Learning from tragedy

The ten-year anniversary of the 11 September attacks has, unsurprisingly, attracted an enormous amount of attention. It was a momentous day in our lives and we have all felt the after-effects in one way or another.  The personal accounts that we have heard and continue to hear, are gut-wrenchingly poignant.  The most terrifying personal accounts have been the voicemail messages left by the victims, amongst the confusion, assertions given that they were safe and later, that they were not. I imagine all of us have thought about how it would feel to receive, or leave, one of these messages. Images of people left with a choice of a burning, collapsing building, or jumping from the uppermost floors to certain death, are equally harrowing.

We should remember the people who died in these tragic circumstances and the media has played its role in doing so with all manner of coverage, angles, accounts, of the attacks on 11 September 2001. However, I am concerned about a lack of balance in regard to the publicity which some victims receive in comparison to others. I’m talking about civilians, not terrorists or soldiers. 2,977 of them died in the attacks on The World Trade Centre, on the ground in New York, at The Pentagon and on board the flights themselves.

Rightly, we are horrified by this. The spectacular nature of the attacks made them all the more captivating. However, if we are horrified by the death of innocent people, why are we and our media not as horrified by 10,000 civilian deaths in the war in Afghanistan or 110,000 in the Iraq war? Why are we not horrified by 17,500 deaths in Lebanon after Israel’s invasion in 1982 and approximately 300,000 deaths in the Occupied Palestinian Territories since the 1967 war. What about the UN sanctions imposed on Iraq from 1990 until 2003 during which period anywhere between 500, 000 and 1.5 million civilians died?

Boris Johnson recently unveiled a memorial in London to those that died in 9/11 and we now have a constant reminder of those atrocities. Memorandum, I have no issue with whatsoever, it’s important that we remember tragic events from the past so that we can learn and seek to avoid a repeat. I am concerned that without adequate balance in the reporting and profile of tragedy worldwide, it becomes easier to hate those that did this to “us” and the accompanying anger is to be expected. Fear of a people who we see as different to ourselves pervades and at its most extreme, this contributes to the rise of groups such as the English Defence League. I don’t want to live in an increasingly xenophobic society.

When tragedy occurs we should extend our sympathies, learn from the experience, remember and respect the dead, punish those responsible and strive for a more peaceful existence. But this applies to all people, everywhere. We all bleed red and the loss of a loved one affects us all equally. All those people that have died in the Middle East had similar existences to us in the West, they had hopes, dreams, fears, family, laughter, financial woe, a favourite book and a mannerism that annoyed the hell out of a sibling.

I would like to see our leaders and media convey the message that, yes, 9/11 happened and the total impact is inconceivable. However, other people, countries and families have also been devastated by attacks and circumstances that were out of their control. They too have lost friends, family, husbands, wives and children, they too experience immense physical and emotional pain and have lives that have been smashed into little pieces. This is also deserving of our attention and mourning.

Never mind Cameron’s “Broken Britain”, we have a Broken World where it’s all too easy to turn a blind eye to the deaths of millions of innocent people. We can only mend that through understanding, genuine care and love for all of our fellow human-kind.

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