Georgina Guedes

9/11 10 years on

2011-09-08 11:35

On Sunday, it will be ten years since the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre fell. It was one of the seminal “where were you when you heard...” moments of our generation.

I can remember sitting at my desk at work, fiddling with various non-pressing deadlines when my best friend called me to tell me that a plane had flown into the World Trade Centre. At that point, the general view was that it was a terrible accident, so I tried to go to CNN.com to see what had happened.

CNN.com had fallen over from the international hits it was generating, and wasn’t letting anyone in, so I phoned my then fairly newly acquired boyfriend Ter, who was at home, and told him to turn on the news. He delivered the news that a second plane had flown into the other tower - and that was the point at which the story took on a far more chilling bent.

I decided to give up the afternoon’s work as a lost cause and headed home to Ter to watch the story unfold - the astonishing collapse of not one, but two towers and the attack of the Pentagon. I can remember the feeling of astonishment. The sense that this can’t really be happening, and the need to reach out to loved ones - especially those with family in the States or anyone who might have been anywhere near there.

“What’s happening?” one friend asked me, bewildered. And we were only South Africans. I can remember some satire website doing a mock-up cover of Time magazine with a picture of the smouldering Towers and the headline “What the Fuck????” which - crass though it may be - pretty much summed up American sentiment at the time.

It also created a significant shift in attitude. I remember watching the normally unsentimental Oliver Stone movie World Trade Centre and being astonished by the final message: “someone must pay”.

In the wake of September 11, we are left with two wars that still haven’t resolved much in the Middle East region, America burdened with crippling debt - which is owed in no small part to those two wars - a cultural rift that is unlikely to be mended in our lifetime and a world that is significantly less safe, especially for airline travellers.

Even the hunting down and killing of the al-Qaeda mastermind behind the destruction of the World Trade Centre was a hollow victory for the Americans. Although the trumpeting of “USA, USA” and even the resumption of Obama’s battle cry, “yes we can!” by jubilant crowds were televised internationally, Osama bin Laden was only one man, and his death did little to improve relations between Middle Eastern Muslims and Americans or to make the world a safer place for anyone.

As a disaster, the destruction of the World Trade Centre and the deaths of those 3 000 people were not the worst the world has ever seen. But as a terrorist campaign, the job has been done brilliantly - the world will never be the same again.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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Read more on:    al-qaeda  |  us  |  9/11
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