Thoughts on 9/11

I recall being woken up by texts from overseas friends on the early morning of 12 September (NZT) and turning on the television. The images remain as shocking today, as they were then. There are probably few good ways to die, but near the top of the list of bad ways to die must be stuck in a burning high rise. It’s now just that 3,000 people lost their lives, but many would have died in extreme agony. The attacks were an act of barbarism.

I worked at Parliament then, and we had a machine that had an NZPA and Reuters news feed. I recall spending an hour or so scrolling back through the stories to see what the first reports were. The first three or four flashes were all factual and implied the first plane crash was a terrible accident. The moment they flashed the news of the second plane, the tone and tenor changed dramatically as it became obvious it was a staged attack.

I recall the many acts of bravery by NY Police and firefighters. I recall the (then) decisive leadership by Mayor Rudy and President Bush. I recall NATO allies activating Article 5 for the first time in history. I recall Yasser Arafat donating blood in an act of solidarity.

I reflect on the way the world has changed. Up until 9/11 it was assumed that if someone with a weapon took over an airline they would try and land it in a foreign port and demand a ransom or something. Now passengers realise letting a hijacker take charge could see the plane crashed, so the example set by the brave passengers of Flight 93 has become the norm. I actually think many of the airport security features imposed since 9/11 are unnecessary as what happened on 9/11 worked only that once as it had the element of surprise. All we really need to do is scan for guns and explosives.

I believe it was the right thing to go into Afghanistan to punish Al Qaeda and their protectors. The idea of not responding to an attack that killed 3,000 citizens is repugnant. Reasonable people can disagree on whether the US and allies should have stayed behind after the initial response.

I recall asking the US Embassy if they had a flag I could borrow to hang from our work windows to show our support for them in the days after the attack. I was surprised to find the flag they lent me wasn’t the standard three by five foot flag but a huge 30 by 50 foot flag. It ended needing four different offices to fit it all on the side of the building.

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