Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11: 2001 plus 10 - what next?

Ten years ago on this day, I was attending radio communication training in our office in Islamabad, Pakistan. I remember a colleague coming into the room and whispering to some of us that there was a terrible accident in New York. A plane has crashed into the Wall Trade Center.

While still trying to digest this info - imagining how a plane could be flying at such low altitude in the first place, we received another notification a few moments later, that a second plane has crashed into the other tower. It doesn't look like an accident anymore! This was when it became clear that something terrible has happened that will forever change the way we live, the way we travel, the way we come to view and understand terrorism.

A few hours later, as it became apparent that this was a terrorist attack, we were asked to return to our hotels and wait for further instructions. What struck me the most was that on walking back to my hotel with some colleagues, we observed people glued to TV sets on the sides of the roads with mixed reactions - talking, laughing, some clearly in shock, some seem to enjoying the moment. This mixed reaction was difficult to comprehend, considering what we're just witnessing. As I turned ON the TV set in my room and started to really follow the news, that's when it hit me. I realized that the reaction on the streets of Islamabad did look scary.

As it became clear that it was the work of Al Qaeda, certain security measures were put in place and we had to cut short our training and return to our various duty stations. Security at the airports were scaled up as Pakistan became a country of special interest in the hunt for Al Qaeda's leadership, their operatives and allies.

Almost ten years to the day, the Al Qaeda leadership was dealt a terrible blow with the capture and killing (or rather, the killing) of its leader, Osama bin Laden. With the demise of the newly appointed deputy shortly after this incident, clearly shows that the leadership is in disarray. However, Al Qaeda continues to remain an ideology rather than a movement.

What next? Continue to win hearts and minds by all means. "Evil prevails when good men do nothing".

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