Twin Towers from ferry to Ellis Island (Immigration Museum- former immigrant processing centre), New York November 1998.
On the 11 September 2001, my husband and I were just settling into a high school in the south of Guangdong province, PR China. The new academic year had just commenced, and we were joined by two young male teachers from USA. Our living quarters were fairly sparse and we had given up on television. We were listening to the radio when we first heard alarming breaking news coming from New York. We rushed next door to our young American teacher's apartment. His TV was working. We sat gob-smacked thinking what a terrible accident that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Centre's twin towers.
When we saw the second plane crash into the second tower, we knew it was no accident. Watching the drama unfold - CNN's windows faced onto the WTC - was a numbing and dumbfounding experience. When the third plane crashed into the Pentagon and the fourth into a field in Pennsylvania, the world held its collective breath. We knew that the world had irrevocably changed and a dark shadow loomed large.
It took some time for our Chinese colleagues to realise that this was not a fake. It was not a movie about the apocalypse. It was very horribly real and it has impacted all of us. It is not a clearcut ús versus them (the axis of evil -Iran, Iraq, North Korea), but the world seems to have become even more treacherous and barbaric.
With attacks on Iraq, then Afghanistan, even more terror in the form of ISIL (Daesh) is being unleashed in concerted attacks and by 'lone wolves' against Muslims and non-Muslims. Muslims are attacked and killed in greater numbers, but this doesn't get as much media attention as when non-Muslims are killed.
9-11 is now embedded in our collective memory - where were you on 9-11 - for those of us born last century -it will remain as darkly clear as the day Diana died; and the deaths of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, and the first steps of Neil Armstrong on the moon. Are our journeys into space an attempt to escape from the mess we have made of things on Earth?
Rather than turn our backs on the world, what if we were to reach out to another, with a kind word, a smile, a gentle touch?
What if we sat down together and listened to each other's stories?
What if we put down our technology-enhanced gadgets and learned to communicate with each other again...to trust, to laugh, perhaps to love compassionately?
As a gentle provocateur of positive change,