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September 11

Ten years ago on Sunday, the world was shaken when terrorists hijacked four planes and flew two of them into the World Trade Center and one into the Pentagon.

The fourth, also intended for Washington DC, crashed in Pennsylvania after heroic passengers tried to wrest back control of the plane. September 11 has marked a generation. Like the assassination of US President John F Kennedy or Pearl Harbor, people remember exactly where they were when they heard the news of the attacks.

And the world has been changed as a result, although not, thankfully, in the way al Qaeda intended. That organisation’s intention was to take out the world’s financial, military and political centre, and as a result, cause paralysis, all with the intent of extending militant Islam’s reach. That did not happen. The global economy continues to work, and if anything, democracy is stronger now than it was then.

Al Qaeda, though not defeated, is scattered and weakened, and its leader, Osama bin-Laden, is dead. This year’s “Arab Spring” is not what al Qaeda wanted. The uprisings in the Middle East show a yearning for democracy, not a new Caliphate. To be sure, it is fragile and could be taken over by extremists, but it gives hope to all. But that does not mean that all has gone well since September 11. Then-President George W Bush’s misadventure in Iraq would not have occurred were it not for September 11, and that decision did more to damage relations between the west and the Arab world than the September 11 attacks ever could have.

Western troops remain embroiled in Afghanistan today. The overthrow of the Taliban and the scattering of al Qaeda from their training camps was perhaps the high water mark of the war against terror. That the west neglected Afghanistan after that campaign represents a great missed opportunity. So too was the failure to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict in the wake of the attacks when the goodwill was there to find a lasting settlement. Similarly, the world’s financial system recovered remarkably quickly from the attacks, outside of the infinite personal devastation that they caused. But it is also indisputable that the vast amounts spent on wars and security since have cost the world’s economies and still do.

Of course, all of this pales compared to the personal loss that so many are still feeling, including the families and friends of Bermudians Boyd Gatton and Rhondelle Tankard, along with those of former Bermuda resident Robert Higley, whose full story is told for the first time in today’s newspaper.

The wounds of September 11 will never fully heal for those who lost loved ones on that day and nothing will ever bring them back. They still deserve our sympathy and support.

September 11 was the day that this generation lost its innocence and its optimism. The world in 2001 was mainly at peace, the world’s economies were growing, and as a new millennium was starting, there was reason to hope that a new era of peace and prosperity beckoned. That dream was shattered on September 11.

But the world owes it to the victims of the attacks to ensure that their children’s world is safer and better than the one they left.

FILE - In this Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001 file photo, firefighters walk through the rubble of the collapsed World Trade Center buildings after terrorists crashed two airliners into the towers. (AP Photo/Shawn Baldwin)

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Published September 09, 2011 at 2:12 pm (Updated September 09, 2011 at 2:11 pm)

September 11

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