So, it’s September 11, 2013. It’s been twelve years since the attack on the World Trade Center, Pentagon and the crash in Shanksville. I wasn’t even in the country on 9/11. I was in Germany at a small military base in Bavaria. About as removed as any American could have been on that day. It amazes me that despite my distance and removal, I still look back at that day and try to find connections – I think we all do. We all seem to try to find a way to make the national trauma our own. I didn’t lose anything that day except for a trip to see “Grease” in Rosenheim, but in an effort to make my own story part of the collective I had to find the connections. I had a friend in one of the towers…my best friend was working in Crystal City less than a mile from the Pentagon…my parents were at a conference in Pittsburgh…my husband was at a school in Garmisch and I was alone with my kindergartener. See, my story counts – I have a connection. But now that we’re looking back more than a decade I see just how very much this isn’t my story. Yes, our world changed that day. Yes, I was the most scared I’ve ever been. But the only thing that makes this my story is the fact that I hold American citizenship, and I watched what happened unfold with a shocked world.
All of that said, the thing that touched me the most back then didn’t happen on September 11th. It’s what happened on September 12th and 13th that really made me truly realize the global implications of this new war on terror. As I drove to the base on those days, the front gate was covered by a mound of flowers and candles and notes of well wishes. That image has stayed in my mind longer than any other. I can see the planes hit the towers and the towers fall to the ground on television, so those images are like pictures of a trip to Disneyland when I was three – I don’t really remember it after so much time, but the pictures make me think I do. But the mound of unity and love is cemented in my mind. I will never forget how one nation reached out to another at it’s worst hour and suddenly we weren’t Germans and Americans. We were neighbors who were hurt and confused and coming together to make a terrible situation our own story.
I didn’t lose a loved one – I don’t have images of bodies and body parts strewn through my community – but I have the story of feeling safe in an unstable world.
Today, despite all of the uncertainty and scariness in the world, I take a moment to thank those who make their job that of reaching out to others. First responders – military – the woman who asked “do you need water?” as people emerged from the rubble. Thank you, for showing us that what makes us unique is our common bond and sense of brotherhood. Thanks to all of you who put aside politics and nationality to make me feel safe in an unstable world. Thank you for sharing my story.