Thirteen years ago today, the world as we knew it changed forever.
I was roused from sleep early on September 11, 2001 with the words “A plane has hit the World Trade Center.”
Out of bed and with CNN on the TV, I was mesmerized, as were millions of others, by the scenes unfolding. There was the North Tower in flames, vast billows of smoke filling the New York skyline, when suddenly out of the blue, and captured on real-time video, another jetliner slammed into the South Tower.
It became instantly obvious that the United States, and subsequently the rest of the Western world, was under siege.
Terrorism had finally struck into the heart and soul of North America. We were no longer protected by the vastness of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. We were not only now vulnerable, we had been attacked.
From that day forward, the United States and Canada, thanks to the fear factor, have become less free, have in many ways become paranoid and thus, at least in the U.S., caused the gun culture to proliferate.
Our borders are now only accessible with a passport, security questions (and acceptable answers) ubiquitous, and airport clearance times quadrupled.
Sunday night, I watched a documentary “9/11: Voices from the Air” which presented the actual conversations of air traffic controllers, confused why their requests for responses to the crews of jetliners were going unanswered. Most chilling were the actual words of Mohamed Atta, unconsciously broadcasting over the airwaves his direction to passengers to keep calm, that they were simply “flying back to the airport” when in fact he was piloting American Airlines Flight 11 and all those innocent souls into the North Tower.
Also fascinating were the conversations, after controllers realized they had not one but a number of hijackings occurring, between them and the U.S. military. By the time everyone realized what was actually happening, it was too late, at least to stop three of the aircraft from deliberately smashing into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
What brought down the fourth plane in a Pennsylvania field is anyone’s guess, though it is clear the U.S. military is denying any involvement and crediting heroes among the passengers for taking control and, intentionally or otherwise, crashing it.
The tragedy of some 3,000 lives lost, and the many thousands more in battlefields that still rage, is that it is all based on the belief of religious supremacy.
Had it been for something more tangible, like land or riches, it might be more understandable. But to kill thousands and millions of people simply because of a “belief” in a higher power is an abysmal travesty.
In fact, it is not religion that drives those to commit terrorist acts or slaughter innocent people, but a quest for power and control of people’s lives under the guise of ‘purifying the world in the name of God,’ whoever that may be in the minds of such oligarchs.
Tomorrow, as we reflect on innocence lost, at least in North America, let us also commit to continue the war against terrorism and extremism.
Realism tells me we may never win, but perhaps we can at least succeed in keeping much of the Western world free from fear.
We owe it to the 3,000 who died 13 years ago, and to our children, grandchildren and the future of our world.