Today marks the fifteenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the US on September 11 2001. Foreign Editor David Pratt who covered many of the subsequent events of the war on terror considers how 9/11 has shaped the troubled world we now live in.

IT was a Tuesday, for some reason I always remember that. I had only come into the Sunday Herald office at the start of the working week to pick up a book before heading to the airport to begin a journey to Israel.

Clustered around the news desk television, I came across most of my colleagues. On the screen in a live broadcast the first of the Twin Towers was already burning from the impact of the first fuel-laden airliner.

Only when the second plane slammed into the remaining tower did the silence of my colleagues lift, replaced by gasps and cries from those standing around. My world, our world changed at the moment 15 years ago today. The sight of that second plane meant this was no accident, but an act of terrorism.

I never made it beyond Heathrow airport on September 11, 2001. Israeli airspace like that of the United States, was shut down. A short time later I found myself back at another airport. This time I was on my way to Pakistan and Afghanistan, as it slowly became clear that Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda were what US President George W Bush described as the “prime suspects” behind this attack that had taken almost 3,000 lives.

“The people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon,” declared Bush, after grabbing a megaphone as he stood on the rubble of the Twin Towers surrounded by New York firefighters a few days later. This was only the beginning. Bush was right, we would hear from the United States and many others in the years that followed.

Today we are still hearing the global reverberations from those collapsing Twin Towers. From Afghanistan to Iraq, Somalia to Syria, Paris to London and beyond they have spread, resonating across a world that has changed in so many ways since that day fifteen years ago.

As a foreign correspondent the impact of 9/11 effectively mapped out much of my subsequent working life. Though we might not fully realise it, for all of us that one act of terrorism has changed our lives irrevocably. Had Osama bin Laden not heard – as promised by Bush and delivered by Obama – from the United States, he would do some years later when American Special Forces came knocking at his door. At the time of 9/11 however, Osama bin Laden would no doubt have been pleased with the outcome. Perhaps no single figure since the Second World War has made so profound an impact on world events.

A short time after the New York attacks, having been duly dispatched to cover the US military response, I found myself in the Pakistan frontier town of Peshawar that borders Afghanistan. On its smoggy, humid streets most Pakistanis and Afghans were as courteous and polite as I remembered them to be from previous visits during the years of the Soviet War in Afghanistan.

Some things however had changed. Street vendors now sold books on the Taliban, maps of Afghanistan and T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Jihad is the way”.

One morning while waiting at Peshawar airport, a Pakistani man ushered two toddler boys toward me. “I would like you to meet my two sons, this is Osama and this one Saddam,” the father announced, touching each of the boys on the head in turn.

At first I thought it was a joke. The father’s way of saying to a rarely seen Westerner at that time, do these boys really look like terrorists or a threat to the world? But there was no humour in the man’s voice or eyes, and just as quickly as he had introduced the boys, he quickly led them away.

Looking back, I realise now that for many people not just in this part of the world but much further afield, Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein had become heroes. Men who were prepared to take the fight to the United States and the West.

In the case of bin Laden the then-recent 9/11 attacks on the United States had only added to the near mythical and revered status of al-Qaeda and its leader, inspiring a new generation of holy warriors and jihadist extremists. As I travelled the world covering conflicts and flashpoints most of which were born out of the response to 9/11, I began realising too how much it had impacted on so many other simple aspects of ordinary people’s lives.

At the ubiquitous airports that were the staging posts in my post-9/11 odyssey, people were told to take off their shoes and were forbidden from taking liquids onto planes when travelling.

Surveillance society became the norm just as “shoe bombers” and “suicide bombers” became bywords for a world fixated with the threat of terrorism.

Fixation it might be, fantasy it wasn’t. Bali, Madrid, Mumbai, Moscow Mombassa, Nairobi, the al-Qaeda franchise had extended since its “spectacular” of 2001 in New York.

For a time it seemed almost as if political scientist Samuel P Huntington’s Clash of Civilisation hypothesis, whereby people’s cultural and religious identities would become the primary source of conflict, might indeed have a ring of truth about it. This though was to forget that Muslims were as much targets and suffering disproportionately at the hand of Islamist-inspired terrorism.

In Baghdad the bombers of al-Qaeda and in Mogadishu, al-Shabaab another of its offshoots, rarely made any distinction when it came to who they would blow apart.

Asked last year in an interview why he attacked innocent children, a failed suicide bomber in Pakistan replied: “Who says children are innocent?”

If the world experienced some degree of consensus in terms of disgust at the 9/11 attacks then within a few years the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had put paid to that.

