Friday, September 12, 2008

September 11 remembered and unremembered

The United States yesterday celebrated the 7th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks with prayerful moments silence in town halls, state houses, the Pentagon and of course at the sides of Ground Zero in Manhattan. For the first time the memorial service was celebrated not at Ground Zero itself but on the sides, for the site is now being built upon.

That is probably the best way to remember the 2,603 fatalities in New York and the 125 in the Pentagon. Rebuilding the site proclaims to the terrorists that truism "You'll never win!"

In several cities around the world (London, Paris, Moscow, Sydney etc), the anniversary was commemorated with services. In Manila there was barely a remembrance, not even a public statement from the Palace. The victims of 9/11 came from many nations. There were Brits, Aussies, Germans, French, Japanese etc among the fatalities. That's why the major capitals hold remembrance services every year.

There were Pinoys that went down with the Twin Towers. Some of them worked for the Windows of the World resto. I find it baffling why the Philippines has conveniently forgotten the anniversary. Is it because of misplaced anti-Americanism? Or is it because it is the Great Apo Ferdinand's birthday?

Nonetheless 9/11 is memorable to me since I was in hospital at that time recovering from a viral infection when I saw the video of the World Trade Center on fire on the hospital TV. I thought then it was some Hollywood stunt until a doctor doing his rounds told me it was for real.

9/11 is linked with our Pinoy history since the plot was partially hatched here in Manila, more specifically in a Malate apartment on Quirino Avenue. In a classic case of good intelligence and ineptness, our own police had uncovered a large terrorist plot, Oplan Bojinka (that detailed plans to assassinate the Pope, to crash planes onto skyscrapers, and blowing up planes in mid-air) when police seized Ramzi Yousef's laptop and other evidence of bomb making. The Philippine National Police passed the information to the American FBI, which failed to link the Bojinka plotters to Al Qaeda. The rest is history.

For that reason alone, the Philippines has the moral obligation to mark 9/11.

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