But years later, news stories would continue to carry it. Movies would continue to tell its story. People would continue to shed tears, speak with lumps in their throats, and offer flowers for victims and heroes.
What happened during 9/11? Who was really responsible for it? Why would they do such things? I was engulfed by questions regarding 9/11. I know they should matter; but they did not really matter to me. So many miles away, so unharmed, so unthreatened, I was invincible.
But I was not invincible.
After September 11, 2001, the terror continued not only abroad but here in the Philippines as well. Bus bombings. Kidnappings. The beheading of a public school teacher. You are as familiar with them as I am. However, last year, the attacks literally drew closer to home. A few steps away from our ancestral house in Zamboanga, my province, a young nurse was kidnapped while her grandfather was killed.
Until now, I cannot believe that the street I used to play on is a scene of the crime; that in this little village I call home, neighbours have been labelled as spies and accomplices; that with the atrocity of recent events, we now fear for the safety of my grandmother who lives there.
What is happening in the Philippines is a microcosm of the events that are happening worldwide—a titanic clash between prejudiced cultures and interests. A cornucopia of factors such as poverty, isolation, religious extremism, desire for autonomy, and possibly even mad anarchy boil into the terrorism that likewise binds us to more poverty and further distances on so many levels.
Instead of isolating these reasons, studying, and seeking to explain the complexity of terrorism, one of my most revered teachers and mentors—Sir Martin Perez—offers a divergent perspective.
In a blog entry about 9/11, he shares,”Years ago my professors were caught in a world they can’t explain away. My objective is different: not to explain, but to put in my students the tools they need to help build a world no evil can take away.”
And, now, to my mind arises the often-spoken proverb that the old share with the young. With hope in their voice and dreams in their eyes, our parents, grandparents, and respected elders say, “The only thing I can give you that could never be taken away is your education.”
Subject to attacks, bomb threats, kidnappings, deaths, man is not invincible. But for the sake of progress, for the fight for peace, for the future, a learned man has something that is.
And I believe that this should be shared.