I spent the past five days away from Manila, on a business trip. There was possibly only two good things that came out of it: I was in my favorite place in the country (Davao City) and I made a few new friends. Other than that, it was one of those things that I would very much rather forget.
While it is tempting to write a detailed account of the trip, this little should suffice: Work is work. It should supersede any and every thing else.
9/11 Tribute Lights light up the Manhattan skyline.
It has been ten whole years since the world experienced one of the worst attacks on a nation in recorded history. It was an attack that painfully exposed the vulnerability of the world's lone superpower, and an attack that prompted two major wars and many more small-scale operations. It was an attack that affected the lives of virtually everyone, from policy makers to the average air traveler. It was 9/11, and akin to 12/7 (Pearl Harbor), it will forever be an event that can be summed up and remembered just from the date of its occurrence.
9/11 occurred when I was thirteen years old, in the first year of my secondary school. I remember watching it live on television, and as it unfolded, my young mind was understandably confused and scared at the same time. I grasped neither the impact nor the importance of this event at that time. Six years later, as I majored in International Relations, the 9/11 attacks virtually became the center of my academic life. As I wrote papers on national security, domestic and international policy-making, international law, and even international economics, 9/11 somehow, some way found itself in my work. It defined so many things that we are 'used to' now. Strict airport security measures? This stemmed from 9/11. "Terror" as a household word? Blame it on 9/11. Muslims around the world - radical and moderate alike - branded as "fundamentalists" or worse, "terrorists"? 9/11 played a big part. The attacks on America not only changed our experiences in the days that followed; lifestyles and mindsets changed as well.
Ten years on, the world is still experiencing two combat theaters, Iraq and Afghanistan. American involvement in these two countries - I have said this countless times on many academic papers - have strained the American (and in turn, global) economy and willpower to its limits. These wars have destroyed billions of dollars worth of property, displaced hundreds of thousands of people, alienated entire demographics, and claimed an appalling number of lives. Al-Qaeda, the group claiming responsibility for the attacks, has recently lost its mastermind, Osama bin Laden, after more than nine years of eluding international operatives. Has this changed anything, created an impact that can be felt? It still remains to be seen. What is important, perhaps, is that the world knows that threats can and may come from anywhere. A culture of paranoia has been created from 9/11.
9/11 represents, in my opinion, two sides of a coin. On one side, you have the United States and its allies, defending themselves and reacting to the terror attacks. On the other side, the radical religious groups, hellbent on bringing down democracy and everything Western. In the middle, much like the proverbial coin, is the very thin and small group of neutrals and fence-sitters, choosing neither side and risking the complete wrath of the other. Ten years on, this group division is still very much evident. Ten years on, we still remember, and we are still affected, whether we like it or not.