Remember 911

I am not going to write a long post about this because many writers better than me will do so but I think I would to spend a little time reflecting.   There aren’t too many events in a lifetime where you can remember the exact thing you were doing when you first heard about it.  For me they include such things as the murder of John Lennon, Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon, the death of the Princess of Wales and seared into my brain are the events of 911.

I was working two jobs at the time, full time as a security consultant and another 40 hours a week, supposedly part time as the Executive Officer of the Victorian Basketball League.  I’d come home from one job and sit down immediately to start work on the other.  That was the source of my ex-wifes comments that even when I was home I wasn’t there, and maybe there was some truth to that even if it was unfair.  But I digress.

In April 2001 I had attended a Counter Terrorist Conference in Washington DC and there were a number of keynote speakers form the US Intelligence community.  There were two major topics of conversation.  The first the fragmentary nature of the US CT effort and the second the threat Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden posed to the West.

So after my usual 16 hour working day on September 11 2001 I sat down and turned the TV on to watch the late news and watched in horror the footage of those planes crashing into the twin towers.  I spent the next several weeks in my security consultant role gethering and analysing whatever open source information we could find, writing threat assessments for our clients and reliving that horror as more and more details were revealed.

In my other role I had been organising our teams to compete in a National Basketball final series to be held in Bendigo which were cancelled because at the same time the domestic airline Ansett collapsed and I fielded a lot of complaints from people about how upset they were at the cancellation.  I wrote an article for our website at the time which said in part that we needed to put things into proper context.   Around the world tonight are, I wrote, are mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, who would never see their loved ones again, not because those people had done anything wrong, but because someone somewhere had randomly chosen that they were to die as a part of campaign of hatred, as a symbol of philosophical difference.    I told people to put things into proper context, that the cancellation of a basketball series was not something which could truly be considered a disaster.  Crashing aeroplanes into buildings and destroying lives was a disaster and we should remember the sacrifice of those brave men and women who selflessly entered those burning buildings in an effort to save others lives.

On Friday I asked a number of people at work if they knew what the day was and for most it took a while to make the connection.  That came as a surprise to me and the only comfort I took was that when it hit them what the date was that there was an element of embarassment that they had forgotten.   Let us never forget because if we do and we let our guard down these things can happen again – we’ve seen it on October 12 a year later in Bali and on July 7 2005 in London.