September 11 2001 was my JFK day as it was for millions across the world. Just as many can remember where they were or what they were doing John F. Kennedy was shot, or John Lennon was shot or Princess Diana died, then on September 11 I can remember where I was and what I was doing when the news of the twin towers disaster came through.
I was working in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire that morning. I had wandered through to my study casually and rather lazily to answer the phone. On the other end of the phone was my Anglican colleague, Lindsay. She simply said “Michael, I think you`d better put the television on”. I did and like millions of people was immediately engulfed in the horror of it all. I remember that nothing else was to happen that morning as I simply sat and watched each of those towers being hit by planes, burning and then collapsing.
Watching the events again on TV in the days which followed simply seemed to intensify the horror of a world where faceless people could do such things to others that they had never met. Truly horrific. I recall in the days after the event the hope that America would not respond with violence and for a while it seemed as though the moderate voices would prevail, but then came the war on Afghanistan, then the war on Iraq, the 7/7 bombings in London, the Madrid bombings and so the string of seemingly endless violence was never coming to an end.
And here we are 10 years later in a world which seems more nervous and unsure of itself in terms of security and safety than ever before.
I wonder “did our innocence really diminish that day ?” In some ways I believe it did. No longer could we feel the peace that we had enjoyed since the 2nd World War; suddenly we viewed almost everyone with some sort of suspicion and sadly viewed our Muslim brothers and sisters with a seemingly increased, almost paranoid suspicion. And yet perhaps hope and defiance were also birthed that day too.
Watching the American remembrance this afternoon, it strikes me that hope and defiance stand tall. Firstly the hope that one day there will be true peace and atrocities like 9/11 will indeed be no more. Secondly, that defiance which says that no matter what evil does the basic goodness in the hearts of everyone will never let evil men or women truly have their day. I have looked at the ground Zero memorial and it is truly magnificent; the names of loved ones around the edges, the flowers being placed, not beside the names but quite literally `in` them; the water cascading over the edge as if it’s coming from the very names themselves and then at night those two beams of light projected so powerfully into the sky. All of this speaks of a defiance and a hope for a better future.
My prayers are with those who have lost loved ones today and in many atrocities since, with those who`se hearts still harbour evil that it may be replaced by love, and that the world may truly know the peace of Jesus Christ our Lord, who so powerfully said “LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR”.