Commemorating 9/11 day with the gift of life

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By Dr. Gwen Pang

Head, International Federation of the Red Cross(IFRC) Country Cluster.

Beijing, China — There are few events in the history of the world where all of humanity is collectively transfixed in horror as it unfolds, just as it was on September 11, 2001, when America was attacked by terrorists.

Fifteen years ago today, the sight of a commercial jetliner slamming into one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center In New York city was seen by millions around the world as it was broadcasted live on network television.

Just a few minutes earlier, another commercial plane had hit the other tower, sending plumes of smoke out of the windows of the skyscraper. At the time, no one knew what had just happened, and there was much confusion.

On that clear, sunshiny day in America right after the first airplane hit, almost everyone thought that it had been a tragic navigational accident.

As the media began training their cameras toward the burning skyscraper, it would soon become abundantly clear that the United States was possibly being attacked by terrorists.

When a second plane hit the other tower, everyone knew that this was no ordinary accident.

The terrifying images of people leaping out of the tall buildings into the air and plummeting to their deaths, choosing to die that way rather than being incinerated alive, is a collective trauma experienced not just by the people of the United States but everyone else on this planet.

As the twin towers collapsed one after the other, with thousands of people still trapped inside and subsequently buried in tons of concrete, steel and glass, the heartbreak of that day was complete.

That scores of heroic first-responders, paramedics, police officers, and firefighters also died trying to save innocent civilians inside the World Trade center only added to the grief and horror of 911.

When the dust cleared, nearly three thousand people were dead, including those who died at the Pentagon—another site hit by terrorists on that fateful day.

It was on that day when the age of modern global terrorism truly began. The world before 911 is a vastly different place than the one we are living in now.

Ultimately, 9/11 spawned two wars, in Afghanistan and in Iraq, where today a sectarian conflict is raging and has become a training ground for actual and would-be terrorists.

According to the 2015 Global Terrorism Index, which is published by the Institute for Economics & Peace, the top five countries affected most by terrorism are Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Syria.

All over the world, about 32,685 people were killed by terrorists in 2014, and the above mentioned countries are where 78% of all deaths and 57% of all attacks occurred.

In Iraq alone, 9,929 terrorist fatalities have been recorded in that year. Two terrorist groups, the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and Boko Haram, are jointly responsible for 51% of all global fatalities from claimed terrorist attacks, according to the report.

In the Philippines, which was ranked no. 11 on the Global Terrorism Index, authorities have recently declared a state of national emergency due the bombing in Davao city, which resulted in the deaths of 14 Filipinos and injuries to many others.

Abu Sayyaf, which has sworn allegiance to ISIL, has claimed responsibility for the Davao bombing, while the families of the survivors are left to grapple with the tragedy.

In the face of this callousness to fellow human beings, the rest of us can only respond by fighting evil with goodness. The only way to combat darkness is by shining the light of compassion, kindness, and generosity in our respective communities.

In the United States, 9/11 has evolved into their largest annual day of charitable engagement , according to the American Red Cross.

Each year tens of millions of Americans and many others in 150 countries observe September 11 by performing good deeds that help others. Instead of succumbing to fear and hate, they have turned a national tragedy into a force of good in the world.

And all across the Red Cross Red Crescent movement, that is what we aspire to achieve — to give the gift of life.

With acts as simple as giving blood to the Red Cross so that there is an adequate supply for those who need them, we can commemorate the events of 9/11 in a positive way and do our share in making sure that humanity triumphs over those who would destroy it.

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