Monday, September 12, 2011

Foreigner (Sept 11 version)

I think everyone would agree that the United States is not the same country now as it was the day before September 11th, 2001. However, it is the only one I know. You see I was two weeks into my new life in the US when 9-11 happened.  

Like everyone, I will never forget where I was when the attacks happened. I phoned my friend to see if she wanted to go get breakfast before chapel and I remember her saying, "we're being bombed, our country is being bombed!" I had no idea what she was talking about but rushed to join her and her roommate to watch the footage. I saw it unfold, the second plane hitting, the towers falling. These images, that day, I will never forget.

United in horror and grief with my American friends, mourning together, processing together, we were one and the same. It didn't matter that I was a Canadian and this was not my country. Tragedy and loss are universal languages. So is fear.

In the days following the attack the patriotism was palpable. Americans responded to this attack on their country - their way of life. They rallied around their love of country, raised flags and shouted USA!  People came together in unprecedented ways and set aside their differences in the light of their collective grief. It was a beautiful and heartening thing to watch.

It was an interesting time to be a newcomer, a foreigner, an immigrant. I was both bonded to and separated from my American friends. The tragedy of September 11th crystalized the human bonds that transcend nationality and the patriotism that excludes.

I had just finished International Student Orientation when 9-11 happened. At the time I thought it was absurd, but I get it now.

What I watched with horror that day was an attack on the United States, not on 'my' country. I may have been in the US, but I wasn't an American. And ten years later the same holds true.

Yesterday I remembered and I mourned. September 11th was an American tragedy, just as it was a universal one. It changed everything: the country, the world, me. Foreigner though I am.

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