There are not many single days which fundamentally shape the course of human history, but what happened 11years ago was certainly one of them. The images of Manhattan’s most symbolic towers crumbling to dust on a September morning sent shockwaves around the world and changed relationships between people, communities, religions, and countries forever. On such a poignant day for the US, it seems a good time to reflect on just how much impact 9/11 had on the American people.
The official number of deaths recorded that day in New York was 2,753, spread across 115 countries and notably including 403 fire-fighters, medical staff and police. These sheer numbers are staggering by themselves. The 2008 Mumbai attacks saw 164 fatalities and the London 7/7 bombings 52. This is in no way to belittle the tragedy of both these events, but merely to contextualise the incredible scale of the September 11 attacks.
The immediate aftermath of that morning saw several activities spike across the USA. 36,000 units of blood were donated to the New York Blood Centre with 258 being used. The FDNY saw the annual retirements in their force rise by over double with 661 leaving the force after 9/11 as opposed to 274 before. Applications to law-school increased by 17.9% that year as did application to join the peace corps which rose 40% and the CIA which rose by 50%.
The ripple effect of the attacks saw 1.4 million American’s change their 2001 holiday plans from plane to another means of transport, with 20% of citizens claiming to directly know someone either injured or killed in the attack. Even as time passes, the celebrations that greeted the death of Osama Bin Laden showed just how strongly 9/11 is ingrained into the America psyche a decade on.
With these numbers in mind, and the fact that 26 days after the attack the US Army initiated an assault in Afghanistan, the progress that the world and America has made is considerable. Tell any American in early 2002 that 6 years later they would have a man whose middle name is Hussein in the Whitehouse and they would have not only thought you mad but probably immensely disrespectful.
Nevertheless, it is unlikely that the ripple effects of 9/11 will disappear in our lifetimes. The current polls of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan in particular reveal a hostile and aggressive stances towards the US. Guantanamo Bay’s chilling hospitality is still available to a large number of untried Muslims and, even with positive steps, the bitterness and suspicion will remain for generations.
The anniversary of 9/11 allows time for two things. Firstly, to recognise, understand, and sympathise with the incredible scale and impact of the suffering unleashed on a nation that day. Secondly, it provides an opportunity to reflect and evaluate the changes and progress that the world has made since this monumental tragedy.
As the ceremonies and memorials take places across the world today, neither should be ignored as everyone tries to build towards a better future.