10 September 2011
Where were you on September 11th 2001 and if you are old enough for that matter on November 22nd 1963? Did the events of these days affect your life in anyway? When JFK was assassinated I was a teenager and had been out at a typical 60's party listening to the latest songs of the Beatles. His tragic death did not directly affect my life, nor I suspect most of the people living outside America. That day changed the way the Secret Service does their business of protecting their President, no more riding around in open cars, now they ride in cars built like tanks.
Ten years ago tomorrow, for me at least, it was late at night and I was sitting in a bar of the hotel and marina on Rebak Island, Malaysia. I had just closed my laptop with which I had sent Hanna an email of my progress since I was still sailing alone around the world. An American yachtie suddenly came running through the bar from his boat in the marina on his way to Reception, demanding in a loud voice immediate access to a phone, as there had been a plane hijack in New York. My initial thought was, typical crazy Yank making himself important, what could he do about a hijack in New York.
I returned to my boat and switched on my small 14inch TV. Where I was in the marina, reception was poor and at best I could get one decent picture of an English speaking Malaysian TV channel and sometimes up to two other non English speaking channels. The picture I now saw was of a commercial air liner flying into a large skyscraper. Wow I thought, this film could be worth watching. But then I realised I was not watching a film, but an actual event as it was happening on the other side of the world!
Up until that moment and since I started my circumnavigation in August 1998, my world had contracted to the immediate space around me and my yacht. Not much else was really important any more, or so it seemed. Yet prior to me starting my voyage I had been aware what was happening in the world and was even, in a small way as staff officer in a major military headquarters involved in the first Iraq war. Now though I had not heard of Osama Bin Laden or of Al Qaeda even though I had been living in the worlds largest populated Muslim country for some considerable time.
When JFK died I was 17 and did not think much beyond what party and with which girl I was going to next week. Now though anyone with half a brain must realise that this disaster that struck America was going to affect us all and change the world for ever. John Dunne said it first,
"No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were,
as well as a manor of thy friends or of thine own were;
any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
it tolls for thee."