A survey carried out between 2020-2021 among 188 number of Sydneysiders, for PhD research at Western Sydney University (Sikandar 2022) found that majority of the participants (27%) mentioned 9/11 as the most significant terrorist attack.

This was followed by Lindt Café Siege 2014 (26%) and the Manchester Arena bombings in 2017 (19%). The last two examples are due to the recency effect, a tendency of humankind to remember the recent events.

Personal ties with the incident also made it more memorable. Lindt Café Siege taking place in the homeland and London bombings including victims from Australia made these attacks significant for many Australians.

Despite being neither recent nor directly connected to Australia, 9/11 attacks still stand out as the most outstanding terrorist attack. Bombing of the twin towers which was broadcasted repeatedly in all corners of the world is entrenched in everyone’s memory.

The surprising fact here is that almost half of the survey participants (15%) who mentioned 9/11 as the top terrorist attack were either babies or unborn at the time of the 9/11 (i.e., 18-21years old cohort).

Undoubtedly, 9/11 attacks were a big-scale terrorist attack with the killing of 2996 people. Yet, it was not the only big-scale terrorist attack of the 21st century. The Camp Speicher massacre by ISIS killed 1700 people in Iraq in 2014. Baga massacre by Boko Haram killed more than 2000 people in Nigeria in 2015.

Yet, they are not recognised and even known by many people despite their recency effect. Nor were Muslims recognised as the prime victims of these big-scale terror attacks.

Whose memory, is it?

Selective prevalence and displacement have shaped the content and direction of knowledge in the context of 9/11. Whose memory is 9/11 terrorism? Certainly not that of toddlers and unborn children. Yet, they immediately recall 9/11 as the most significant terrorist attack of the century.

A collective memory is created through American political and media discourse with the start of War on Terror Era, the global counter-terrorism campaign by the US, which legitimised wars in Afghanistan and Iraq while increasing military expenditure and military-assistance for allied countries.

For instance, the collective memory of the same young cohort on 9/11 attacks is completely different for Muslims. It is the kick start of heightened Islamophobia and hyper-surveillance.

Beyond remembering 9/11 terrorist attacks, majority of the participants in the above young kids visit the 9/11 memorial site (copied from web)mentioned survey indicated the close connection between terrorism and jihad (86%) and the role of media (84%), which interchangeably and repeatedly used Islamic terms like jihad and sharia with terrorism, ISIS and Al Qaeda.

Around the 21st anniversary of the 9/11, it is time to question the roots of our knowledge and memories and reset our prior knowledge and memories by starting and conscious consumption of the imposed information and images.

It is especially needed for the newborn and unborn babies of 9/11 who deserves to start a new age cleaned from the destructive imprints of 9/11.