Do you remember where you were? It has been a decade since that dark day. The cliché is old and tired: everyone knows where they were when they heard the news. I remember I was just finishing up watching Law and Order on A&E and heading off to bed and I heard the news. The reported number of dead was astounding. Surely the international response would be immediate and overwhelming. Millions of dollars would be poured into immediate relief to ease the suffering, billions more would be spent in the coming years to ensure this tragedy never happened again. To protect us all from such evil. The news agencies would surely cover no other story for weeks while orange-skinned anchor men and women breathlessly and needlessly over-enunciated key words as the bits and pieces of news trickled in. This was something that had to be remedied. We could never let this happen again. Nationalism would fall away and we would all realize the one undeniable fact that binds us together in this world: we are all human beings regardless of race, religion, or nationality. We would band together, move forward and respect each other a little bit more. We would recognize the steps that had to be taken to avoid a repeat of the day’s tragic events. Each of us would have to make some sacrifices. We would have to give up some of our personal freedoms and probably even a significant amount of money for those assurances. Politicians would face the tough challenge of choosing a difficult path that would prevent such a calamity and yet of course have to do so in a way that would not render them unelectable. The support for politicians would be overwhelmingly high though, wouldn’t it? People would understand that sacrifices needed to be made. People would band together and stand behind their political leaders. Partisanship would fade a bit as people realized this was something far greater than a conservative vs. liberal issue. This was something so big it defined who we are.
The events were so frighteningly real. Everyone suddenly realized: “That could have been me.” Or perhaps worse, “That could have been my child.” What pain to have your own loved one go through that. What if you lost your husband, wife, or, goodness forbid, your child in that painful way? How would you go on in life knowing that your child had suffered an agonizing death that was not only painful, but which you could see coming in advance, which you had to watch helplessly as it approached?
Sixteen thousand children dead. Sixteen thousand. In one day. Could it be? And apparently that was just the children. Reports were unclear and imprecise, but there appeared to be an additional eighty-two thousand related adult deaths. All in that one day. How was that even possible?
But then, shockingly, in the following months and years the politicians never mentioned those deaths once in any speech. The news networks didn’t even carry the story at all, let alone focus solely on it for weeks on end. Details were extremely hard to find. It was all but impossible to find out just how many had died, let alone the names of any of the victims. The dead were not only forgotten, they were never even recognized. Their intense suffering went unheard.
Yes, I remember exactly where I was on the 11th September, 2001 when 98,000 people died from preventable malnutrition and its related diseases. But, for some reason that I can’t quite put my finger on, I don’t remember where I was on the 10th or 12th September 2001 when the events repeated themselves.
A decade on? Nothing has changed. Well, except of course for the 350 million people who suffered the exact fate that those 98,000 who died on 11th September 2001 did. Three hundred and fifty million painful, preventable deaths in a decade? Isn’t that approximately the entire population of the United States of America? Gone in one decade.