A young soldier is attacked and killed in full public view on our streets, seemingly by extremists intent on creating fear and panic among the population at large.
An act of violence and abomination. A terrible, terrible event for the family, friends and colleagues of the victim. An attack on one of our soldiers, one of the many men and women who are prepared to die to protect our way of life.
Yesterday the news was full of stories about horrible killings in our society. This was one was so shocking because it was so immediate with video clips on the internet and the killers using that medium to spread whatever twisted message they wanted to get across.
Today I’ve heard several negative things which, in my view, play into the hands of all extremists. People calling for death, mobs, marches, violence to a whole group in our society who are as innocent as we are. People suddenly showing support for organisations which shouldn’t be more than an annoying pimple which needs to be popped. These organisations jumping on the horror and claiming it for their own – it’s utterly despicable. What is it that Gandhi said? An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.
Let’s not let anger and fear make us blind to the good things…..
There are pros and cons to seeing a death like this victim’s played out so publicly – in America, people are used to seeing this type of thing more often. I’m in two minds about this. I heard a man on the radio saying it was disgraceful bringing this into everyone’s living rooms. Is it? Is it disgraceful that we face the horror up front? Those people in that street, that young man didn’t ask for that, did they? They had no choice in it. Can we hide from the risks we may all face?
But this exposure also highlighted other things – small acts of courage and care which happened in the few moments that this horrific event took place. The woman who tried to reason with someone who could not be reasoned with. Did she think or did she act? Her efforts provided, at a minimum, a distraction which could well have prevented another death or serious attack. Could I have done that? Would I have done that? I honestly don’t know.
The person, who even though it was hopeless, held the victim and wept over him – a stranger who cared, who just tried to be there in the most terrible of circumstances and amid carnage. Someone who just saw the young man and reached out. I believe the victim’s family will take a small crumb of comfort from that one act.
I heard comments about wishing the police had shot dead the people responsible. Yesterday, in the immediate aftermath I too had some sympathy for that view. But our police are professionals. They too, being there and in the midst of that awful situation, may have felt that way. But they, like our soldiers, were professional. We have no idea what the bigger picture is here – is there more intelligence around this incident? Is there information to be gained from the men responsible? Two meetings of COBRA in a 24-hour period suggest something else is going on here that we, the public, are unable to see and may well never know.
We should therefore take heart in all the courageous people around this incident who reacted in split seconds to an unspeakable horror. Many acted with dignity and caring towards complete strangers. Now is the time for the police to do their jobs, and for us to consider the pain of the family involved.
Question Time has returned and they are talking about 9/11 – not surprising given this weekend’s tenth anniversary.
But just before that on BBC3 was a programme involving a group of young people being taken around America who were all convinced that the attacks on the Twin Towers, The Pentagon and the other attack were all caused by the American Government or some other secret society.
Most believed that there was some undercover reason for the attack which was carried out covertly by people within the American Government (or somewhere else) for some greater gain.
Greater it seems than the lives of thousands of people. Greater than any amount of lives – as no one could have known how many people could have been killed. Ten thousand could have lost their lives, 20,000, 30,000….
A comedian, who I did not recognise, was given the task of trying to challenge their conspiracy theories by taking them to meet those who had knowledge of events and to see if their minds could be changed. Two of the group experienced a real change in their views.
I found the programme interesting but rather shallow. There were childish squabbles, tantrums, gnashing of teeth, that inability to listen to anybody else who doesn’t share your view.
Liking much of what is put out on BBC3 and BBC4, I was up for watching this programme but I did feel it was a project which was out of step with all of the other programmes about 9/11 at the moment.
Watching the contributors throwing eggs onto the ground, or throwing stones into piles of flour to show what could happen when a plane hits the ground at speed and is then swallowed up by the impact, somehow felt all wrong. This is just a personal feeling, it seemed without heart.
The only moment when I saw what 9/11 means to me was when they met a woman who’s son had called her from the plane where passengers overpowered the hi-jackers and through their bravery, saved lives on the ground. A son who was just recognising that he was about to die.
Stand in front of a mother who’s received such a call and tell her about your nebulous conspiracy theories. In the face of such dignity, yet so much pain, this group of people appeared pathetic.
What did their theories matter to this woman? Her son is still dead. She is still without him for the rest of her life.
I can’t criticise the way the programme was made in any way. But it seemed to belittle what 9/11 meant.
It was a human tragedy and crime carried out in front of our eyes where thousands of people were killed and the effect of those deaths sent out ripples of misery which are still being felt today. It’s not something that’s over and done with – dusted. Just as I can still feel the pain of the Holocaust, so I feel the pain of this awful event. And I was not directly involved.
9/11 – whatever caused it – was a visible example of human misery and terror being carried out across the media. There have been many since – that were less visible.
For me, it was something that showed how powerful the media can be – we’ve seen that since with the uprisings in Egypt etc.
It also shows how helpless we are in the face of such terrorist attacks (yes, I do believe it was a terrorist attack)
Ten years after 9/11 - Question Time
The way terrorists behave during an attack make them virtually impossible to stop, so early prevention has to be the key. Otherwise it’s too late, there’s no control.
I have this need to watch programmes about 9/11 – it was event which left an indelible mark on my psyche and last night was no exception.
On watching the programme, The Firemen’s Story (Channel 4 or 5) and those remarkable pictures I remember where I was when it happened so clearly. Do you? What’s your story?
What were you doing when those pictures went across the world and we knew without doubt that we were watching thousands perish before our eyes?
I was filming a light entertainment show in a beautiful house in Somerset owned by a couple who’d decorated it with stuff they’d rescued and recycled.
I was heavily pregnant and wearing a long, huge, black dress. It was very hot and I was having a drink downstairs and the tv was on. Just a few months earlier I’d been in the twin towers having a meal with my husband – a lovely weekend away in New York.
I called him on the telephone telling him there’d been an accident and to turn on the tv. As we were talking I watched the second plane go into the south tower and I knew then it was no accident.
I knew I was looking on helplessly as people died needlessly. It was among the most humbling experiences of my life.
I’ve asked my children to watch some of the programmes as I want them to know what fanaticism can lead to – great pain, great horror, great devastation, and for what? What good came of that act? There were heroes created, but no one wants to be hero because of that act. And there’ve been so many since.
What moved me last night was an interview with a widow, ten years on, who described telling her daughter that her daddy wouldn’t be coming home – ever. Her daughter crumpled on to the floor, ‘she looked like I slapped her’ the mum said. She said she’d never forget it.
All parents can imagine such a dreadful moment – but recently I had to live through it, even if it was as a close bystander. Believe me, I pray it’s never me in that position.
I sat with my beautiful sister as she told her six year old daughter that her daddy, who’d gone to the gym as usual the night before, would never be coming home again. He’d felt ill and had to go to hospital but he was so ill that he’d had to go to heaven. He didn’t want to go but he had no choice.
In adult language – he’d collapsed and died at the age of 49. Gone from our lives, just like that.
It’s like hitting a brick wall that’s so big
and so tall that you just have to hit it. It cannot be avoided.
What would you tell your child?
My sister dealt with it with so much love and dignity that I could hardly bear it – she told my lovely niece that we would feel sad for a while but we would all be happy and have lovely times because that’s what Daddy would want.
All of this when I knew the dark chasm that life had put before this mum of three. A widow at 40 with three small children.
Though the circumstances were vastly different, the effect was the same. A family in total devastation but trying to survive even in the following hours. Trying to ensure that bereaved children still felt there was hope and magic in the world.
To all who lost in 9/11, 7/7 or in any other personal tragedy – I salute you.