For those alive at the time, September 11 2001 was a moment which will never be forgotten.
Just as millions can recall where they were when President Kennedy was assassinated, vast numbers have 9/11 images, such as American Airlines Flight 11 crashing into the World Trade Centre north tower, etched into their minds.
One of Ballarat's most highly-regarded academics, Professor Bridget Aitchison, campus head of ACU Aquinas, clearly remembers the day. Despite Prof Aitchison's love of Australia - the Los Angeles native believes the "stork dropped her in the wrong country" - her connection to the land of her birth remains.
Prof Aitchison's was living in Australia when the situation in America unfolded two decades ago.
"I had gone to bed so I heard about it when I woke up the next morning," Prof Aitchison said.
"I woke up very early. There had been an email sent from work saying, 'Our thoughts and prayers are with all Americans at this time'. I thought, 'What the heck just happened?'. The TV was showing footage of the plane going into the tower. I thought, 'This must be a movie'. Then it dawned on me that was the news. I was horrified. I had a very dear friend from high school who worked in the towers.
I thought, 'This must be a movie'. Then it dawned on me that was the news. I was horrified.Professor Bridget Aitchison
"My adoptive father's best friend was part-owner of 'Windows on the World' at the top of the towers. I knew people in New York and I couldn't get a hold of anyone. It turns out my friend had the flu and hadn't gone to work. Of course, dad's friend lost the business. I remember he was interviewed weeks later and was asked, 'How do you feel about losing your business?' He said, 'We lost six hundred people'. I thought, 'That's the right emphasis'."
A feeling of helplessness prevailed within so Prof Aitchison turned to her faith.
"Just trying to get a hold of people was impossible," she said.
"Being powerless to do anything, you then run home to pray. There is something in prayer that helps. It at least helps you, if not others; you can find that focus and that calmness. Eventually, you just stay glued to the television footage, you watch what's happening, and you hope for the best. You make a choice to hope even when it doesn't appear that there is any."
As the unthinkable was unfolding, Prof Aitchison thought back to a previous visit to the city that never sleeps.
"We were at the towers. I remember (my then-boyfriend) put his palm on the building and said, 'These buildings will stand for a thousand years'. I had this horrible thought at the time of nothing lasts that long," Prof Aitchison said.
"As I was watching the towers fall, I remembered that moment. I just thought, 'You can't count on anything'. By this stage, I was understanding that life is for living and that you make the most of it."
According to Prof Aitchison, the impact of that day has been profound. Not only do the "enormous and irreversible" ramifications continue to be seen in daily happenings, they are evident at a more substantial level.
Air travel changed forever; priorities of media altered; liberties were restricted.
"We're limited as to the liquids we can take onto a plane. We don't remember a time when that wasn't a thing," Prof Aitchison said.
"Terror attacks still make the news in ways they wouldn't have before. We're far more conscious of intelligence gathering. (There are freedoms) we have given up. The surveillance everywhere, we would have never put up with that before 9/11."
Of course, physical turmoil, stemming from the al Qaeda assault, continues.
"The war on terror has lasted so long. This is now the next generation and the generation after that still being impacted by that day," Prof Aitchison said.
Ironically, the military engagement in Afghanistan, used to illustrate the resolve and strength of the stars-and-stripes, has hurt America in the eyes of Prof Aitchison.
"Afghanistan has really damaged US credibility," she said.
Prof Aitchison holds the view the American psyche was damaged and the nation itself began to splinter due to 9/11.
"Americans were rocked by what happened; they always thought themselves invulnerable," she said.
"Their innocence was ripped away and they discovered they were not invulnerable. Some of them have embraced that, while others have put their heads in the sand and ignore the reality of the world."
When Prof Aitchison says the world has shifted in the years since 2001, there is gravity in her voice. Humanity faces global instability and a new world order.
"We will look back in a hundred years and see the time between 9/11 and now as one of those ages where empires fell and new ones rose," Prof Aitchison said.
"We're at a turning point in history which you can't see when you are in the middle of it. Republics have about a two hundred years life cycle and the US has past it. You now have the entitlement mentality. That's every republic in its final stage. It's Nero playing the violin while Rome burnt down."
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Prof Aitchison warns, as one power declines, others will rise to fill the void.
"When the Soviet Union fell, everyone was rejoicing. I just kept saying, 'The bear is only sleeping'," Prof Aitchison said.
"The bear is only sleeping and it's going to reemerge. An alliance between Russia and China is something we should all be very worried about."
That said, all is not lost and action can be taken to address difficulties faced.
"We're living in a world of uncertainty now," Prof Aitchison said.
"People have to either understand that and grasp it and take steps to do right or they can continue to take the ostrich approach. We need to build resilience and robustness."
Undoubtedly, the events of September 11 2001 had a significant affect on Prof Aitchison's philosophies. At an individual level, there are principles to follow to gain personal fulfilment.
"(9/11 was) a wake-up call not to ever be complacent," she said.
"Build good relationships with people; that's what outlasts your job, possessions, tasks. Cut toxicity out of your life and live. Find the joy in every day because it's there to be found. Instead of complaining, look within our own households and within our own community and say, 'What can I do today to make life better for myself and those around me?' That's our responsibility as humans: to make the world a better place by our presence in it. If all of us do something, it adds up to a lot."
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