>> 11 Sep 2004

A PERSONAL REMEMBRANCE



Back in December 2000, the Vance family visited New York City.



My kids were so excited by the sights and sounds of the Big Apple – it was their first visit. I loved the sheer scale and intensity of life there. From morning to night, it was fantastic. NYC has been my favourite city since I first went there in 1992.



Christmas was fast approaching and I recall my family standing on top of the Empire State Building with snow flakes gently falling on us as we tried to make out the twin goliaths of the Twin Towers at the south end of Manhattan. Cold but exciting!



Like so many tourists, we travelled down to see the World Trade Centre. I wanted a picture of my wife and children against these vast towers but they were so huge that the only way we could achieve this was by travelling out on the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and framing the image from the water! I still have the picture, now so poignant.



We all enjoyed our visit to New York and resolved that we would return the following Halloween. 2001. The late fall would be just perfect. Or so we thought. 9/11 happened and our plans changed. A lot of people’s plans changed.



Looking back on it all now – the thing that I think of most is not the sight of those giant iconic buildings collapsing and the raging inferno that took so many lives – the thing that effects me most is most is wondering about those thousands of people suddenly facing eternity – with no warning. Mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, young and old - what did they think as some prepared to leap to certain death or burn to a fiery end? What went through their minds as it dawned on them that they would never see their loved ones again? Just beyond words...



Even after years of living with grotesque terrorism in Northern Ireland, this was something else. It was evil INCARNATE – and it left me, like so many others, shocked, angry and wondering HOW can this have happened. In New York?



This is what I wrote 12 months later...…



REMEMBRANCE DAY.



September 11th proved many things.It proved to those who had forgotten that there are evil people in this world who put no value on the sanctity of human life, and whose loathing of freedom is so deep that they will murder thousands, even millions, to wipe it out. Their obscene fanaticism has blinded them to reason and they now skulk in caves, hiding in the dark, under cover of night. They are the creatures of the dark.



It proved that these Islamofascists were aided by evil regimes and that this global axis of evil has developed a symbiotic relationship with a common desire to wipe out the symbol of enduring freedom – the United States of America. Twelve months later there should be no debate about bringing every one of these guilty nations, and grouping, to justice.



It proved that years of appeasement and pious UN sweet-nothings did nothing to stop the threat posed by international terrorism. History records that appeasers all end up getting devoured by the crocodiles that they insist on throwing steaks at. Bill Clinton must be held culpable for the long years of intelligence run-down and corrupt peace processes he instigated and then presided over to liberal applause. This gave tremendous encouragement to every murderous warlord, from Kabul to Gaza, from Belfast to Barcelona.



It proved that nowhere and no-one is safe from terrorism. This tragic lesson should have been taken on board many years ago. When the bombs went off in Tel Aviv or Belfast, and innocent life was cruelly taken, the United States could have taken a more active role in encouraging other Governments to confront and eradicate the terrorist menace.



Left alone these killers networked with each other, swapping technological tips in the fine art of blowing other human beings into eternity. Even worse they were rewarded for their barbarism by the Clinton administration and treated as if they were civilised democrats. Other eyes, in dusty subterranean cave complexes, were watching and saw weakness. Like a virulent cancer they spread their malicious tendrils around the world. The USA was used by the IRA to collect money then used for purchasing mortars, rockets, machine guns, grenades and Semtex. The Palestinians imported Irish expertise in carnage and slaughter. The Basque terrorists ETA shared military know-how with both. The Colombian FARC shared in this terrorist jamboree. Everywhere democracy was challenged, but that challenge has not always been met. September 11th made manifest the consequence of the evasion era.



But amidst the carnage in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania something else was proven; the indomitable quality of the human spirit. It proved the power of love. The love of a mother talking to her doomed daughter aboard Flight 93; The love of a husband talking to his wife as Flight 77 hurtled towards the Pentagon; The love of a son for his mother as she said goodbye to him before being incinerated as the 89th floor of WTC North collapsed. This most precious human emotion came to the fore, even in these horrific circumstances. Tenderness amongst the brutality touched hearts around the world. It proved the courage of the American people. From Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his gallant staff, through to the heroic fire-fighters and police officers, to the inspirational fearlessness of hundreds of ordinary US workers.



It proved the timeless power of faith. As men and women starting their working day were suddenly faced with the prospect of death, prayer was frequently invoked to calm and to prepare.



Above all else, it proved that the people of the United States of America will fight to preserve their freedoms. They will not be cowered by Bin Laden and his goon squad. This is an inspiration to all around the world who share a love of liberty. September 11th will see the people of the United States in the prayers of millions of its friends around the world.



Those who have known the horror of living under the threat of terrorism, and who have experienced the agony of losing loved ones to psychopathic killers, also stand shoulder to shoulder with the USA. As for those 2,749 who fell on September 11th perhaps the words of the prayer offered up each November 11th to commemorate the fallen in two World Wars are apt -



"They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,

We will remember them"



It’s Remembrance Day again. Rest in peace.

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