Over the weekend, many of us have had a chance to watch the many documentaries over the television marking the 10-year anniversary of 9/11. It was a terrible day, but 10 years on the world is so different. 10 years ago I wrote the following lines in my agricultural column on DTN.
It is a new world. And according to President George W. Bush its war in the 21st century. And for the life of me, I don’t know what is going to happen.
And this is the way I ended it.
On January 2, 2000, I boarded a plane in Toronto headed to Newark, New Jersey. The flight was a bit rough, and I welcomed the impending descent toward the airport. As we descended toward the airport, the sight out the left hand side of the aircraft overwhelmed me. There it was, the New York City skyline, shimmering in the late afternoon of early winter. The World Trade Centre Buildings were beautiful to behold, but never again, never again. It is war now and we’re never going back to the way it used to be.
In 2003 I took the same flight from Toronto to Newark New Jersey on my way to Bangladesh. Uncannily, the flight route took me by New York City once again. I had the same opportunity to look left out of the aircraft on the sparkling New York skyline. Of course the World Trade Center was gone and it was one of those eerie feelings.
Of course that year I continued my travels toward Bangladesh. Bangladesh is the 3rd largest Muslim country on earth and it was my 1st visit since the terrorist strikes on 9/11. I noticed a particular new tension in the air when I traveled there because it is completely obvious there are some that have sympathies toward Al Qaeda. I remember one particular conversation that I stumbled into and quickly got out of.
My colleague and I were on the famous rocket ship, which travels from Dhaka, Bangladesh to Khulna in the southwest of the country. It was a fascinating journey, by boat throughout rural Bangladesh. I would recommend it to anybody. At one of our stops, I was surprised to see workers taking box after box labeled the Canadian mint off the ship. It was kind of funny traveling to the other side of the world and then watching some Canadian made money leaving the ship. While watching the cargo being transported off, I quipped that one of the workers looked like Osama bin Laden.
Of course I was trying to be funny, but my words caught the ear of another Muslim gentleman on board. He quickly turned to me and he said listen Mr. White man, the Americans are to blame for many of the problems in this world! He said a few other things but I was keenly aware that maybe I said the wrong thing at the wrong time among the wrong people. So I quickly diffused the debate by changing the subject and that was that. It was a lesson to me that the world had changed. 9/11 changed everything including this part of rural Bangladesh.
One of the other enduring images of that trip to Asia was on the way back from Singapore. Obviously, at the time many of us were concerned about airline safety. I was getting on a Boeing 747 in Singapore bound for Newark New Jersey. At the time I thought that this would be an obvious laboratory for how to board a plane in the post-911 era bound for the United States. It surely was interesting to watch.
Every passenger was interviewed before they got to passport control. The interviewer was a young South Asian Singaporean woman who was tough as nails. I passed through very quickly but not everybody did. She had many people sit down until they answer her questions properly. It was a very thorough interview. By the time you got to passport control, you almost felt like you had been through an ordeal. I was thinking that there’s no way anybody gets on that 747 who is a bad guy. That has stuck with me all these years and it was certainly a different experience than before 911.
In 2009 I had the opportunity to visit New York City and Ground Zero. At that time it was a construction site. However, it still held a somber tone for me. I had come full circle since 911. The world is certainly a changed place. I was right. Its never going back to the way it used to be.