x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

September 11: the day that changed the world

It would be easier to pick any country at random and show how it was affected by the 9/11 attacks than to imagine a place unchanged by the events of that day.

Women react to the sight of people falling to their deaths from New York's World Trade Center moments before the South Tower collapsed.
Women react to the sight of people falling to their deaths from New York's World Trade Center moments before the South Tower collapsed. "I heard this wailing behind me," recalls Thomas Dallal, the photographer. "I turn around and there are two women there, sobbing."

It would be easier to pick any country at random and show how it was affected by the 9/11 attacks than to imagine a place unchanged by the events of that day

Ten years ago today, 19 men linked to Osama bin Laden successfully carried out attacks on landmark buildings at the heart of America's financial capital and against the headquarters of its military might. Nearly 3,000 people died.

While the attacks were a tactical success, they were a strategic miscalculation. They did not drive the United States out of the Middle East, as the Al Qaeda leader hoped. He did not even manage to provoke Washington into a war that would galvanise all Muslims against it.

Nevertheless, the cost in blood, treasure and reordered social and political priorities has been extraordinarily high - to the Middle East peace process, for one; to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, where America and its allies went to war, for another; to Muslims everywhere, who were demonised for the sins of a tiny few, for yet another.

The 10th anniversary of 9/11 is an occasion to grieve, not only for lost and disfigured lives but also for those lost opportunities.

It is also a time to remember the individual and collective acts of bravery and heroism that shone like a beacon of light through the darkness, the dust and the debris of lower Manhattan on that day.

But above all, perhaps, it is a time for hope. Recent events in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have shown that the young people of the Arab world can make progress without resorting to Al Qaeda's murderous and morally bankrupt ideology.

On this day of all days, that is a lesson to take to heart.