The passage of time is a curious and bittersweet thing, even more so when entwined with the fragility of the human memory. Sometimes we cannot remember for love nor money the details of something we did only yesterday, even if it’s a good memory we want to recall. Sometimes, the memories we least want are the ones refusing to leave us.
Time dilutes our memories in a lot of cases, but sometimes something happens that not even time’s relentless march can mask. September 11th, 2001 is a day I still remember, very clearly, 15 years on. I was at work, when someone mentioned a plane had hit the World Trade Centre. At first I didn’t believe them – things like that just don’t happen – but then I got phone calls – first from my Mum, then from a friend, and the reality began to set in. As the full picture emerged, and as we went home and switched on the news, the shock hit me. It was unreal, and terrifying. The images on the news were horrific, and no one knew what it would mean for the world.
In the days that followed the details came to light. I’m not going to retread history – suffice to say terrorists from Al Qaeda had used planes as weapons, killing thousands – and in the aftermath, we’ve had wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which in turn have contributed to the rise of IS. 9/11 changed our perceptions of Muslims and has made us more distrustful as a society. Security rules and measures have become more draconian. The world changed that day, set down a path previously not trodden.
We cannot forget. We must remember the victims and cherish their memory. We must remain vigilant, and yet remember that we are better people than the terrorists who struck that day, and that we will not give in to the hate and anger that fuels them. We must remember the acts of bravery and compassion that unfolded – the sacrifice of brave souls who placed themselves in harm’s way to save others. The legacy of 9/11 needs to be the world united in one voice, saying ‘no’ to anyone who would preach violence and hate and fear.