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This was our royal massacre," wrote one American diplomat who had served in Kathmandu, linking the sense of shock and dismay that overtook the United States on Monday morning.


Sunu Pratap KC, an IT specialist, was near the Pentagon across the Potomac River in Washington DC when the airliner ploughed into the building. "I was in middle of a meeting two blocks away from the White House when it happened and our building was evacuated immediately," he told us. "It was very scary, like a Hollywood movie. There were secret service personnel and FBI all over, and F-16s were flying above."


As we go to press, we have no word of Nepalis caught in the carnage at the World Trade Center. At least a dozen Nepalis work in the Twin Towers and surrounding area, and it is possible that a few may have perished. Mrs Kamal Karki, who worked in one of the two buildings, was saved because she had taken leave that day. Sharmila Mahat, who also worked in World Trade Center, arrived late, and so survived.


At one level, there was uncanny resemblance in the bewildering acts of terror that struck Kathmandu on 1 June and the Eastern Seaboard on 11 September. The sheer volume of killings was made possible by modern technology. In Narayanhiti, it was the terrible power of automatic weapons able to spray a roomful of royalty. In New York City, and before stunned viewers worldwide, it was the ability of suicidially-minded extremists to convert sleek commercial airliners into deadly guided missiles.


Unlike earlier times, New York City is now home to thousands of the Nepali diaspora. Bond traders on Wall Street to doctors and students, United Nations employees and visa overstayers all work and survive in the refuge of the most cosmopolitan city in the world. Many work in news-stands in lower Manhattan.


Nepalis are still new migrants in New York City, and by and large still at the base of the economic ladder. This may have been a saving grace: the "demography" of New York skyscrapers is such that the more important your company, the higher you are. And the more important you are within your company, the further up is your office. It took senior executives up to an hour to run down the fire escapes at the World Trade Centres, those on the lower floors were out in minutes.


Shock and grief is already giving way to anger. There are references to Pearl Harbor, and Americans consider themselves at war. But with whom? This is the work of a faceless and disenfranchised community, one so aggrieved and hopeless that it combines all its ingenuity and anger into a meticulously calculated carnage designed for maximum casualties and magnification by global media. These are the people economic globalisation and a fiercely unilateral America have left out. America can only tackle global terrorism targeted at itself by being more inclusive and less exclusive.


And you won't stop these people with a missile defence shield. They may be in the cities with biological and chemical suitcase bombs next, while America's orbital eyes look down for infra-red signals of a missile launch from a "rogue state".


Richard Falk, a political scientist at Princeton, told students Tuesday: "The thinking is to find the perpetrators and engage in a military response and feel that that solves something. But there needs to be an understanding of why this kind of suicidal violence could be undertaken against our country."


As grief is overtaken by anger, President George W Bush promises to "hunt down" the perpetrators and Colin Powell announces preparations for "war". We are looking at a world that will be a changed place in the days to come-whether it is a cruise missile attack on Afghanistan, or surgical strikes done at Washington's behest by proxies.


Within the United States there is already backlash against Arab-looking and Muslim communities. To many untutored Americans, made ignorant of the world by an insular media and education, the distinction between a South Asian and an Arab too is not all that clear. (On the streets, American Sikhs are being heckled.) And let us remember that some of the "wheat-coloured" Nepalis making up a growing part of that immigrant population are also vulnerable.


11 September 2001 will also impact Nepali society and economy. It will be harder to enter the United States as the doors of Fortress America close further. Tourism will be hurt as Americans keep away, and others avoid hotspots in Asia. The Thais are already predicting a 15 percent drop in tourism earnings for the rest of the year, and India will be hit. Nepal's tourism, just barely beginning to pick up after the royal massacre and news of political instability, will be affected.


All over the world, the horrific audacity of the act of mass terror holds within it the seeds of further terror. It is an example for others who may just be individually mad, or instilled with the fire of certitude that makes them destroyers and mass murderers of innocents. South Asia has seen enough carnage, and Nepal itself is not the Shangri La it was.


Ashok Gurung is a development specialist who works in mid-town Manhattan. He writes: "We are still in total disbelief. While our immediate family and friends are safe, we are saddened by the enormity of the loss and the impact of this unbelievable devastation."


LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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