I was standing at the checkout in Tesco this morning.
As the check out lady passed my stuff over the scanner we were told that at 11am we would all stop what we were doing and observe 2 minutes silence in honour of all those who lost their lives in the NYC attacks on September 11, 2001. This was new. When did we start treating September 11th the same as November 11th? Did I miss a memo?
As the Facebook newsfeed once again kicks into action with stories of what people were doing that day 11 years ago, I find myself a bit conflicted. I cried when I saw the news footage. I got worried when I could not get a long distance line to the States to make sure no one in my family had made some out of the blue trip to New York. I was as baffled as anyone about what was going on. I know people, even in our little northern town that is on your way to nowhere, who lost loved ones.
But the phrase that has always bothered me is “the day the world changed”. It did change in that people who saw themselves at war with the US (and by extension the rest of the West) delivered a body blow on the US homeland. It popped a mythical invincibility in a most cruel and graphic way. The world changed in that the reach of even the smallest belligerent can be extended by using what tools are to hand. It changed because the US had an enemy that didn’t wear uniforms or play by the rules they were supposed to play by.
What didn’t change was a world where the casual and surreal murder of large numbers of people was a possibility as well as a reality. Only 10 years previously American citizens did it to their fellows in Oklahoma City. Even more shockingly, in August 1945 the US flew over Japan in broad daylight in clearly marked aircraft, piloted by professional aviators and twice dropped bombs that immediately killed at least 120,000 people and many thousands more over the subsequent years.
I can’t remember the last time I stood in Tesco and was asked to reflect on those bombings.
9/11 should be a day remembered as one of loss and sadness and as the day we in the West became as vulnerable as the rest of the world to the sort of random and carefully planned violence we seem to dish out by right. It should be a spur to come to terms with why we cling to the myth that our violence is “better”. It should move us to take the chance to see this event as a revelation of the way of the world that we have conspired to make but no longer can insulate ourselves from.
And then, we should choose a different way.