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9/11: Ten years after
Memory is a strange thing. We forget the names of people seconds after being introduced, even though we desperately know we should remember them. The 9th of September 2001 was one of those days that you remember where you were. I live in the UK, but was in Chicago at a global conference of the senior team of Agilent Workplace Services. The meeting faded as the hotel lobby filled up with open-mouthed people, watching the running news report. Chicago has a few towers of its own and we peered nervously outside.
It was a day of events. Not at the same scale, but I'd phoned my daughter earlier on to find she had decided to drop out of University. It was just before I gave an important presentation, so I ended up with positively jangling nerves.
We ended up staying in Chicago for a few days and I got to go down to Buddy Guy's blues bar under the 'El', which was outstanding, although the beautiful high-rise city centre was rather empty. It seemed everyone had hunkered down. We eventually flew back via Newark and I looked down on the tragic ground zero scene.
Living near London I was relatively accustomed to bombings, albeit not on the same scale. People who lived through the WW2 blitz commented on the apparent paralysis and subsequent over-reaction in the USA. Our own nemesis for many recent years was the IRA who, a few years earlier, had mortar bombed Heathrow Airport runway just as a plane I was on came in to land.
My daughter went back to University a couple of years later and I was at her graduation on 7th July 2005, when several London trains and a bus were bombed. I was working in London and avoided the chaos. A friend was on a train behind one that was bombed. Fortunately nobody I knew was hurt, but we all shared the outraged pain.
This Friday I was at a web seminar in Google in London, when the alarm went off and a PA announcement asked us to stay where we were as an 'incident' had occurred in the building. I sat there thinking '9/11, Google, flagship US company, hmm...'. Fortunately whatever it was went away and perhaps I dodged another bullet. Later the same day, there was a bizarre news report from Islamabad where a person was suggesting that the whole 9/11 thing was stage-managed by the US government to give an excuse for them to invade the Middle East. They also thought Bin Laden was still alive.
The sad thing about it all is that the cost to America and its allies over the past ten years has been cripplingly huge. Security paranoia has decimated tourism and seriously impacted other industries. War has drained economies. Also many civilians have died in the conflicts. And radicalization of young people has continued and maybe escalated further. Yes, there have been military victories, but the cost has been very high and I wonder who the winners and losers are, and where it will all end.
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