Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where was I ten years ago

As today is the day a lot of people are going to be reflecting, I find myself doing the same thing.

The world changed after 9/11. There is no doubt. I'm not going to go all political in this post as this is not what this blog is about. Those of us not too young to remember will never forget the heavy sadness in our hearts. Most of us will never forget where we were and how it made us feel. I remember my mother and grandmother saying the same things about the assassination of President Kennedy.

I experienced the 9/11 tragedy in a very different way from most Americans as my family didn't live in the United States at that time. We lived in Canada very near Toronto and we were recent transplants, only living and working in Ontario for two months when this tragedy happened.

I first learned of the tragedy when I was dropping my kindergartner son off to his babysitter in the morning. She opened the door (TV was on in the background which it never was) and she asked me, "Have you heard?" I hadn't and I couldn't believe what she told me and then I saw the TV. The first tower had been struck and was burning. While I was there with her, sorting it out in my head and watching it over and over, the second plane hit. I think that is the most surreal. America watched the second disaster unfold before their eyes as it happened.

I was at the babysitter's longer than I usually would be, but then I needed to get to work. Being one of the few Americans in the college made me unique, especially a recent transplant for the US and from the east coast (we had moved from Philadelphia). All day people were talking with me, asking me if I had family or friends in danger. All were so sympathetic to me as it was my country that was under attack.

And that was surreal too. I only lived in Canada for two years. We lived in a university town, an hour outside Toronto. The climate much the same as the Iowa I grew up in and the Chicago I lived in, actually it was no further north than either of these places I lived. We all spoke English. We watched American television and watched American movies. The differences between the countries are so small - the health care system, a few word spellings and a few cultural differences in toasting the queen and so on. Otherwise, we share a similar path as immigrant nations. But it wasn't the United States.

People felt the shift in Canada too. We were no longer safe from Terror. Canada felt that as much as the USA. At least the people did, and the loss Canadians felt was much the same. I think the world mourned that day because it was a senseless act of terror. Thousands of innocent people killed for what reason? You don't have to be American to feel that.

But things were different. I didn't know it at the time, despite getting US news. In Canada, while our minds shifted that day, we went back to living our lives. Schools went back to normal, malls were full. We just had a sadness in our hearts (and they mentioned feeling similar sadness in their hearts when President Kennedy was shot too - that wasn't just an American loss). The United States might not pay much attention to the rest of the world, but the rest of the world pays attention to us.

Anyway.... we came back down to Philadelphia in mid-October to visit my mother in law and for my husband to finish up with his dissertation. As clothing was much more expensive in Canada and the selection not as big, I did some shopping for me and my son while there for the weekend. That's when I sensed the big change in America. At least in Philadelphia.

I went the mall on a weekend and the mall was nearly empty. So very strange. And the loudspeakers throughout the mall was playing patriotic music. Some old, some new, but every single song on the radio was patriotic, but there were almost no customers. Then I realized, people were afraid. They were afraid of being attacked and this was one month after the attacks.

I saw flags everywhere. I saw pins and signs. America had turned into a patriotic beast - just fearful. Experiencing that was very strange and unsettling. Were the terrorists winning if they made us living in fear?

I remember that day shopping for me. I was at my highest weight while we lived in Canada. I was wearing a tight size 20 and weighed around 275 pounds and I was very unfit. Ten years ago today, I weighed about 90 pounds more than I do today.

And it goes without saying. The lives lost that day are sorely missed. The acts of heroism that day will never be forgotten. The world mourned that day for so much, but most of all for the people.

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