Prime Minister, Ambassador, Ladies and Gentlemen,
None of us will ever forget where we were or what we were doing when, on that otherwise ordinary day and out of a clear blue sky came so much premeditated death and destruction – on a scale and in a way that shocked the entire world.
But at the heart of all those endless and rather impersonal news reports lay the shattered lives and hopes of all those who we join here today, both in London and New York; those whose loved ones were so cruelly, brutally and pointlessly torn from them. That was ten years ago, and for so many of those left behind it must be an eternity; a continuing, awful agony that has to be endured day by day.
To say that we understand; that we sympathise; that we hold you in our thoughts and prayers is true, but I know it is hopelessly, utterly inadequate.
I can at least understand something of what you have been through and of how the wounds never really heal – because back in 1979 my greatly loved Great Uncle, Lord Mountbatten, and one of my young godsons were torn from my own family – and others in their group also killed or horrifically injured – by a terrorist bomb while sailing peacefully in his boat off the coast of County Sligo in Ireland.
At the time, I remember feeling intense anger, even hatred, of those who could even contemplate doing such a thing. But, then, I began to reflect that all the greatest wisdom that has come down to us over the ages speaks of the overriding need to break the law of cause and effect and, somehow, to find the strength to search for a more positive way of overcoming the evil in men’s hearts.
Of course, this is far easier said than done, and yet I find there are many of us who are not only tired of the perpetual killing, maiming and senseless terrorism that blights the human family, but bewildered by it too – simply because our instinct tells us that seeking revenge never actually achieves peace in the end. It is, surely, only by avoiding vengefulness that we can rebuild what has been lost... and save it from being lost again.
Indeed, I recall that President Abraham Lincoln once spoke very powerfully of having “wasted valuable hours imagining revenge or confusion.” He spoke of the practical importance of “a forgiving spirit” to dissipate anger and resentment.
I can't help feeling he was right. For is it not strange that, although that dreadful act of violence was meant to divide us, it has actually drawn us together – one person to another, one community to another. As it has today. On this anniversary, we are drawn to you, in our thoughts and in our prayers, knowing that we cannot change the past, but that through struggling to find a light that can lighten the darkness we may ultimately bring the healing the world so desperately needs…