'It's about the West, not just the US'

9/11 six months on: The home front
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The Independent Online

The belief that hope is more powerful than despair was severely challenged by the events of 11 September. Of few people was this truer than Salma Yakoob, who as a British Muslim woman found herself suddenly an object of hate to people she didn't even know.

Last October Mrs Yakoob was one of a number of ordinary people caught up in the crisis whose stories were told in The Independent on Sunday. Revisited five months on, Mrs Yakoob is still active in the Stop the War organisation that she had just joined, but equally significantly, is pregnant with her third child. "I went through a phase of wondering whether I really wanted to bring another child into this world," said Mrs Yakoob, who lives in Birmingham. "But you can't allow yourself to be overcome." But she is still angry about people's ignorance of what has happened to innocent Afghans, and about the "one-sided" way that TV reports the news.

Of our other interviewees, Steve Joy is angry too. He is works convenor at Rolls-Royce in Derby, where redundancies followed a collapse in business. "A lot of the selection of who would go was done unfairly," he said. "At the same time the company is offering overtime. That's immoral."

There is better news from the Middle East tour operator Craig Baguley, who had questioned the continuing viability of his business but now reports that his autumn tour of Iran is already half full. "But if there are strikes against Iraq, that will obviously affect us."

Cautious optimism comes from Andrew Sentance, British Airways' chief economist. BA has laid off 20 per cent of its staff, and realised that the future lies in cheaper running costs. "There's a much greater understanding of the competitive challenges we face," Mr Sentance said.

For air refuelling pilot Captain Rob Pochert of the US Air Force, who is based at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk, there's still a job to be done, and he plays up its humanitarian aspects. "I've flown long missions refuelling planes that have been dropping food parcels into Afghanistan." He cautions against those sceptical of the US's approach. "This isn't just about protecting the US. It's about the West as a whole."

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