I travel a great deal. On September 11, I was in Figueres, Spain, waiting for a train to Milan, Italy. The people of Figueres, unlike all the other Spaniards I’d met, had seemed aloof all day; there was a vibe emanating from the city that I didn’t like, and for that reason I booked the train to Milan. About an hour before the train was to depart, I called my grandmother to check up on things at home, and I learned that four planes had been hi-jacked and the World Trade Center had fallen. Far from home, with few Americans to relate to and no news sources that I could read (not knowing Italian), my imagination played more of a role for me than the images I have now seen.
Since then, I have traveled to Greece, China, and Mongolia. I have met many people from many lands. And the world did not stop turning on that day. I saw it then, in Italy, and I see it now. For many people around the world, Sept. 11 was the day that America was humbled, that it was shown to be fallible, that it appeared weak. American leaders have said and done lots of things that they cannot support; they can not wade through the waters of the world alone, apart, with no friends, and with almost everyone as their enemies. For many people around the world, Sept. 11 was the day they said, “Now America knows what it’s like to live in Somalia, or Israel, or East Timor, or Angola.” Except that we still don’t. It was one day of tremendous pain and suffering, but it is nothing compared to the horrific lives that hundreds of thousands of refugees live every day.