We were also hurt that day
I moved into a new apartment that evening, and after setting up the basic furniture etc, was pretty tired. I went to bed at about 10pm, which is early morning in New York. I’m not sure why I didn’t sleep right away. Some channel was playing a rerun of a West Wing episode. Another channel was playing When we were Kings – the documentary on the 1974 Ali-Foreman fight. At about 11.08pm my time, there was a newsflash – plane hits the World Trade Centre in New York. A few minutes later there were live pictures. Within half an hour, I was calling friends and family.
Nurul Huq Miah and Shaqila Yasmin probably had an ordinary morning, commuting from Brooklyn to downtown Manhattan. They probably had meetings and deadlines. They probably had dinner invitations in the evening. They probably talked with folks the previous night. They were a young couple, maybe they were planning on a trip, to elsewhere in the States, or perhaps a trip home. We don’t know. But we do know that they will never call home, or go to another dinner, or commute to work, or sit in a meeting. They, with about 3,000 others, perished that September morning.
Salahuddin Chowdhury usually worked evening shifts, but he was at work that morning so that he could take his pregnant wife to the hospital that evening. Salman Hamdani, a medical student and police cadet, wasn’t in the towers. But he rushed there like many other to help. He perished, but the FBI harrassed his family until his body was discovered in the rubble.
In this tragic moment, when words seem so inadequate to express the shock people feel, the first thing that comes to mind is this: We are all Americans! We are all New Yorkers, just as surely as John F. Kennedy declared himself to be a Berliner in 1962 when he visited Berlin. Indeed, just as in the gravest moments of our own history, how can we not feel profound solidarity with those people, that country, the United States, to whom we are so close and to whom we owe our freedom, and therefore our solidarity?
Thus begun a frontpage article in France’s Le Monde that day. A year later, Britain’s Granta magazine ran a cover story titled what we think of America – it was full of similar sentiments. Seven years later, much of that goodwill to America is lost. In a few week’s America will make a choice about whether to redeem the world’s solidarity. Not being an American, it’s not my place to sermonise, I’ll leave you with Mridul Chowdhury’s piece in this month’s Forum.
Let’s return to the events of that morning. A lot has been written about the background of the attacks. I’d strongly recommend Gilles Kepel’s The War for Muslim Minds: Islam and the West or Rober Fisk’s The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East. They go a long way to explain the motivations of those who planned and perpetrated the attacks. Understanding why they did what they did, it remains the fact that this was an unconscionable act of criminality.
Christopher Hitchens noted immediately after the attack about the attack being carried out by forces of fanaticism and reaction that benefited from the connivance of western imperialists and oligarchs, and the heroes of the day were working class men and women of New York, of all hues and creeds. Let’s think about that – we may not be Americans, but we too have our forces of reaction, who may or may not be in cahoots with the imperialists and oligarchs, we too have a fight, one that we cannot win without our working men and women.
(Cross-posted at UV).