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World War III
Attacks on America
Member Name: spacelamb
Attacks on America
Date: 12/09/01, updated on 12/09/01 (159 review reads)
Where were you when JFK was shot? When Princess Diana died? When the World Trade Centre was destroyed?
I was at work in a Government office in London. There was a flurry outside the staff room, where five minutes previously people had been watching Neighbours and stuffing their faces with Monster Munch. Someone shouted that a plane had flown into the World Trade Centre in New York.
First all the computer screens flicked to bbc.co.uk, then everyone scrummed to get a space in front of the television. We stayed there most of the afternoon, watching the twin towers collapse, the Pentagon burst into flames, the military aircraft circle the city, the hysterical crowds streaming away from the smoke. Nobody said a word.
Phones started to ring: were we all right? Apparently Canary Wharf had been evacuated and Government buildings were next. We weren’t evacuated (I think they decided that the education department was a pretty unlikely target) but today there are security staff everywhere and the building is on ‘amber’ alert (we are normally on ‘black special’ alert which means “not much happening today, but don’t fall asleep or anything”). Visitors are being searched, and their bags emptied.
Walking through Parliament Square last night, every aeroplane seemed menacing. I kept imagining that new Mini Adventure advert, where aliens crash into Big Ben and St Paul’s (which will soon be withdrawn, no doubt). The devastation in NYC covered several square miles – so, according to my entirely selfish calculations, I’m in trouble. I work in Westminster and I live one tube stop along from Canary Wharf.
Thousands of people lost their lives, including 300 emergency workers. The city will never be the same. I don’t want that to happen to London.
I’m scared. I’m really scared.
I don’t normally pay that much attention to international new
s. Maybe it’s an island thing, maybe I’m just an ignoramus, but I usually check out what’s happening in London, then in the UK, and the overseas stuff kind of passes me by. But the events of 11 September 2001 are literally going to re-write history books. Geographically the tragedy may have happened in America, but the repercussions of that tragedy will affect the whole planet. It’s not melodramatic to say that this could be the beginning of the next world war.
Senator John Kerry (Massachusetts) called the attacks "a declaration of war" that "demands a forceful response".
Senator Richard Shelby (Alabama) has said that the States should pursue retaliation "whatever the cost".
President Bush has pledged to “find these people, and they will suffer for taking on this nation”, and Tony Blair has said that Britain will “stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our American friends”. This is right. But it’s terrifying.
Retaliation will not protect the American people, although this is the inevitable (and probably, in truth, the most effective) course of action. Violence breeds violence, and this is only the beginning. We cannot avenge every terrorist act. Yesterday’s events proved that we are not as powerful as we think we are. International law and order has been completely undermined. Eight men, armed only with knives and cardboard cutters (yes, really) took on the most powerful nation on earth and won. These people are extremists who are prepared to sacrifice their lives to commit these acts. Like Blair, the leaders of most European countries have vowed to stand (and fight, presumably) alongside the US. But the combined might of Europe and America – however strong it seems on paper – cannot touch them. Not really.
We don’t even know who is responsible yet, although in the press fingers are being firmly pointed towards Osama b
in Laden (who threatened three weeks ago to hit a “big” US target). For me, the culprit is not really important, although I daresay a lot of Americans feel very differently. What I can’t get my head around is the fact that it happened at all. I can’t comprehend the motives of the terrorists, the scale of the destruction, the implications of the whole thing. I don’t understand how people are wandering around today buying sandwiches and catching trains and going about their mundane business (even though I’m one of them).
They are still searching for survivors. Firefighters haven’t contained the Pentagon blaze nearly 24 hours later. The stories in the papers today (which are extremely hard to come by, even in central London) tell of burned skin and strewn limbs, tearful phone calls from the hijacked planes describing how air stewards had just been stabbed, and the complete shutdown of America’s two major cities.
We didn’t think it could happen. But it has, and we have to rebuild and carry on somehow. That’s so easy for us to say over here in Blighty, where our capital is functioning as normal today and most of us haven’t just lost friends, family or colleagues who did nothing to deserve having their lives cut so brutally short.
I think that’s all I have to say. What else can you say?