Ten years after 9/11 Westerners ‘still vulnerable’

“We are the centre of our own universe.”

This statement sprang to my mind as I watched some Afghanistan farmers looking nonplussed when confronted with graphic photographs showing the burning twin towers of the World Trade Centre on Channel 4 News.

“When you can’t feed or house yourself,” as one US soldier, based in the country where Al-Qaida orchestrated these atrocities, aptly articulated. “How are you going to care about somebody 6,000 miles away? So I can understand that.”

Only a police district chief recognised the images after scrutinising the prints.

I wasn’t surprised at all. For the last 10 days the UK has been remembering the 9/11 suicide attacks which claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people, including 67 Britons.

For my generation it is our “JFK moment”.

What were you doing when out of the clear blue sky two planes flew into two iconic buildings that had not only dominated the Manhattan skyline for nearly 30 years but were also symbols of US wealth and invincibility?

I was carrying out pedestrian research on restaurants offering the best deals for students ahead of “Freshers week” on the day the Western world stopped.

I returned to my newsroom to discover it had turned into Madame Tussaud’s with every single member of staff imitating wax works, their eyes glued to TV screens. Even the affable and loquacious receptionists sat mute.

When I glanced at the images on the screen, I initially assumed they were engrossed in an action film.

After all, the footage resembled anything Sly Stone could have produced.

But, no, these pictures conveyed reality. New York was under attack and another plane was heading for the seat for power – the Pentagon.

When I arrived home still in shock, along with the rest of country, I sat transfixed in front of my own television.

How could this happen? Who was behind it? Who would be next?

The answers to my questions were unpalatable.

The audacious terrorist assault in 2001 set in motion a chain of events, including the “War on Terror”, which continue to impact on our daily lives.

In 2005, 52 Londoners died in 7/7. But has the “War on Terror” made the world a safer place? Not according to the International Business Times.

Meanwhile, America has warned of a “specific, credible threat” ahead of the anniversary with security boosted in New York and Washington, the BBC news website writes.

Post 9/11 Westerners carry on but not as before. We have become accustomed to a vulnerability which wealth and materialism cannot protect us from.

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Norwegian slaughter ‘reality check’

A week today 77 people – most of them teenagers – were slain in Norway.

The youngest was Sharidyn Svebakk-Boehn, who turned 14 just five days before the massacre.

Some of these victims were killed during a bomb blast in the country’s capital Oslo, the others were shot to death attending a youth camp run by the ruling Labour Party on the nearby island of Utoya.

The Norwegian right-wing extremist behind this atrocity Anders Behring Breivik has been described as probably insane by his defence lawyer.

I had BBC News 24 on in the background while doing some research when a breaking news flash revealed the drama that was unfolding in the oil-rich Christian country that is home to a population of 4.9 million people.

My body was instantly gripped by a visceral feeling of dread that I had experienced only twice before – 9/11 and 7/7.

When I sat down in front of the plasma screen, I spluttered: “Oh, no, not again.

Norway, why Norway?”

As it turns out, my utterances were not unique.

We are so programmed to assume that any incident of this nature has been carried out by islamic extremists.

As I watched television transfixed, I was overcome by feelings of sadness and helplessness.

Only at times like these does one realise that death is truly random.

It may be me or it may be you next.

Nationality, birthright, money, power and religion have absolutely no bearing at all when it comes to the randomness of life and death.

May they all rest in peace.