A day of hate that mankind dares not forget
The 10th anniversary of 9/11 will be marked tomorrow by special civic ceremonies and by prayers at church services all over Northern Ireland, and around the world.
The deaths of almost 3000 innocent people in the al-Qaida attacks on New York and Washington marked one of the worst tragedies in American history. It is staggering to think that almost as many people died there in one day, as in decades of our troubles, where 3466 people were killed.
The suffering on 9/11 was unimaginable, as a stunned world tried to come to terms with gruesome acts of violence, portrayed vividly on television.
No-one will ever forget the aircraft flying directly into the Twin Towers, as well as the attack on the Pentagon, and the heroism of the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93 who tried unsuccessfully to wrest control from the hijackers.
The immediate repercussions of 9/11 were those of shock and grief worldwide, but the longer term implications resulted in sustained conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, with huge losses of life.
After the bloody decade since 9/11 it is possible to draw broad lessons. One of the most important of these has been to resist any temptation to embark on a modern Crusade and to seek revenge on the Muslim world as a punishment for the atrocities of a small number of fanatics.
Another major lesson has been to recognise the need for continued dialogue with Islam, and for people to do all they can to understand the culture of others from different backgrounds and faiths.
This is particularly true in Northern Ireland, where centuries of mistrust have led to the appalling violence of the recent past, though ironically one of the results of 9/11 was to cut-off financial backing from Irish-Americans for the Provisional IRA.
Tomorrow will be a sombre day of remembrance, and also an opportunity for quiet reflection on the lessons of 9/11 that still cast a long shadow over the world, and not least in Northern Ireland where we also have known many dark days of violence and loss.