The Meaning of 9/11: Four Years Later PDF Print E-mail
Written by James B. Cunningham, U.S. Consul General   

Certain events in history, some caused by man, some by nature, have the power to alter the globe. Every year on September 11, Americans and people throughout the world pause to remember the people, from over 90 countries, who perished in New York, Washington, D.C., and rural Pennsylvania on that dreadful day in 2001. This year, it is a particularly difficult day for my country as we begin recovery from the destruction of Hurricane Katrina.


The events of September 11, 2001 changed the world. Countries all over the globe have banded together during the last four years to make the defeat of terrorism a top priority, to prevent criminals from being able to move freely around the globe, and to make the world a safer place. But terrorism continues to strike, most recently in London and Sharm al-Sheikh, reminding us that the fight against terror -- and for the values enshrined in the UN charter and prized by most countries in the world -- is a long-term struggle.


In the past year, the world has been shaken by natural disaster as well. The December 26th earthquake and tsunami killed 250,000 people and devastated coastal areas of Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and India. Almost ten months later, many of these communities are still in the recovery process. At the same time as many countries, including mine, are helping them to rebuild, world leaders are working on a tsunami warning system for the Indian Ocean to protect against such horrible loss of life in the future.

We owe it to the victims of these horrible events to learn from them, to work for a better and more secure future, and to understand better the connections that bring the diversity of the world’s peoples ever closer together. When nations work together to stop terrorism, or to respond to human suffering, they create powerful examples of what the international community can do when we work together. The feelings of sympathy and compassion in the face of such tragedies have bridged political, cultural and economic differences. If we can come together when times are hardest for our peoples, there is hope we can find a way to work together on issues we all have in common, including building strong, stable governments, thriving economies, and making the world a safer place for our children.

I was the Acting Permanent Representative to the United Nations on September 11, 2001. No one who was in New York during the dark days that followed could fail to be touched and encouraged by the outpouring of international support for my country and its people, by the strong sense of solidarity that immediately emerged, and by the conviction that September 11 was an attack on all of the international community and its values, not just on the United States. Working together with most of the member countries, we confronted the threat posed by the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The international community came together to support the liberation of Afghanistan from the Taliban, the denial of sanctuary to Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, and to begin the international effort to bring them to justice that continues today.

The United States will continue to work with our friends in fighting terrorism throughout the world, and we value the support and cooperation of Hong Kong in that crucial effort. As a regional financial center and major shipping and commercial hub, Hong Kong has an important role to play. As they did in the aftermath of September 11, many people and governments around the world have generously made donations to meet the needs of the people affected by Hurricane Katrina. Many countries in Asia have offered to help, and we have been especially moved by generous offers from India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia, the four countries hardest-hit by the Asian tsunami, even as they are still rebuilding. My country is extremely grateful for this response.

Asia is facing many challenges in the next few years, including fighting terrorism, building democracy, and strengthening economic ties with the rest of the world. The United States is committed to Asia and a peaceful, prosperous future for all of its people. If we can continue to tap the global cooperation we experienced in the wake of 9/11 and the Asian tsunami, we can make tremendous progress toward that future. I look forward to working with leaders of the region and the people of Hong Kong and Macau to help make this happen.

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