It was 20 years ago today

On 11 September, 2001, I was in an office room I shared with two others, when one of them, who happened to be on the phone to his then girlfriend, relayed what had just happened as each plane hit the WTC. By the time the second one hit, it was clear what was going on, and then the unimaginable happened as both towers collapsed, instantly depriving tens of thousands of families of loved ones.

I still read the worst slurs on American people from the usual suspects: the kind who invoke the racism card at every possible opportunity yet casually generalise in the most xenophobic way about Americans, seemingly blissfully ignorant of their utter hypocrisy.

But September 11th 2001 changed many things for me, one of which was a sudden feeling of solidarity with people who shared our fundamental values of liberty. I abandoned my somewhat indifferent view of the U.S. and wanted us to jump to the defence of the nation which had played a huge role in liberating my continent (and indeed the world) from tyranny and oppression – from both the extreme right and extreme left.

So today, I’ll think of my American friends and also reflect that, given the number of UK nationals working in the WTC, the events of that day represented the worst terrorist attacks on my own compatriots in history.

Irrespective of what happened subsequently, this was a huge watershed in our societies.

Part of what subsequently happened involved helping fulfil the desire of the masterminds behind the attacks to draw nearer to their god, or to “martyr” them, to use their own cretinously overrated parlance, rendered its own mystique by morons, as though such notions should prevent us from meting out justice on the perpetrators.

But it’s the thousands of individual human stories which moved me most of all in the immediate aftermath of the attacks… stories of unimaginable pain, loss, and yes, of bravery.

And I’ll be reflecting mainly on those people today.

“Are you ready? Okay. Let’s roll.”

Todd Beamer (November 24, 1968 – September 11, 2001)