Saturday, 10 September 2011


I walked out of a classroom where I had been studying database engineering, conscious that the background noise had changed. On entering the headquarters, I kept hearing words ‘America’ and ‘New York’. Back in the office silent faces were turned to the wall mounted TVs which screened a permanent live news feed. I turned to look at the screen just in time to see the second attack take place.

Within minutes everyone was busy implementing plans that had been outlined to cover such events. All over the country military and government establishments were being cloaked in a huge security blanket which within hours would cover the whole nation. All the while eyes kept flicking to the TV screens which continued to play pictures of the tragedy in New York.

As that day unfolded images were forever scored onto billions of people’s retinas, images that will live with generations of people around the world. The towers slipping into the dust cloud, people jumping, and the tear stained dust covered faces of men and women who were on the streets of New York that day.

The military and civil servants in our headquarters were hardened people, most of them had been involved in preparing, supporting and conducting a wide variety of military operations around the world but this was different. We had all seen the effects of war and terrorism on civilian populations and many of us had witnessed genocide, but attacks on this scale and of this nature were almost unthinkable and there was an air of shock and disbelief.

Whilst the concept behind the attack was not new, (Tom Clancy wrote two books in the mid 90’s in which a passenger aircraft was flown into Congress.) it cannot be denied that the attacks on 9/11 were masterful in their simplicity and almost flawless in their execution. As military personnel we knew that the people who had planned the attacks would be sitting somewhere watching events unfold with a real sense of satisfaction, perhaps even pride. I doubt that even they could have anticipated such a spectacular success. The attack was so monumental and so well publicised that mention the date; 9/11 anywhere in the world and people will instantly know to what you are referring.

Ten years have passed and America and its allies have been in a constant war against an enemy which lives in the shadows; rising occasionally to strike before falling back into the darkness. It is true that America has had its successes most recently with the summary execution of Osama Bin Laden but when all is said and done; two wars have been initiated, hundreds of thousands of people have been maimed or killed; at a cost that would bankrupt many small nations (some would argue it has helped bankrupt the USA). Yet despite this the average American could not put a pin on a map of the world to mark countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Iran.

What is perhaps more worrying is that after all this time most Americans would not even begin to understand why their country was attacked in the first place. You may ask; ‘why do I say this is worrying?’ Well, I believe that the Chinese General and strategist Sun Tzu sums it up about 2400 years ago when he wrote;

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”


Though the smoke and dust are gone,
the souls of three thousand live on.
Two thousand parents taken away;
and three thousand children had to stay.
as four planes of terror crashed
the hopes of years to come were dashed.

Ten years on; a nation greaves
in city streets strewn with leaves.
In quiet suburbs beneath blue sky
people bow their heads and cry.
Images within their minds reside
of the day a nation’s innocence died.

A war on terror was declared
the people of world were scared.
Far off lands were torn to shreds
as troops dragged people from their beds.
Searching for the men who dared
attack a nation so unprepared.

Patriots of the United States
were unaware of all the hates.
They didn’t understand
why people in a far off land
could hate them for the way they act
with so very little tact.

Ten years have passed since the date
when terrorists expressed their hate.
America has waged a war
With dirty tactics we all abhor.
Torture and Extraordinary Rendition
are tools of hatred by tradition.

As they bow their heads and pray
for the souls lost on that fateful day,
may they see the reason it occurred
and realise spreading hatred is absurd.
They say; all men are created equal
Lord; please help them avoid a sequel.

John Carré Buchanan
09 September 2011


  1. Just a quick message to say you really do have a beautiful way with words John :)

    It is a day that'll live in infamy, and one of those events that you'll always remember what you were doing at that exact moment in time that you heard the news.

  2. David,
    Thank you for your kind words. Fortunately there are very few days that can be remembered in that way. In my life, Moon Landing, Death of Diana, 9/11 and the day I got hit. Hopefully in the future such momentous occasions will all be for the common good, such as the moon landings.

  3. Like you, I am searching for a way to better express my experiences, my opinions, my love, and my loss. I picked up a pen a few months ago and just started writing. After I looked at the scribblings, I thought, "not bad." But, they needed work. Thus far, its been a private labor of sorts. I shared a few of my poems with my wife. She was honest, saying some of the words were not well written. So I stopped for a few weeks, feeling a bit silly. Then, I suddenly realized that I wasn't writing for other peoples' reasons. I was writing for my own. I like the idea of leaving a little something more behind than just a handful of photos. Fact is, I enjoy it because it calms me. It helps to complete me. Isn't that what really matters?

    1. Tony, ultimately you are right, we write in order to put our experiences or ideas down on a page of paper or a computer screen; so that we can get a better grasp of what happened for ourselves and perhaps help others understand where we have been and how our journey is going. The goal is to help ourselves. I believe that by focusing on the words I use and challenging them and editing them until they are as concise and precise as I can make them I help get to the emotions that underpin the reason for writing. By tightening up the thoughts we write we help both ourselves and those who may eventually read our work to understand what we are saying. My advice is write it - Sit on it - Read it - change it and then sit on it and read and edit some more, when you find you can not, or do not want to, change it any more you will probably have a great piece of work in front of you, but more importantly you will know that you have taken another step forward. I hope my comment helps you, and Thank you for reading my blog and leaving your comment.

  4. Keep up the good work. Enjoy.

  5. I've really enjoyed reading this John. I would like to send you a postcard with a poem. Let me know if this interests you? And thanks

    1. Dear Frank, That would be nice, but I don't publicise my mailing address. Perhaps you could scan it and email it to me? Kind Regards. John

    2. I suppose I'm an old romantic, and I prefer snail-mail. But I totally understand how you don't feel comfortable with publicising your address.

      Take care,

      Frank C.

  6. Thank you Frank,Snail mail is fantastic, indeed I have written a poem about the military mail which is posted on this blog somewhere. It always used to bring a smile to the face.

  7. Very nice - I will track it down!

  8. Hi John, great to hook-up with you again; your facebook page directed me this site. I came across your 'Jimmy' poem which made me laugh! I was there the day you refer to completing my handover with JI.

    Last time you and I saw each other was Wilton (2000), but let's keep in touch please my friend; I would like that! Bye for now, John. Regards Rick

    1. Great to hear from you Rick, I trust all is well with you. I'm glad you like the Jimmy Poem, those were great days.


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