The terrorist attacks in Washington and New York on September 11, 2001 (i.e. 9/11) devastated the world and not just the US. The world lost its innocence on 9/11 and 10 years on, struggles to find peace, tolerance and freedom from fear.
The effect of 9/11 has had a great impact on many things, travel, human rights, peace and security. The terrorist attacks on 9/11 involved the use of regular commercial airplanes. As a regular international traveller since 2000, I can say that the difference in travel since 9/11 is remarkable. Traveling by air means staying in longer queues as security checks take longer. Carrying liquids on planes are restricted. When I travelled with my children in 2008, I had to drink some milk out of my baby’s bottle to show that it was safe for me to carry more than 100 ml of milk on board. Bags left unattended at airports, train stations, bus stands and in public spaces, more than ever before now constitute a security risk.
State responses in dealing with the effect of 9/11 have in one hand led to increased security surveillance and intelligence, while on the other hand, encouraged ethnic profiling and abuse of human rights of suspected terrorists in the quest for information and justice. For example, as a young African woman, travelling to Europe or America, I have a high probability of being searched and my travel documents scrutinized. Due to the poverty and under-development in many African countries, there is a perception that African travellers do not intend to return back to their countries. In an attempt to reduce illegal immigration, someone like me suffers the risk of going through such checks. Since 9/11, there has been a slight switch. I have seen persons of Arab origin or Islamic heritage facing more searches and checks than others. Personally, I have faced less scrutiny by airport security and immigration. Exchanging one group for another does not help improve our prejudices. We should aim to stop them.
Where was I on 9/11? I was in the UK. I remember rushing to turn on the TV to hear the horrifying news. I had friends holidaying in New York, so my first thoughts were: Are they safe? I said a prayer for protection for them and everyone in New York especially those around the Twin Towers. Then news of the terrorist attack at the Pentagon in Washington also came in and I was wondering, what is going on? I tried calling friends living in other states in the US, I could not get through – telephone lines were jammed. People died, families were distraught, children orphaned and we cried.
Where am I now – a decade after 9/11? I am in Nigeria. I am reflecting on what has happened in those 10 years. I remember the terrorist attack of August 26, 2011 in Abuja, Nigeria where a car driven at top speed into the UN House Building, crashed and detonated a bomb. People were killed in the Abuja UN House bombing, many more injured, and as stated by UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, this was “an assault on those who devote their lives to helping others.” See:http://goo.gl/0zwSz
9/11 reminds us of our collective humanity. Terrorist attacks violate a fundamental, universal and irrevocable human right: The Right to Life. We all condemn terrorist attacks regardless of our race, faith, belief, age, nationality or gender. I hope and pray that as we remember 9/11, we should not breed hatred or hate speech. We should not forget our values or discriminate against people who are different from us. Instead, we should strive to improve dialogue, reduce marginalisation, strengthen social security, promote peace, uphold human rights and fight against terrorism.
I dedicate this post to all those who have died as a result of terrorist attacks from 9/11 to date and to all those striving to make our world a better place.