THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
The current events in Afghanistan have reminded the world – if it needed reminding – of the horrific terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York on September 11th 2001. Ten years later Peter Rosengard founded a project which saw a massive memorial sculpture called Since 9/11, made of wreckage from the twin towers, on public display in London. That was followed by a charity of the same name which offers an education programme to schools, teaching students about the causes and consequences of 9/11 and subsequent terror attacks, wherever they arise, to try to ensure that similar atrocities never happen again. Peter Rosengard, Chairman of the charity, tells the story.
20 years ago our nations were united in shock and in grief, sharing our pain and outrage at the needless destruction of so many lives. The rapidly unfolding events of this week in Afghanistan serve to underline the relevance of this anniversary.
9/11 was the worst terrorist attack in history, in which 2,977 innocent people were killed by Islamist terrorists. Whilst over 2,600 of the victims were Americans, over 90 nations lost citizens, including 67 British victims. Although it took place on American soil, it was also the single largest loss of life of UK citizens in a terror attack.
We all remember exactly where we were on that terrible day, September 11th, 2001, but no child at school today was even born. For our school students 9/11 is now an historical event, not a moment remembered from their own lives as with their parents' generation. They are growing up in a SINCE 9/11 world. Indeed, thousands of their own teachers in their classrooms were themselves young children at the time.
In the broad context of modern history, 9/11 is a pivotal moment for extremism here in the West which young people should be aware of and understand. It is not only about the events but their causes and their consequences.
A decade ago, I founded the UK education charity SINCE 9/11 to ensure that the legacy of 9/11 is one that builds hope from tragedy. We've so far taught tens of thousands of young people about the events, causes and consequences of 9/11 so that we can create a better, peaceful and more harmonious future.
But it's not just about 9/11. Our world has become increasingly divided, with fear of the 'other', increases in Islamophobia, antisemitism, racism, populism and nationalism. Providing teachers with the tools and resources to confront the ideas that lie behind, and lead to acts of extremism, and helping their pupils to understand the importance of talking through these important issues is at the core of what we do.
Following the recent online racist abuse after the Euros Finals, MI5 (British Intelligence Service) Director McCullum noted in a widely reported speech that today 20% of MI5's time is spent monitoring and investigating Right Wing extremism. He pointedly added that this includes racist abuse, which has been shown to lead to extremism, which itself is a precursor to terrorism.
Education is a huge part of the answer. The SINCE 9/11 education resources are free for all UK schools. Our www.since911.com programs are being downloaded over 10,000 times a year and on December 10th 2020 over 10,000 UK students attended our Virtual Student Summit, 'Why is 9/11 Relevant Today?'. In addition our schools "assembly packs" are available for teachers in preparation for the 20th Anniversary. These provide background information to stimulate conversation and answers to frequently asked questions.
On September 7th we launch our important report 'Addressing Extremism in the Classroom'. Commissioned from the world renowned Institute of Education this ground breaking research underlines how important it is to address these issues in our classrooms, and the need for teachers, parents and students to "Talk it Out".
Just as we are vaccinating people against Covid, this report shows now is the time to vaccinate our children against hate.