Tuesday 11 September 2001: I was on sick leave. Wife and I had two children at home, age 3 and 1. I had gone to the big grocery store in the nearby shopping mall. When I was at the checkout counter, wife phoned and said that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Quite naturally I assumed it was an accident. I paid and headed for the mall’s home electronics store. All TV sets in the shop windows were tuned to news channels, showing the burning buildings. I joined the crowd of watchers for some minutes before I headed for the safety of home.
I think it was when I sat in the couch in front of our own TV that I realized the full scope of the catastrophe. The following Sunday, our Methodist church had many Americans in the pews, tourists that had been stranded in Stockholm because the US had closed its airspace. And six weeks later I arrived in New York and experienced the locals’ grim mood. It was a dark autumn.
Fifteen years is a long time (15 years before 9/11, Gorbachev had just started reforming the Soviet Union), but it seems to be hard to move out of the 9/11 political paradigm. Western nations are still deeply involved in Afghanistan, many security policies established in haste in the years following 2001 are still operational, and so on. Fear-mongering politicians have appeared all over Europe and the US.
But global social indicators tell us that the world today is a notably better place than in 2001: poverty and illiteracy are down, average life-span is up, wars are fewer, and so on. There is less cause for fear and more cause for hope. And that is the perspective I want to share at this anniversary.