Remembering all lives that were tragically taken too early

How does 9/11 fit into America's history, 20 years on?

The 9/11 World Trade Centre attack, remembered 20 years on - Credit: AP

The 9/11 atrocity 20 years ago, with 3,000 people killed, is still a vivid memory. I remember exactly where I was when the news first came through.

I also remember three months later that churches every Sunday were praying for the victims of 9/11, whereas by then many others had been killed in accidents and other stuff which never made the news. There were then about 3,000 people killed on the roads in America every month; now more than 3,000 US and British servicemen have been killed in Afghanistan in the last 20 years.

Each single untimely and unexpected death is a disaster for relatives, friends and loved ones. Every victim of 9/11 had a different story; each family and group of friends were quite distinct from the others. Most of us have some experience of untimely deaths through others, either distantly or someone very close. The common comment: "I know exactly how you feel" is exactly wrong. No one knows how anyone else feels under these circumstances; Anne and I lost our eldest son nearly 30 years ago - so "been there, done that" as the saying goes.

So my thoughts and prayers go out to all those that have lost loved ones over recent years; 9/11 was traumatic; in 2005, hurricane Katrina in New Orleans killed 1,833; the recent shootings in Plymouth were nearby and unbelievable; but many other instances, some reported in the press but most private - are all a tragedy to those close to them and remembered by anyone reading this column. I won't apologise for the reminder; we don't need reminding.

Coronavirus dominates the news and tells us every day how many people have died from the virus in the UK, but it is worth putting this in context. About 30 people are killed on the roads in the UK every week; 100 deaths a month were recently attributed to obesity and overweight; Covid19 deaths have soared now back to around 100 per day. However, there are more deaths from cancer, heart disease, and dementia. Government statistics are too detailed for a quick summary - anyone feeling slightly depressed can do their own research and realise there are many people worse off.

Some years ago I was very late at Dunstable hospital due to a bad accident on the M1. Two drivers had been killed, but the consultant I was visiting told me there was much more loss of life; people had their lives shortened from stress caused by the delays. I never worried about delays after that, just hoped the people waiting weren't stressed.

As we recall 9/11, let's remember all those who have died tragically in recent times, some reach the news but the majority don't. Each one is an individual, as are their friends and loved ones, each working through denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, to quote the formalised stages of grief. I can vouch for anger when we lost our son many years ago, but have now arrived at "acceptance" by whatever route. In prayer we ask God for what we want; prayer also reminds us we are not alone and has a calming effect.

Many of our friends and acquaintances may be carrying a mental burden which may not be apparent. We hear about "Long Covid". I think there is also "Long-Lockdown", not yet acknowledged by the professionals, but we can all be a bit snappy for reasons that other people do not know.

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