Editorial September 2003 Facing History By Hilary Williamson
History, despite its wrenching pain, Cannot be unlived, but if faced With courage, need not be lived again. (Maya Angelou)
As the calendar moves again towards September 11th and the second anniversary of "9/11", we recall the successive shocks of horrific events of that day in 2001- though fortunately dulled by filters of time and memory - and grieve again for all who died or were injured.
Many books have been published about what it was like at the World Trade Center - from a firefighter's perspective in Last Man Down by Richard Picciotto & Daniel Paisner, to a recent release of accounts of man's best friend's involvement in Donna Jackson's Hero Dogs. There have also been attempts to explain the motivations behind the attack, ranging from a detailed development of events that led up to it in The Cell by John Miller, Michael Stone & Chris Mitchell, to a US journalist's perspective on 'Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World' in Mark Hertsgaard's The Eagle's Shadow.
But the books that I find most enlightening are not these, but rather insiders' readings of cultures that have produced the types of extremists, who carried out 9/11 acts of terror, in particular Mary Anne Weaver's Pakistan : In the Shadow of Jihad and Afghanistan. I found it disturbing. And though I chuckled at the child's clear-eyed wisdom recalled in Marjane Satrapi's autobiography Persepolis : The Story of a Childhood, I found much there that was also devastatingly sad.
I turned, for encouragement, to Marma Rosa Menocal's The Ornament of the World, which portrays a time in medieval Islamic Spain, when a culture of tolerance reigned between the Andalusian Muslims and the dhimmi, the People of the Book (Jews and Christians). Let us all hope that, with the courage that Maya Angelou recommends in her poem, a repetition of 9/11 can be avoided, and a tolerant Andalusian golden age achieved again, worldwide.
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