No lessons learned from 9/11 0
When four airplanes were transformed into weapons and three hit their intended targets on Sept. 11, 2001, I was in the "friendly" skies, en route to an internship with the United Nations Development Programme in Kiev, Ukraine.
That night, Sept. 11 unfolded on a small TV in a room on the 18th floor of a crumbling Soviet hotel. It was my first day in a new country, and my understanding of Russian and Ukrainian was rudimentary. I was far away from anything familiar, including family and friends.
The next day, my first job was to draft a letter of condolence from the UN to the U.S. Embassy. Even now, I don't know how to write a letter like that.
The next couple of weeks, there was an uneasy tension in the world. Would "they" strike again? What would Bush do in response? Had the Third World War finally begun?
But then, amidst all the alarm and confusion, there was a debate about how to respond to the attacks.
I felt, just for a while there, that perhaps we had learned how to respond to violence with something better; something more diplomatic, something less violent than our forefathers.
Instead, four weeks later, the war in Afghanistan began. An older Ukrainian man - someone who served in the Soviet military in the 1970s before they invaded Afghanistan - warned me very simply: "They are very good soldiers."
Afghanistan, in short, was the Soviet Union's Vietnam. And now we were - and still are - there.
Another old friend of mine, who had proudly served in the Canadian Army in both the Second World War and Korea, had proudly walked in the Remembrance Day parade every year up to 2001. On Nov. 11, 2001, he left his medals in his drawer and stayed home. He said, angrily, this wasn't what he fought for.
I understand. He was fighting for a better future. However, that future became a war in Afghanistan, and then Iraq, and now Libya, and (insert future country here).
If someone asks me what I learned after Sept. 11, 2001, this will be the answer: We were given an opportunity to evolve as human beings.
Ten years later, I'm not sure if that's happened.