this millennium, tragedy struck the heart of New York and the psyche of the American nation.
On that fateful day, four commercial airliners were hijacked by 19 Al-Qaeda terrorists who crashed them into the Twin Towers (the World Trade Center) in Manhattan, and the Pentagon.
A fourth flight, slated for another important target, crashed into a field in Pennsylvania after passengers fought back in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to retake the plane.
Thousands of souls perished on that day, and thus began the Global War on Terror. The world changed irreparably when it saw the planes hit the towers.
Bristling at the fear of more copycat terror attacks also having known that such attacks may have possibly been predicted and quashed, the profound and lasting impact of that day endures within the confines and restrictions we find regularly placed upon our liberty and freedoms today.
Airport checks, including bags and persons, have grown into sometimes-invasive procedures, as a stringent means put forth to find concealed and potentially dangerous objects.
Surveillance measures and intelligence-gathering efforts on the internet and on the telephones have increased and more abundant, with some security laws across the world permitting the government to tap into people’s conversations and data.
The impact of the September 11 attacks on global security and international relations has likewise been enormous enough to drastically shift the focuses of the established global order.
Soon after the tragedy, nation-states began to realize the extent of non-state actors and the threats of radicalized fundamentalism taking root in some of the most underdeveloped parts of the world.
This led them to realign their priorities towards military financing and tightening cybersecurity, noting also the role of the internet as a medium in permeating dangerous beliefs.
It has led them towards the development of tighter and more advanced intelligence communities within and across the great powers of the world, these nations increasingly sharing their intelligence reports and leads with one another, resulting in a more closely-knit global order against terrorism.
Complementarily, there has been a renewed appreciation of the value of civil liberties and rights as a response to these uniquely 21st century challenges of state encroachment and terrorism through radicalization. There has been a growing consciousness of the role of the citizenry in shaping global affairs, including what we can see is a visible rise in public engagement concerning societal issues.
This is a positive development insofar as it has brought the world closer and turned minds towards thinking more about their fellow human beings.
Close to 20 years after that tragic day in New York, countries are still coming to grips with its aftereffects and the legacy it has left the world.
Terrorism and extremism, once thought during pre-9/11 days to be a small issue, hounds the poorly developed regions of the world daily, if not hourly, and stretches its tentacles into the developed nations, at times turning ugly and proving catastrophic for its innocent citizens.
The threat of terror has not yet dissipated, despite closer alliances being forged.
The long shadow cast by that dreadful day in September will keep on shaping the contours of history in this young century.
Its victims we pay heartfelt tribute to and honor by our willingness to keep studying the beautiful nuances of the world, and by emulating their example in not acceding easily to terror.
Never shall we forget.
We shall always remember.