Seeing September 11th From a Distance

Most of you, my dear readers, know that I am a lifelong New Yorker. I was born in lower Manhattan, lived my whole childhood in upper Manhattan, and went to high school in the Bronx. I only left my beloved New York City for 4 years to go to college in upstate New York. I left because I knew I would live the rest of my life in NYC and I thought it would be healthy to get a different perspective for a few years. So naturally, I have lived in New York since graduating college. New York City is part of who I am and I carry my city with me everywhere I go. When people ask Dan and I where we are from, I am proud to be able to answer “New York City”.

12 years ago today my city was broken. I did not know how to deal with it then, and I’m not sure I know how even now, as I have never been good with tragedy. And that’s what it was. A tragedy. We lost an icon of our skyline that I can still see in my mind’s eye. We lost so many people who were simply off to work on a brilliantly beautiful September Tuesday morning. And we lost trust in each other and the world. We Americans, at least. Maybe it only seemed that way to me, since I was only 14 at the time.

But our actions since that day 12 years ago have really changed more than the day itself, I believe. We have started wars. Many, many wars. So many people – Americans and non-Americans – have died. Many, many more people than were killed on that horrible day. And I don’t feel safer because of it. I felt safer before. Before September 11th, 2001, obviously, and before America started this current string of wars.

It couldn’t be any more evident to me than since I have been traveling. I haven’t personally feel unsafe anywhere, but walking by the US Consulate in the Hague or the US Embassy here in Amsterdam it is clear that the people working inside of those buildings don’t feel safe. They are both surrounded by high fences and many guard towers. Even here, in the Netherlands. And then you walk down the block and pass the German Embassy, for example, it just looks like a building. If it weren’t for the plaque and flag, you would never know it was special.

US Embassy, Amsterdam

US Embassy, Amsterdam

So far on our trip, our experiences talking with foreigners have all been wonderful. The cultural exchange has made us feel part of a global community. We may speak different native languages, we may live very different lifestyles, we may eat differently. We are all different, but we are all the same.

This is the first time I have ever been out of the country on September 11th. I thought it would be hard for me. But I honestly think it has been an easier day than I ever had in New York City on September 11th over the last 12 years. Not because I got to avoid the day and the subject (I have wifi and my lovely facebook family to remind me of it), but because I got to experience how different, but exactly the same we all are. And I am looking forward to getting to do it for the next 4 months or so as well. Travel can take you to beautiful places, but it can also renew your faith in humanity. And I am so grateful for having the opportunity. Today more than ever.