This year, the ten year anniversary of 9/11, I was standing at the edge of Brooklyn. From the river side, you can look at the Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State building, the Statue of Liberty, and the new addition, 1 WTC.
At night, the laser beams went up, piercing the clouds. The laser beams were the ghost of what could have been.
A few weeks before this 9/11 anniversary, I was sitting in the office of a Pakistani, who told me tales of racism and hate, and the worst sensation of all: the fear. And there has been no closure. For weeks, I called everyone I could to try and find someone who would talk to me about having undergone police interrogation in the weeks and months after 9/11. The walls came up, and I was left with a representative, who showed me files of cards bearing FBI agent's names. Mobile numbers of some are scrawled at the back. "Please call."
In January, my father and his brother were sitting together when an acquaintance of my aunt walked in. The conversation, when she discovered what I did for a living, turned to terrorism and the media. "Beta, don't you think the media overplays the threat?" she asked.
My uncle leaned forward in his chair, and quietly replied. I have not spent much time with him, but I have rarely seen him lose his composure.
"We lost relatives in a bomb blast. They had gone out to get groceries. You want to tell me that this is overplayed?"
I never knew the women that died that day. I had met them once I think, and had been too young to remember. To me, they were unknown faces, names that would not register. Till the day that my grandmother called from Lahore. A few weeks later, I sat with her in our house in Lahore, as she recalled the funeral. We became part of the ever-growing statistic that has come to define Pakistan. We felt like victims. And then we moved on.
"We do not mourn our dead. They receive no memorials and no tributes. There is no musician singing a song in their memory and no plaques laid with their names inscribed. Our channels do not dedicate special programming to them and our papers publish no supplements honouring their memory. To us they are dead and gone, easier forgotten than remembered."
This 9/11, I wondered how many hours have been spent by those posting messages aimed at trying to get the West to understand their losses in looking inwards, and saying a prayer for those that did lose their lives. How many have made the effort to visit those languishing in hospital wards: military men who have lost their limbs, children that have shrapnel embedded in their bodies. There have been next to none public efforts to help those that have lost their sole earners in incidents of horrific violence. And I, like every one of you reading this from the comfort of your home, am guilty of the same. How many of us know the geography of Afghanistan, the names of the cities of Iraq that were ravaged by war. Our ignorance and our apathy, is nobody's fault, but ours.
"The State Department’s top lawyer, Harold H. Koh, has agreed that the armed conflict with Al Qaeda is not limited to the battlefield theater of Afghanistan and adjoining parts of Pakistan. But, officials say, he has also contended that international law imposes additional constraints on the use of force elsewhere. To kill people elsewhere, he has said, the United States must be able to justify the act as necessary for its self-defense — meaning it should focus only on individuals plotting to attack the United States."
"Daud Khan, from North Waziristan, was at his home with his 10 year-old son when a drone missile struck. He says, “The day before some Taliban had come to the house and asked for lunch. I feared them and was unable to stop them because all the local people must offer them food. They stayed for about one hour and then left. The very next day our house was hit… My only son Khaliq was killed. I saw his body, completely burned.”
"One man described the anguish of his sister-in-law, who lost her husband and two sons in a US drone strike: “After their death she is mentally upset…she is always screaming and shouting at night and demanding me to take her to their graves."
"Mohammed Ayub and his family were fleeing fighting in South Waziristan, making their way by foot through the mountains, when his whole family watched his daughter die in an artillery barrage. “In the evening, artillery started raining shells on the mountains… one of the shells landed near us which killed my daughter, Dost Bibi. When it hit it just blew her up into pieces. My other daughter, Shabana, started crying in a hysterical way after seeing her sister killed… since then she has developed psychological disorder as she is unable to forget what happened."