This Sunday, we should pause and remember, for the tenth time, those who lost their lives on September 11th 2001.
9/11 was a global tragedy that claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people from over 90 different countries. No one will ever forget where they were when they saw the twin towers burning or the agony they felt when they saw them crumbling, condemning those inside to certain death.
It was horrific viewing, and forced us to reflect on our own lives and the similarities we shared with the victims of 9/11. The fact that the attacks were carried out in a part of the world thought to be so safe, and inflicted on people just going about their daily lives, only increased the revulsion felt for the organisation that committed them.
It made people ask themselves questions they could never imagine asking, “Who would your last phone call be to? What would you say? Would you have jumped?” These devastating questions were, for thousands of people their heartbreaking reality and it was being played out in front of a watching world.
The attacks on New York and Washington DC remain the worst act of terrorism on the UK in living memory with 67 Brits killed in one morning.
September 11th made the world a very different place. It took just ninety minutes to move from the post cold war world to the post 9/11 era. Our very basic ideas of security were transformed. Before that day, the idea that a commercial airliner could be used as a missile to devastate the heart of a city was inconceivable. Before 9/11, the world believed America was untouchable.
At the time I was serving in The Parachute Regiment having been deployed in Kosovo and Northern Ireland. I believe that in recent times, Britain has always attempted to act as a force for good in the world. I joined the Army because I believed passionately in Britain’s ability to help but also to protect, free people all over the world.
As I watched the images of New York’s vacant skyline, I knew that the UK would inevitably be drawn into military conflict and also that my own Army career was about to head in a new direction. Later, whilst deployed in Afghanistan, I never forgot why I was there and who I was fighting for. A decade on, I firmly believe that it is the beginning of the end for the organization responsible for carrying out the 9/11 attacks and it was right that the man responsible has had justice delivered to him.
Britain has stood shoulder to shoulder with a united and defiant world as we began the process of ensuring the memory of those lost is used to build a fairer and more tolerant global community.
My hope is that the families of those lost in the attacks can find some comfort in knowing the man responsible is dead and that everything he sought to destroy has only grown stronger as a result.
The Arab Spring has shown us that the values of democracy and freedom continue to be hard fought and aspired to. More than anything, it shows that we can still make the world a better place.