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11 September 2001 - Survivors of Attack on WTC NYPhoto Credit: Island Crisis Network


Around ten o’clock on 11 September 2001, on another dry, hot day in Cascavel, Ceará, Brazil, I was seated in the Meeting Room of the cut-and-sew factory of the finished cow-leather industrial complex. Chairing the meeting with the manager and division supervisors was our Italian Commercial Director. Our discussions were interrupted when his cell phone rang. This was not unusual. Rising from his seat at the head of the table, he backed us to answer the call.

After pacing the floor while he jabbered in Italian, he turned to face us. In broken Portuguese, he spurted in disbelief: “Two airplanes crash into the World Trade Center in New York.” He looked at the factory manager. “We need to watch the news.”

The meeting came to an abrupt halt while the two men went to the Administrative Building in search of a TV set. While the Brazilian staff expressed concern about relatives and friends living in New York, I thought of Guyanese relatives and friends who had left our native land over the years. Time and distance had frayed the bond between us. Not knowing how to contact them, I could only pray for their safety.

At home later that evening, as I watched the news reports and live footage of the terrorist attacks on the USA, I feared that this would be the beginning of a dreaded Third World War when we would obliterate each other with our nuclear bombs.

Twenty-five Guyanese-Americans and three Brazilian-Americans died in the collapse of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. More than ninety other nations also lost loved ones that day. Horror and grief united Americans with nations across the globe.

Ten years after Americans lost their sense of security in a violent world, let us remember the lessons that we learned that day and in the years that followed:

    • United with compassion and generosity, we can overcome;
    • Others risked and gave their lives to save our loved ones;
    • We can never be safe when hatred consumes us;
    • We are equal in death and grief;
    • Fighting evil with evil generates more evil;
    • Through our loss and grief, we can better appreciate the gifts of love and life.

I leave you with the last verse of the poem “After One Year” by Guyanese poet, Martin Carter (1927-1997):

Rude citizen! Think you I do not know
that love is stammered, hate is shouted out
in every human city in this world?
Men murder men, as men must murder men,
to build their shining governments of the damned.