Twin Towers…

…22 years on
Well, what a difference two decades make!! Your Eyewitness remembers distinctly where he was on Sept 11, 2001. How could he forget?? He was in an insurance office discussing some mundane matters when – on the TV in the lounge to keep clients distracted – leapt the images of those planes plunging into the Twin Towers. He could distinctly see bodies falling as the smoke billowed into the skies. No business was done in THAT insurance office for the rest of that day!! It was just about 9:30am.
Not long afterwards, we’d discover that of the 3000-odds persons who perished on that fateful day, 25 were of Guyanese descent. And this year, we remembered them again! Imagine a pipsqueak country like ours – without even 3/4 million citizens – suffering such a loss in a city of 8.4 million people from every nation in the world! But then, it’s also a metaphor for Guyana’s own destruction, innit?? As many Guyanese are exiled to “foreign” as living in home. We’re the fifth largest immigrant group in New York City!! So, the 25 fatalities reflect our numbers in NYC?
In Guyana, the PPP had been bludgeoned into holding elections in March 2001 by PNC street protests that segued into violence and arson in Georgetown. But after they lost again, they returned violently into the streets again, and demanded “dialogue” with the Government! This continued desultorily through the year, and, on 9/11, recriminations were flying fast and furious about who were and weren’t “keeping their word”.
So, while there was tension in America after 9/11, OUR tension had been building here since Jan 12 1998. That’s when the PNC protests led to hundreds of Indian Guyanese citizens being beaten in Georgetown simply for PRESUMABLY voting for the PPP in the Dec 1997 elections!! Thereby confirming the sin of being “PPP supporters”! In Guyana, just five months later, there’d be the Mash Day Jailbreak segueing to the killing fields of Guyana – with its epicenter in Buxton.
9/11 would also lead to America vowing retribution on the perpetrators of the attack, and all their allies and their enablers. A War on Terror!! There followed the 2003 invasion of Iraq to destroy Saddam Hussein’s “Weapons of Mass Destruction”. They were never found, but 469,000 persons were killed – mostly civilians – and 4 million became refugees. The war continued through the Middle East, from Syria in the west (600,000 dead in the decade 2011-2021, with 6 million refugees) to Afghanistan in the east (250,000 killed, mostly civilians). As almost an afterthought, Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the WTC attack, was killed in 2011.
Yes, 9/11 remains a very significant date for many!!

…and democracy
While the “War on Terror” was waged in retaliation for 9/11, it also was accompanied by a parallel effort to “win the hearts and minds” of the societies being bombed: promising to bring them into the 21st century with “democratic” governments!! Each of the targeted countries was Islamic, and analysts couldn’t help concluding that America was enmeshed with the “Clash of Civilizations” – predicted by Huntington a decade before. The US, of course, was representing “modernity”, which was unilinearly following the arc created by Europe after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire after WWI!
So, with the end of the War on Terror (has it really ended?), has the battle for democracy also ended? And that begs the question as to whether democracy can ever come out of the barrel of guns in the hands of invaders. Is this what is happening in Ukraine?? The colonial empires – the Spanish, British, Dutch and French etc, – had tried it once before.
But they’d convinced us we were “savages” who needed “civilization”. Ain’t gonna work now!!

…rise from ashes
Twenty-two years – and US$11 billion – later, where there were the twin towers, the “triplet towers” now stand!! It’s mostly private, and much more residential rather than commercial as before. Meanwhile, over in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Syria…