By Khalid Khattak

On a recent trip to New York, I had the opportunity to visit the 9/11 Memorial. The excitement of being in New York City for the first time immediately vanished when I visited the site of the fallen Twin Towers. I don’t know whether those accompanying me noticed  how sad I was. This unfortunate incident changed everything in the world –  especially in my country, Pakistan.

My eagerness to visit this New York was a result of claims by many of my Pakistani friends who are unanimous in saying “The one who has not visited N.Y. has in fact not seen America.”

Nonetheless, I found myself in full gloom and despair at the Memorial, especially when I heard about people, who in sheer desperation, jumped from the Trade Centers on that fateful day.

I was sad at the Memorial for those who lost their lives and at the same time my heart wept for the wrath and destruction Pakistan witnessed afterwards in the shape of the war against terrorism. At the time of the attacks I was 23 years old and was not in the profession of journalism. Honestly, at that time, I had no idea this incident would have  such a powerful impact across the world. I still have some glimpses in my mind as to how people were glued to television sets in Pakistan that day.

Before 9/11, no one could even imagine the kind of uncertainty and insecurity Pakistanis would face today in their daily lives. Ever since this tragedy, Pakistan has been fighting a seemingly, endless war against terrorism and the scale of destruction, both in terms of lives and property is so large in my country that we Pakistanis feel that 9/11 has repeated itself several times over in Pakistan.

According to this report, 49,000 Pakistanis have lost their lives since September 11, 2001, and my country has suffered losses of $100 billion.

It was only after September 11 that Pakistani civilians, along with extremists, became targets of drone strikes by the remotely piloted aircraft of United States. There is a lot of criticism on such robotic operations and the collateral damage is indeed behind growing anti-American sentiment in Pakistan.

As said earlier, 9/11 indeed changed the entire landscape of the world – and the people of United States are no exception. The kind of freedom Americans used to enjoy is certainly no longer there. The security check at the airports and more recently the NSA data collection controversy is a proof of this sad reality.

Like almost every person on Earth, I wish 9/11 never happened. I wish terrorism didn’t exist. I wish for peace in every part of this beautiful world.