I had been living in France since February of 2001. In September, I was going home (to the states) for a month to visit family.
I remember the morning of September 11 clearly. My sister was working horses in the arena and I went out to watch. She had received a call from a friend and when I arrived at the fence she asked me if I knew about any plane crashes and terrorist attacks. I thought it sounded ridiculous until she mentioned the twin towers and I felt a twinge in my gut. What a great target. So many people.
I went back into the house and found my dad in his chair reading. He often had the radio on and tuned to public radio. But not this morning. This morning was quiet in the living room. I asked if he had heard any news. I said there was a story of planes being crashed and that the twin towers were hit. I said it sounded like we were at war. He got up and moved to the radio.
We quickly had our answer. I listened for a while and determined we really knew very little, but the reporters were filling in empty spots as they usually did. I was grateful that we had no television reception as it seemed we would be watching the same thing repeatedly, and again… very few known facts.
That day, as I listened, the president gave a speech. I felt immediate concern for fellow citizens who would not be seen as one of us but one of them, and I was angered that instead of calming words or support, the message sent to distraught nation was that of revenge. “This will not end well,” I thought to myself.
Over the next couple weeks, I heard from more and more people about the awful events and their certainty of who was responsible.
I had hoped that my return to France would be into a semblance of clarity. I found better news programs, but it was news I really did not want to hear. What was I going to do with this, now? I knew we didn’t have the whole story and probably never would, but even if we did… so what? What was my knowing the truth really going to accomplish?
I had skillfully avoided news for years. I had turned away from the body parts and blood spatters and tears of pain and suffering. And I tried to not be a part of this current affair of the media. But as an American in another country, my safety was finally in my focus. In all the years of travel to some of the lowest levels of life… I had never been overly concerned about my safety. Now, I was afraid to ride the bus or metro in case somebody saw me as an American.
With our forces expanding targets, and anybody who disagreed being put on the list, I shuddered to be placed in the same category as my nations leader… blind, bull-headed, blood thirsty for revenge- against a constantly changing list of adversaries.
As a peaceful person, I had some very trying and difficult times ahead. I didn’t see the world as little multi-colored puzzle pieces that had names stamped on them and fit together with a snap. I was receiving email from soon-to-be-former-friends that expressed outrage that countries could actually hold an opinion that was different than the US.
I responded, at first, with a firm but polite, “I don’t appreciate this type of BS.” Then, after another few emails espousing the idea of war with France, I responded with a few more expletives. I finally responded with a clear declaration of my feelings and blocking his emails. I had been living in France with French family and friends and this jackass is sending me emails arguing that the French are next on the list after Iraq, because they disagree with US leadership.
I was beginning to feel strongly alienated from my country. At the same time, I was feeling more and more alienated from my place in France. In December, I went back to the states and started thinking about my life. For the next several months, I slept a lot (far too much) and thought about how things could have been different.
Of course, that sort of question has an infinite number of answers. I’ve never felt quite at home in my country since then. It feels to me that as a whole, we lost our way. I think regression is a normal part of progression. I’ve done it myself more than once. So, I hold out hope that eventually we will start moving forward again. I hold out hope that the country and the world will really make an effort to balance their fitness.