Sunday, 11 September 2011

Ten years ago today

It hardly needs reiterating, but we humans do enjoy a spot of repetition. Ten years ago today, a group of madmen killed several thousand innocent people. This sort of thing happens quite a lot, sadly. But this monstrous thing was done in not only a first-world nation, but the pre-eminent global power. Rather like the assassination of JFK for one's parents, for my generation, one always remembers where one was on hearing the news. I don't really know why you'd be interested, even though you're following this blog already. It isn't as though I lost anyone in America, nor was there any great impact on my life. But I know that people do talk about this, even though the "why" is lost on me.

I'd been shopping in Keighley with my then girlfriend (or perhaps fiancée, we got engaged around that time), Jenny, and had just come back to the car, parked outside a local supermarket, laden with shopping. Stowing everything away in the boot, we got in, and the radio came on as I started the car. Radio 1 was saying something about 'planes being flown into the Twin Towers, and it seemed so incredible that Jenny declared that it must be a joke. It struck me as unlikely that Radio 1 would broadcast such a claim light-heartedly, and sadly I was right. There was the example of Orson Welles before us, though, so we drove back to her parents' house, sombrely flicking between radio stations, picking up disjointed reports. We reached the house, and her mum was in. Struck by the enormity of it, she was sat, motionless in a chair before the television, as the BBC replayed footage of the first jet striking the towers. She couldn't believe that the aircraft were passenger jets, and was sure they must have been smaller aircraft.

That's all I remember, really. I must have telephoned my parents, checking with them whether my uncle, who's a financial type, was there. He wasn't, of course. It really didn't sink in at the time what was happening. There was an air of unreality about everything. These sorts of things don't happen. I was in London back in July, 2005, and had been out all night with a friend, catching the earliest Tube back to where I was staying in Tooting from north of the river. I didn't pass through any of the places attacked, and had collapsed asleep on my bed by the time those killers had done their work. I awoke that afternoon to a similar unreal situation. A mobile full of messages and missed calls inquiring after me (I'd turned it off so I could sleep), the transport net shut down, people murdered, and this time even closer to home.

I can see that these men were angry about this cause, and that they wanted to stop an injustice and to draw attention to it, but I just don't understand the method. Perhaps it's the benefit of hindsight, but these killings haven't done any apparent good. One can debate the rights and wrongs of America's (and her allies') reaction to that day, ten years ago, but they aren't going to change. For every person aware and sympathetic to the plight of the dispossessed and oppressed Palestinians, there's another person equally vehement in asserting the motto "If you're not with us, you're with the terrorists", which George Lucas so ham-fistedly shoe-horned into Revenge of the Sith.

All that seems to have happened is that killing 5,000 people in the world's most powerful country has led to countless more killings in the Middle East. There were so many deaths ten years ago today that nobody could count them all at once. There have been so many deaths caused as a result that nobody today knows how many have died in Iraq. Look at the Iraq Body Count website and you'll see a death toll of between 102,417 and 111,398 deaths logged, with a disclaimer that information from Wikileaks may add a further 15,000 to whichever figure you choose. Some claim more have died, others angrily say that pointing out the number of deaths is wrong, as if it means one isn't supporting one's side.

People are going to keep killing people. It's self-sustaining. Sometimes there's a reason someone thinks is good, sometimes there's a mistake, and then again there are people who like it. It would be fatuous of me to suggest that any one decision by any one person can make everything all right. Here's hoping that a lot of people make the right decisions, and that the dead are not given so many new faces so swiftly. May they rest in peace.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...