Like most people who are old enough to remember and process the events that transpired on 9/11, I find each anniversary is a poignant reminder of a very dark place in our collective history. Even as far away as Australia, there was a very noticeable sombre mood when everyone awoke that morning to the devastating news.
Even as a young 18-year-old, I still remember as clear as yesterday coming home from the cinema after midnight and turning the television on to see the live updates being broadcast on Australian TV. Based on the known time difference and approximate time I got home, I recall that I tuned in within the initial half hour of the first plane striking the North Tower. I do remember initially flicking through a few channels on my way to the kitchen before I realised that the same story was being streamed across every single channel I was going through.
As soon as I focused on what was being broadcast and the gravity of the situation, I immediately stopped what I was doing and sat down. I remember taking a seat and watching for a relatively short period of time before seeing live on national and international television the second plane strike the South Tower.
As with anyone who saw those events transpire in real time, there were definitely a lot of mixed emotions being felt over the course of that fateful morning. I remember waking my parents in the very early hours of the morning to tell them what was going on and turning the television on for them to watch. I soon went to sleep with those images fixed in my psyche, wondering what it all meant and what was going to happen.
For those who were old enough to not just remember but process the events that occurred that day, they may still find it difficult to believe today is the 14th anniversary of 9/11. In my mind, 2001 still feels like it was yesterday. Only when I contemplate the fact that this year we’re seeing people who were born in 1997 turn 18, now considered legal adults, do I realise how quickly time has gone.
These same 18-year-olds were only five years old when the events of 9/11 took place. There is no way that a five-year-old has the same capacity as an adult to take in and process the truly devastating effects that went hand in hand with that morning.
These ‘kids’ are now finishing, or have already finished, high school, and most of them are embarking on their professional or academic journeys. A small portion of these will invariably become members of our nation’s think tanks and will go on to become leaders, but how much will the events of September 11 resonate in their minds and in the decisions they make concerning disciplines like foreign policy and national security?
I also realise that time is a healer of all wounds, and that it takes more effort for most to maintain the hatred than it does to simply let these feelings subside. At first it is a disheartening thought because of how strongly this particular event will always resonate in my mind. But, as always, I look at things through the eyes of others in order to try to understand the best I can.
Putting it all into perspective, I reflected on the year 1988, when I was only five years old. Pan Am Flight 103 was destroyed by a terrorist bomb over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew. I am in no doubt that this was an incredibly devastating event to those who were old enough to remember and process that day, but I have no recollection of the event whatsoever. I don’t remember watching or listening to any live news reports. That terrorist attack was only introduced to me as a young adult.
Despite the fact that Pan Am Flight 103 and 9/11 were vastly different in scope and devastation, the fact remains that they were both terrorist attacks involving the use of aircraft that ultimately resulted in the killing of innocent people. Although people who were young adults at the time might vividly remember Pan Am Flight 103, I don’t.
My point here is that it is up to us as the custodians of the 9/11 legacy to never forget that day. It is up to us to uphold the memory of just how brazen that attack was and to not let time dilute the fact that thousands of innocent people were needlessly murdered. Although I understand that the younger generation may not have the same emotional attachment as those of us who were adults at the time, we must maintain an unwavering commitment to fighting this ideology and all those who purvey it. We must continue to drown out those adult voices who have forgotten just how significant that fateful morning was as well as those who have lost the appetite for war.
We must not forget that violence is sometimes the only answer, and that it is the only language that these cowards comprehend. Our ideals of freedom and democracy do not translate into their primitive way of thinking, nor will they ever. Trying to force a square peg into a round hole will never work. We should stop being apologetic for the fact that Western civilization has the most advanced and strongest nations in the world. We need to focus on making our identities great again without feelings of remorse or guilt attached to our achievements and conquests.
Ultimately, policies of appeasement backed by our moral superiors will benefit no one except our enemies. This is why, regardless of how much time passes, we must maintain an unwavering commitment to this fight and must never forget what transpired on the morning of September 11, 2001.