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Turning and turning in the widening gyre

I have a distinct memory from nearly two decades ago. I was eleven years old, I had just started secondary school, and it was a Tuesday - about quarter to four in the afternoon. With lessons over, I left the building and climbed into my mother's car. As I was doing up my seat belt, my mum asked if I'd had a good day. Replying that I had, I looked up at her and she said, with a grave face and an admirable flair for the dramatic, "Well that's good, because it's been a bad day for the world."

The attacks on September 11th 2001 are the first time I can remember feeling like something historic was happening. It felt - and was - unprecedented. Of course, my short lifespan so far had seen other world-shaking events: I was born the week the Berlin wall fell; the horrific genocide in Rwanda took place as I was toddling around my nursery school; and when the Good Friday agreement was signed I was eagerly anticipating chocolate eggs across the Irish Sea.

This one was di…

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