As with the assassination of John F Kennedy in a previous generation, everyone remembers where they were on 9/11. The footage of passenger aircraft slamming into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan on that clear and bright September morning has been seared into the world's consciousness courtesy of the world's media, replayed endlessly in the years since.
None of us will ever be allowed to forget the gruesome images of people jumping to their deaths, compelled to by the heat, flames and smoke which filled twin towers that stood as proud symbols of America's power, prestige and exceptionalism. None either will ever be allowed to forget the heroism of the hundreds of police officers and firemen who lost their lives trying to save others, nor the tragic accounts of passengers on hijacked aircraft saying goodbye to loved ones during tearful final phone calls as they flew to their deaths.
The horrific events of 9/11 have given birth to a vast industry of documentaries, books, articles, and movies in the ten years since. They have also spawned a burgeoning and lucrative market in conspiracy theory, wherein all manner of self declared experts and out and out wingnuts have mined a rich seam peddling ridiculous and fantastical theories of what really happened and by whom to the gullible and deluded.
More significantly, in the 10 years plus since that fateful day, the world has witnessed the best and worst of humanity.
In Iraq a people already half starved and suffering as a result of 13 years of sanctions refused to greet their occupiers as liberators. Instead they mounted a fierce resistance during which over 4000 young Americans lost their lives and over 10,000 were maimed The collapse of Iraqi society into sectarian strife and medievalism was the end result of an occupation justified by the need to protect the American people and bring democracy to the Middle East. This was and remains a lie, one designed to conceal a pre-9/11 agenda of geopolitical objectives and economic advantage. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, a decade of war and occupation continues with no end in sight.
A largely complicit media, which succeeded in dragging the profession of journalism through the mud, willingly and eagerly made the case for war in Iraq, a case comprised of half truths and lies, while the few who dared raise their voices in dissent were smeared, attacked and calumniated.
A global war on terror was unleashed, giving birth to an epoch of state sanctioned murder and torture. Blowback arrived in the shape of the attacks experienced in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005. Hundreds of ordinary people were brutally slaughtered as they went about their daily lives. Yet, in a startling denial of the truth and basic logic, across Europe governments and opinion formers pointed the finger of blame at the 'other' in our midst, a Muslim community which suddenly found itself under attack.
Over a decade on we live in a world defined by fear, division and despair. New governments and administrations are in power yet bombing in the name of peace and killing in the name of democracy continues. This is why the lasting legacy of 9/11 has been many more 9/11s. The only difference is that the countless innocent victims of the 9/11s that came after have been rendered anonymous, their lives and deaths deemed unworthy of news.
It is a legacy of shame.