One afternoon on the rooftop of a compound in the Iraqi town of Baquba while embedded with the US Army’s 1st Infantry Division, an American officer told me that he was proud to be part of the “payback for 9/11”. In the street beneath us just minutes before, two car suicide bombers had rammed their vehicles into the walls, leaving the body parts of the drivers and their Iraqi victims strewn across the street.

None of these people were part of the 9/11 conspiracy or attacks I put it to the officer. “How can you say that?” the officer replied, incredulity in his voice. “Iraqis, Afghans, all ragheads are responsible,” he replied.

His thinking was not uncommon among many US soldiers I met in Iraq, for whom their reason for being there was still inextricably connected to the events of 9/11.

In Afghanistan at least it was a little different, given that the country’s Taliban had hosted bin Laden and his al-Qaeda cadres before and during the 2001 attacks.

Most Afghans I met at the time felt that some good might come from what the US experienced on 9/11. This not because they took pleasure in the deaths of others, but rather that the subsequent US invasion of their country might mark the beginning of the end of the horror they themselves were experiencing under Taliban rule. Having suffered itself, the US will now understand our suffering, was their misguided belief.

Within a month of the attacks on New York, President Bush was not just letting the Taliban and al-Qaeda “hear” from the US, but ordinary Afghan citizens too. Just as they did years before during the Soviet War there hundreds of thousands of them once again had to flee their homes fearing this time they would be hit by US bombs.

This mismanagement of wars born out of 9/11 has been the story all along and is probably the most significant factor in shaping much of the troubled world in which we live today. Everywhere from Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, to Syria the threat from terrorism has escalated manifolds. In place of one al-Qaeda, the world is facing many al-Qaedas. The Islamic State group (IS) is its worst manifestation and remains well entrenched in places like Iraq, as I found during a recent visit to that country’s frontlines.

Put quite simply if the terrorist threat prior to 9/11 was negligible and limited to a small number of organisations, then 15 years later the threat is significantly higher, and the number and capability of those extremists have substantially increased.

The subsequent global “war on terror” that followed 9/11 in great part effectively became outsourced, leading to the use of private security firms. It brought us hitherto almost unheard of things like “extraordinary rendition” and “waterboarding”.

It led also to a dramatic growth in what has been called “dirty wars”, the hallmarks of which are targeted killings, the snatch and grab of individuals and directing drone and cruise missile strikes.

As the Pakistani writer Mohammed Hanif once observed, American drones hovering over Pakistan’s northern areas are programmed to work based on the logic that their targets are guilty until proven dead.

Here at home too we feel still feel those effects of the 9/11 aftermath, with civil liberties curtailed and an increase in security measures that restrict freedoms.

Another thing those attacks of 15 ago revealed was the dark side of globalisation. Here perhaps for the first time was terrorism inflicted using the tools of a modern hi-tech society, the internet and planes to attack the West. Today the extremists of IS have taken that a stage further, making videos of beheadings they then publish on social media. In their barbaric propaganda, IS have in effect combined a seventh-century philosophy with state-of-the-art technology. All of this has lineage going back to those events in New York.

From the collapse of the Arab Spring and the Middle East refugee crisis to a wave of isolationism sweeping the United States and Europe, still 9/11 continues to shape the world today.

George W Bush was wrong when he said, “this is a conflict without battlefields and beachheads. Try putting that notion to the people struggling today in places like Aleppo in Syria or Mosul in Iraq who are still reaping the whirlwind of the war on terror.

All of this is not lost on those who perpetrated that atrocity back in 2001. Only this week Ayman al Zawahiri, who was the second in command to Osama bin Laden when al-Qaeda hijacked those planes and crashed them into the World Trade Centre, reminded the world of that in a message.

“We mark in these days the passage of nearly 15 years since the blessed invasions in Washington, New York and Pennsylvania,” he said in a video put out by al-Qaeda. Clearly the organisation is keen to let the world know that is still a force to be reckoned with and not overshadowed today by its terror rivals the Islamic State group.

Around the same time that al-Qaeda was delivering its message a 15-year-old American girl was delivering one of her own in an article in the US edition of Esquire magazine. Hillary O’Neill was born on September 11, 2001, in Norwalk Hospital Connecticut just outside New York City. Her mother recalls how blue the sky was that day and thought it “a beautiful day to have a baby”.

The article went on to explain how for nine days of her life, Hillary lived in a United States without war. Then, when Hillary was exactly nine days old, President Bush declared a war on terror. By the time she was 26 days old, the US had invaded Afghanistan, and so it went on.

Since then Hillary says she has never thought of a world being without war, “it’s the norm for me”.

Unfortunately is has become the norm for so many people across the world. We are all still feeling those reverberations from the tumbling of those towers exactly 15 year ago today.