Saturday, September 10, 2011

10 years ago

It's September 11th again.
So, the ever present question: Where were you 10 years ago on 9/11?
I was in Spain, had just arrived a few days earlier (I think we flew in on the 3rd or 4th) for a semester of studying in Malaga (southern city on the Mediterranian coast).  In fact, with the time change, I recall we had all just left our classroom, it was 12 or 1, and were walking, about 5 or 6 of us, to the Internet cafe to check our emails and write home.  A fellow classmate who beat us home called one of us (we had cellphones before they were popular in the States) and told us, "a plane just flew into the World Trade Center".  My first thought was that I didn't know exactly what the WTC was but I knew it was big so I said, "whoa, that's a lot of people".  At the time of the phone call, the classmate told us that the news was reporting it as a a personal passenger plane.  We all just briefly thought, wow.  Then as we passed a dinner/restaurant/bar we saw that everyone in the bar was staring at the TV so we went in.
Now, we were obviously Americans (if you've been to Europe you know that we just don't dress the same as Europeans) so when we walked in, the people looked at us all sadly.  We turned around and saw what they were seeing on the TV and I think my mouth fell open.  We rushed to the Internet cafe, trying to get information that was understandable (Spanish was our second language afterall and we'd just arrived so we weren't great at it yet).  The Internet was slow and we couldn't get much.  We had emails from family members asking if we were okay, a boyfriend from home finally (he said he kept getting network too busy signals because of so many people making calls that day) got through and told her and us how bad it was at home.
I sent an email to my mom to let her know we were fine and I'd keep her posted on what would happen next.  Then I walked to my apartment (where I roomed with 2 other Spaniards, in their 20s) and they were watching the news and the image of the planes flying into each tower over and over and over.  They looked at me and said, "Lo siento Jenn.  Lo siento." (translation: I'm sorry Jenn, I'm sorry)  We sat and watched the news for a while.
I don't remember it clearly, I know our professor called us all together, back to the classroom and we were informed that there were no planes flying in or around the US and that was indefinite.  We were staying in Spain, there was no reason to get us home, we were safer in Spain.  We just had to band together as a class.  I remember one girl knew an Uncle who worked in a tower but he miraculously hadn't gone into work that day.  It was just all too real but not real at all.  I was too far away to truly understand the magnitude, still to this day I'm awestruck by the devistation that I just didn't grasp that week.
We were told to not walk around in big groups (we were a group of 20) and not to speak English loudly or when in public.  Basically: don't be obvious Americans.  While at home you were all banding together in patriotism and brotherhood.  (This is one of the reasons I came home and was irritated with the massive amount of American flags everywhere).
Our semester went on, we went to class, we traveled around Europe, we learned Spanish and we talked about different things we'd heard from loved ones: gas prices went way high, songs were banned from radios, etc.  We knew nothing more than the rumors we heard.
Watching shows now and old video clips is wierd for me now, I wasn't here for it and can't fathom it.  Your worlds stopped and you became strong Americans.
The culture shock was almost worse coming back home in December.
I respect this day, I shake my head at the devestation.  I can't say what it was like being in America when it happened, but being in Europe was unfair in many ways.  We got back to the business of living though, much faster than anyone at home.
As always, life goes on.

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