“Terrorism has once again shown it is prepared deliberately to stop at nothing in creating human victims. An end must be put to this. As never before, it is vital to unite forces of the entire world community against terror.” - Vladimir Putin
On September 11, 2001 the USA came under terrorist attacks, which are also called the 9/11 attacks. These were a series of airline hijackings and suicide attacks committed by 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda (whose name in Arabic means “the base”) against targets in the USA, the deadliest ever terrorist attacks on American soil in U.S. history.
The attacks against New York City and Washington, DC, caused extensive death and destruction and triggered an enormous USA effort to combat terrorism. Some 2,750 people were killed in New York, 184 at the Pentagon, and 40 in Pennsylvania (where one of the hijacked planes crashed after the passengers attempted to retake the plane); all 19 terrorists died. Police and fire departments in New York were especially hard-hit: Hundreds had rushed to the scene of the attacks, and more than 400 police officers and firefighters were killed.
The worldwide distress caused by the attacks was overwhelming. Unlike the relatively isolated site of the Pearl Harbor attack of 1941, to which the September 11 events were soon compared, the World Trade Center lay at the heart of one of the world’s largest cities. Hundreds of thousands of people witnessed the attacks firsthand (many onlookers photographed events or recorded them with video cameras), and millions watched the tragedy unfold live on television. In the days that followed September 11, the footage of the attacks was replayed in the media countless times, as were the scenes of throngs of people, stricken with grief, gathering at “Ground Zero” (as the site where the towers once stood came to be commonly known) some with photos of missing loved ones, seeking some hint of their fate.
Despite their success in causing widespread destruction and death, the September 11 attacks were a strategic failure for al-Qaeda. Following September 11, al-Qaeda lost the best base it ever had in Afghanistan. The succession of events and the retaliatory strikes by the USA and its allies subsequent to 9/11 culminated in the death of Osama Bin Laden, several years after the attacks. On both sides, the number of innocent victims was immense.
As these attacks are remembered and commemorated, their significance in 21st century world history assumes a greater role, considering that terrorism is far from over and that the “war on terror” initiated by George W Bush is far from over and certainly not victorious. The recent events in Syria are but one example of how innocent civilians are victims in internecine struggles where a regime does not hesitate to use weapons that are heinous and will kill non-discriminately all in their range. This is the basis of terrorism – all manner of violent acts, which are intended to create fear and which are perpetrated for a religious, political, or ideological goal, and deliberately target or disregard the safety of civilians.
Are we ever likely to mature as a civilised species and be able to coexist peacefully with one another? Are we ever likely to respect others and tolerate differences in ideology, religion or politics? Shall we ever unite in universally condemning acts of terrorism or indeed war? Are we even close to a universal brotherhood of man, where the world is a place of peace and where nations help each individual on earth of battling with each other for reasons that are at best described as ludicrous? Current affairs and the despairing news one hears every day seems to indicate that this is still a dream, unfortunately…