As we approach the ten-year anniversary of September 11, we are flooded with news. There are new threats. We see articles contemplating the threats from within and there are plenty of books out there about the ancient old divide “us versus them.”
Amidst all those articles, I wanted to shed light on something that means a lot to me. A lot changed after September 11, yes. But something that I treasure remained the same or at least, I experienced no changes.
Allow me to explain.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, the phone rang. “They are attacking us!” I had no clue what my friend was talking about so I turned to the news. I saw the Twin Towers with a lot of smoke. My first reaction was “why is CNN broadcasting bad B movies?” And then it hit me.
I was stunned, paralyzed, and for a long time did nothing but watch the news. In the meantime, the phone rang off the hook. Family members and friends were frantic and in their fear, forgot where exactly I lived in the USA. I explained over and over that I was not near any of the disaster areas. But then it came on the news that the now highest tower in the USA, the Sears Tower, might become a target as well. That started the phone ringing off the hook again.
It wasn’t just family and friends abroad anymore who rang. Colleagues and people I met in the USA, everyone was checking up on all the people they knew. Luckily, some mass email messages went through before our provider went into “overload” mode.
Being a foreigner in the USA, I was as hurt and shocked as my American neighbours. I too picked up my American flags and placed them in our front lawn and on my car. I too felt devastation but also hoped that America’s attitude towards foreigners would not change. I knew that national policies would change but I hoped that the people you meet in town, in the store, everywhere, would not. And I found they did not change. I was never made to feel unwelcome. Never have I been perceived differently by my colleagues or friends. The American attitude on the ground, in the streets, in the store remained open to new people and their ideas, as before.
Of course, in other areas things changed after September 11. The INS changed, airport security changed, etc. But no matter how US policies changed, the Americans around me did not. And I treasure that. Some of you may disagree, depending on where you live and where you come from. I understand that. But this post is my reflection on America, ten years after September 11th, 2001.
It welcomed me decades ago.
I planned to stay for one year.
I’m still here.