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Nine years on...

Ros Atkins Ros Atkins | 15:00 UK time, Friday, 10 September 2010

Journalists are keen on anniversaries of all types. They give us a reason to return to a subject even though nothing beyond the passage of time has actually happened. Sometimes, that's welcomed by listeners who welcome the chance to revisit issues and emotions that remain of the moment to them.

I started working at BBC a few weeks after the 9/11 attacks and every year have observed how we've approached the anniversary. For the first two or three years, the appetite of journalist and listener for coverage was beyond dispute. America had led the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, Ground Zero had been cleared but its future had not been decided, and the search for Osama bin Laden remained big news.

I remember though us hosting discussions on September 11 in 2007 and 2008, and noticing that the number of emails we received were not particularly high. It also felt like the more immediate concerns caused by the uncertainty in Iraq were more relevant to some of you than the attacks. All of which led to discussions among the WHYS team about whether the anniversary warranted us marking it (we weren't suggesting it wasn't a news story, but did it really prompt discussion as it once had?).

All of these questions have gone this year. The 'Ground Zero mosque' (which I know isn't a mosque) and Pastor Terry Jones mean that this year's anniversary brings into sharp focus a raging debate about America's relationship with Islam.

There's no shortage of people talking about the 'responsible' and the 'right' thing to do in both of these cases. But there's scant agreement on what those two terms mean.
Making allowances for sensitivities is either a small step towards intolerance or a small step towards compromising America's commitment to freedom.

And in the middle of this we have a new poll from ABC and the Washington Post that finds that 49% of Americans say they have generally unfavourable opinions of Islam.

We're over 12 hours away from being on air and the way things are shifting I'm not going to second guess exactly what we'll talk about on Friday's show. However, it's certain that the 9/11 anniversary will demand a central place in our conversations in a way that it hasn't in the past couple of years.

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