This past week, airwaves all over the world have been full, nay, clogged with news and analysis of what happened on that fateful day ten years ago.
September 11th had become the crux of the 21st century and virtually every news network has jumped on the band wagon and cashed in on the world’s collective grief. Yet, my sentiment towards this monumental point in history is no stronger than, “It’s been ten years. Let’s move on already.”
This event had been so far from my mind that when Yahoo! News featured a story about the photographer who captured “the falling man”, I wondered, “Why on earth are they bringing this up now?” I then realized that the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 was but several days away.
When 9/11 occurred, I was studying architecture at the University of Technology Malaysia. I watched the catastrophic event unfold over lunch break on a small television set in the cafeteria alongside my classmates. In the Architectural History class immediately after lunch, my professor explained what a great architectural tragedy it was that a landmark like the World Trade Centre should suffer such a fate. From that day on, I had always viewed 9/11 through a desensitized architectural lens.
For those who witnessed the human cost of 9/11, the tragedy will always be a wound that can be easily pricked to shed fresh blood. To Iraqi and Afghan civilians, 9/11 is yet another terrorist attack whose casualty pales in comparison to the thousands of lives lost every month since the US invasion.
I therefore do not blame the public for invoking the annual torrent of tears to “remember the dead.” On this date for every year since 2001, we’ve been reminded of the thousands of lives lost and of the need to exercise every measure to apprehend the people purportedly responsible for it.
What I do have issues with is the way the casualties of 9/11 are constantly invoked to paradoxically justify more violence. The three thousand lives lost was, and still is, used to silence any objections to the trillions of dollars spent on military bases overseas. It is the all-access-pass that has kicked the doors to our private lives wide open. It is the invisible hand that pushes us through airport scanners to expose our private beings. It is the warrant that allows civilians to be arrested, questioned or held captive without charge for years.
I won’t try to perform yet another post-mortem on 9/11 or the events that followed; that has been done to death and there is no end to the debate on how 9/11 changed the world. Case in point: a simple message of condolence posted on Facebook by a friend of mine triggered an avalanche of responses arguing both for and against the Bush administration’s invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. As much as I hate to admit it, there are strong arguments for it from both sides of the fence. The question, to me, is whether it still has anything to do with what happened on September 11 ten years ago.