independent

Wednesday 24 September 2014

9/11 showed how humanity conquered hate

FR BRIAN WHELAN

Published 14/09/2011 | 11:35

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ON SUNDAY New York remembered the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Not just New York, but right across the world, people paused to remember that awful day when the planes hit the Twin Towers in lower Manhattan.

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It was one of the most horrific examples of how hate can drive people to hurt each other. It was a perfect example of "man's inhumanity to man".

There were a total of 2,996 deaths, including the 19 hijackers and 2,977 victims. The victims included 246 on the four planes, from which there were no survivors, 2,606 in New York City in the towers and on the ground, and 125 at the Pentagon. Over 3,000 children lost a parent in the 9/11 attacks.

Those are chilling statistics, chilling because the loss of life was intended, the destruction was by design, the overarching desire of 9/11 was that it would be an horrific example of man's inhumanity to man. And yet, on the other side of the coin we see that 9/11 is a perfect example of how selfless and caring, how altruistic us human beings can be.

Man's humanity to man was seen just as clearly as the inhumanity was, because immediately after the planes hit, the New York City Fire Department quickly deployed 200 units, about half of the department, immediately to the site.

As Barack Obama said on Sunday, ' Ten years ago, ordinary Americans showed us the true meaning of courage when they rushed up those stairwells, into those flames, into that cockpit'.

A total of 411 emergency workers who responded to the scene died as they tried to rescue people and fight fires. The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) lost 341 fire-fighters and 2 paramedics. The New York City Police Department (NYPD) lost 23 officers. The Port Authority Police Department lost 37 officers. Eight emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics from private emergency medical services units were killed.

Those statistics are not just numbers, they are people, and there is no other word than ' hero' that could possibly be used to describe those men and women who ran into those towers, disregarding their own safety to try to save the lives of those trapped inside.

There were many stories about people who witnessed amazing acts of kindness inside those towers that day. Some people told how they offered a drink of water to one of the firefighters, and he simply smiled and told them to give it to someone who needed it more.

I read the following on a tribute page on the internet over the weekend: 'In Stairway A of the south tower, a stranger tore a strip from his shirt to stanch the bleeding of Keating Crown, who had been wounded by the second plane and was hobbling down 78 flights on a broken leg. A few floors below, Nat Alcamo, a Marine-turned-banker, saw high-heeled shoes that had been had kicked into corners of the stairway landings.

'And much later, when Theresa Leone got home to the Bronx that night, she found an empty plastic cup in her bag that had been handed to her hours earlier, filled with water, by some unknown, unremembered face on the Bowery who saw her trudging north and knew she was thirsty.'

There is only one-way in which one can endure man's inhumanity to man and that is to try, in one's own life, to exemplify man's humanity to man. Alan Paton, the South African novelist uttered those words, and how right he was.

What 9/11's legacy should really be about is the way in which people of all races, creeds, orientations, philosophies, and walks of life, banded together to help. Man's humanity in the face of adversity is much stronger than the inhumanity that confronts it.

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