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  • Writer's pictureLiza Stirlinglass

42 years later

I was 22, my stomach churned as I first looked over the New York Skyline and then down. I was standing in one of the viewing windows with glass bottoms at the top of one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center. It is one of those memories that bookmarks a moment in life. The last time I saw the towers, a few years later, I was almost thirty. They were old news for me by then, 'seen and been' and I didn't bother making the trip upwards. Like the Chrysler Building, which I always made a point of visiting, I thought the towers would always be there, a permanent landmark. Along with millions of others, I had no idea how a future single event would impact the world in 2001 and beyond.

I was living in Canada when I heard news of the attack on the towers and the Pentagon on the radio. My stomach churned, as it had twenty two years earlier, but this time I wept. My two daughters were in the bedroom, I was making breakfast before taking the oldest to pre-school. There was a staggering silence among parents and children as we walked into the building that day. A collective disbelief that something like that could happen. I remember seeing nods of shame from some of the parents when the teachers asked, "Has your child seen the images on television?" As I learned more later , an unpopular thought started to grow, that certain people in power in America had a role to play in the attack on her own people.

I had the same feeling two years later when, in March 2003, the USA, supported by the English government declared an unjust war on Iraq. Among thousands of others the children and I lit candles and sent invisible messages to the Iraqi people, apologising for the attacks that would end up killing thousands of innocents. I was proud to hold Canadian Citizenship the night the planes of destruction took off.

Much has been written by cleverer people than me about the controversies surrounding cause and effect between that war and the rise in terrorism in the west. And 42 years later my stomach is churning again, at the crassness of the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the return of the Taliban, which threatens the future of girls and women in Afghanistan or anyone in that country, who holds the right the freedom of thought and expression as a basic right.

Forty two years later, it appears that however many statues are pulled down, or "woke" people claim to be history does not appear to be teaching us how to collaborate, to put aside religious and cultural differences and work together for global equality and peace.

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