Opinion: In Africa, 9/11 defined the emergence of a new, scary world

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AP/NBCNews.com

National September 11 Memorial

September days are remembered for a great many reasons.

Some days in September are known for noble reasons like “World Peace” day on September 21. Other days in September are known for more bizarre reasons like “Ask a Stupid Question” Day on September 28.

And some days in September are more personal like September 19,  which so happens to be my best friend’s birthday, which I hope I won’t forget this year.

Of course, we are all yet to see whether September 21 will be remembered for the right or wrong reasons.

But there is one day in September that overshadows the significance of these others. It is a day that has been etched into the world’s memory and has ascended into such infamy that no similar incident is compared to it. The day has simply been called 9/11-–the day America was attacked-–a day that is also ironically remembered in some parts of the world as “No news is Good News” Day.

I remember where I was on that day over a decade ago. I was sitting in my college room racking my brain over some theories, which seem to hold little significance for me now, in preparation for an exam that was making my existence a living hell. I don’t remember much, but what I do remember is the stillness.

There was an uneasy stillness uncharacteristic of the intellectual fools that we were–famous for senseless demonstrations at our parents’ expense. I remember peering through my window, away from the drudgery of study, and seeing my fellow fools hovering like zombies with small radios to their ears, listening intently. I turned on my radio and heard the not-so-good news. The unthinkable had happened – it sounded like the world was ending!

The world didn’t necessarily end, but, looking back, I realize the world, as we knew it then, changed.

Looking back, I realize that we were in the middle of a rare event – a historical turning point from which there was no return. 9/11 defined the emergence of a new world, a different world, a scary world.

A lot has happened since then. We’ve seen two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan resulting in thousands of lives lost and billions of dollars more wasted in freedom’s name. We have had several conspiracy theories hypothesizing, and even proving, that 9/11 was orchestrated by the Bush Administration in a complex plot, involving secret societies of billionaires, to siphon oil from the Axis of Evil; and that Osama Bin Laden was an innocent man who was used as a scapegoat like Oswald was for the assassination of John F Kennedy in 1963. In Malawi, we even named a bread bun after Osama.

But as the world remembers what is being called the 9/11 Decade, one would ask: is the world a safer place?

In May this year, U.S. President, Barack Obama made an announcement and declared that “Justice was done” – Osama was dead! Jubilation! An entire nation poured onto the streets in celebration of the bloodcurdling death of an unarmed man who, at the time, was in the privacy of his own home with his family. There was some drama about his death and where his body was buried, but all that has dwindled to a mere whisper. We’ve even forgotten about it. There was a hope afterwards that things would go back to the way they were before Osama and Bush.

Unfortunately, Osama’s death has not even eclipsed what was done on 9/11, and it probably never will. What Osama wanted to achieve with 9/11 was not just the death of innocents in the name of some Jihadist fundamentalist gobbledygook; what he achieved was on a much grander scale.

What Osama wanted was to instill something that would last much longer than his own life. He wanted to instill an impossible idea-–unthinkable pre-9/11. The idea was that even a powerful nation, like America, could be brought down to its knees. And people got the message.

What resulted was a decade of fear, a fear so debilitating it has held the world hostage ever since. What a start to the new millennium! Thank you so much Osama!

Will the world ever be safe again? Well, unless you can kill an idea then we will never be safe. The world will continue to be gripped by fear until a greater idea-–a better suggestion-–comes in the place of Osama’s.

Until then, keep your doors locked and remember, remember the 11th of September.

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