‘One’ is not just the lowest single digit numerical value; neither is it just a show of miniscule strength. Instead, the digit has the wherewithal to change national destinies, unflinchingly challenge mighty emperors and irrevocably alter your life condition!

It is just another day, yet today, this one date has begun to signify something of great importance to all of us. Its impact has been felt all over the world. Yes, 9/11 or September 11 today symbolises terrorism. One incident on this day shook up the entire world. Overnight Kabul and Kandahar became the most talked and written about places. The world became more knowledgeable about bombs and forget about our way of thinking, even our manner of speaking changed. ‘Ground Zero’, the original meaning of which was the epicenter of a nuclear explosion, now meant something else entirely. ‘Terrorism’ was no more an activity that happened in far away places for Americans, but something that took lives in their own home. One event and look at the profound impact it has had on all of us.

In fact, one way to judge the impact of any event is to see how much it affects the language we speak. In that sense at least, 9/11 has added words like jihad, holy-war, Taliban and Twin-Towers to our collective vocabularies. Another event had similarly enriched the English language – World War II. Words like jeep, blitz, java, flak, sonar, radar, bazooka and atom bomb didn’t exist prior to World War II.

Clearly, one event can change a generation’s outlook. ‘One’ may be the smallest of numbers, but ‘one’ is all it takes to have a profound impact. It’s interesting to see how ‘one’ has influenced us in more ways than one. To start, take the date 9/11 and flip it once. This one change brings us to a date dramatically different from the previous one. If one stood for terror, and destruction and ruin, the other symbolised unification, hope and brotherhood. The 9th day of November or 11/9 was the day the Berlin Wall fell. If 9/11 divided the world, 11/9 was an attempt to unify a city that had been divided for over 30 years. The 28 mile barrier dividing Germany’s capital was built in 1961 to prevent East Berliners fleeing to the West. ‘One’ of anything (even the flip of a date) can do wonders.

One word and its wrong interpretation caused irreparable damage. The Americans issued an ultimatum demanding the unconditional surrender of Japan. Nearing breaking point, the Japanese wanted to negotiate for peace, but not surrender unconditionally. They issued a statement using a Japanese word ‘mokusatsu’, which technically meant ‘refrain from comment’, but had another interpretation i.e. ‘ignore.’ And that is how the Americans decoded it. Keeping the Japanese ‘refusal’ in mind, Americans continued to fight and eventually dropped two atom bombs – an event that changed Japan forever. One wrong translation caused so much destruction. In contrast, one statement shot this actress to fame and resurrected her failing career. Yes, one racial slur shot Shipla Shetty to fame and made her a fortune. So much so that now everybody seems to want one!

But, it was bravery of a different kind that changed the world. A simple seamstress from Alabama refused to relinquish her seat on a city bus to a white man. It was her one act of courage that sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and brought the Civil Rights Movement to national attention. Jack Kemp ‘once’ said, “the power of one man or one woman doing the right thing, for the right reason and at the right time, is the greatest influence in our society.”
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