Sunday 11 September 2011


For us New Zealanders, that's when 9/11 occurred: we're 16 hours ahead of New York, and it was September 12th when we woke, an astonishing 10 years ago tomorrow, to the news of what had happened soon after midnight our time. Or not, in my case - busy with getting children off to school, and myself to my undemanding little job in the office at the younger one's school across the road, it wasn't till I got to my desk that I realised something was up, and a wide-eyed teacher there told me the incredible story. I rushed to the assembly room where the television was on, showing over and over those images for which the word 'shocking' just doesn't measure up, and listened to the stunned commentary from presenters and journalists who were having equal difficulty in believing what they were describing.

I've never known that feeling before: I've heard unexpected, terrible news before, but the scale of the attacks, the recognition of the coldly inspired leap of imagination that led to them, and the irrevocable loss of innocence that they brought about, plus the simultaneous annihilation of thousands of ordinary peoples' lives, was unique. It's no exaggeration to say that we all, all around the world, took a step together when we heard the news, into a future that was instantly very much less safe. It's affecting us still, in so many ways, and there's no going back.

One thing that I hadn't expected, on our family trip to England and France in July, was how astonished the girls would be to experience the level of security that's standard there: the bag checks, the x-ray machines, the CCTVs everywhere - just to go up the Eiffel Tower, or into the Tower of London. Shuffle, queue, wait... so tedious, in probability so unnecessary, yet absolutely inescapable.

Though not here, which is why the girls hadn't expected it. In most people's daily life here, apart from at the airport, there are no obvious security checks, no searches, no constraints on our freedom. It's something we take for granted most of the time - but it's good to be reminded of how lucky we are in New Zealand. There are advantages in being so far below the rest of the world's radar.

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