The Western world today offers unrivalled freedom and opportunities for humanity. It may have a small number of naysayers who use its freedom (and capitalism) to damn it, condemn it and criticise it (rarely offering alternatives), but people from all over the world strive to live there, to learn there and do business there. The wealthy from Africa, the Arab World, Asia and Russia all flock to the West to do their shopping, to have a good time and to buy healthcare for their families and education for the children, even if they return to maintain and profit from the corrupt autocracies that facilitated their opportunities.
9/11 was an attack on modernity. The philosophy of Al Qaeda, and indeed that of all Islamists is rooted in a rejected of globalisation and capitalism, one reason why retaliation gets such lukewarm responses from the far left in the West (those who moved on from appeasement of the USSR to eco-socialism). However, it is far more than that. It is a fundamental rejection of the enlightenment, of political and civil freedoms, of feminism, of secularism and religious tolerance. It is the embrace of a stone age patriarchal theocracy that no more embraces the secularist leftists of the West any more than the Christian conservatives, or the libertarian capitalists. It used the tools of modernity to attack it.
Some apologists of Al Qaeda claim it wouldn't have attacked the US if the US had no military presence in the Middle East, or if Israel was destroyed (and presumably replaced by an anti-semitic Islamist theocracy). However, its interest is not in peaceful co-existence, its interest in peace is seen in how barbarically it treats girls and women - breeding chattels undeserving of education. It is beyond disgraceful that so many leftwing feminists turn a blind eye to the brutality of Islamist attitudes and treatment of women, for they fear having conservatives, capitalists and true liberals as allies - so adolescently knee jerk they still are.
Peaceful people were murdered by Al Qaeda. People who took flights and worked on flights, people who worked at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and neighbouring buildings. Some died instantly, some knew they were going to die, some jumped, some were crushed. For those who attacked, they were meant to die, their lives were a means to an end. For that is the collectivist philosophy - that human beings and lives are meaningless, unless they are categorised, pigeon-holed and treated as such. It was enough that they lived or worked in the USA - a legitimate target.
If my career had been a little different, it could have included me, or people who I know.
So 9/11 for me is always a day of some reflection - that there are people ready to destroy modernity, civilisation and freedom, for their twisted, backwards, bigoted, totalitarian view of how people should live their lives. That history did not end with the collapse of the Soviet Union, that there remains people who don't think that human beings have the right to live their own lives, or to think for themselves.
Meanwhile, the freedom and capitalism the West allows also allows conspiracy theorists and deniers to continue to claim that it was a self-inflicted attack by the US, or carried out by Israel. Whatever it takes to demean and defame the West, feeding the irrational frenzy of hatred, racism, religious insanity that infects much of the Muslim world. Such people should be treated with the same disdain and irreverence as Holocaust deniers, Moon Landing deniers and flat earthers. They are a step below those who think it was the USA getting its just desserts, which of course is legitimate if you too think human beings are but a means to an end. If you think terrorism - blowing up bodies of innocent civilians - is ok, then 9/11 can be justified. If you express sadness and remorse, but then go "but", you are justifying it, you're expressing the view that it could have been prevented if only someone else had done something that would have meant the perpetrators wouldn't have bothered to murder. A bit like "it's sad he hits you, but...". On this day, such people should be ignored, for they are not just wrong, but in appalling bad taste and a combination of stupid and evil. Nothing can justify such mass murder. Not even the echoes of vileness from those who have said "not enough bankers died".
As long as there are people willing to do violence to inflict their religious preferences on others, free people cannot rest to confront them and defend themselves and civilisation from their barbarism. It is as destructive and evil as Nazism, as Marxism-Leninism, as all forms of eliminationist authoritarianism. On 9/11 they extended from their own vile little fiefdoms of totalitarianism (Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia) into the land of the free and the home of the brave. Bear in mind that they wouldn't have thought twice had you been there too.
For today we are all Americans.