From the Outside…

In August of 2001 we left a huge black trunk just outside the terminal exit in LAX.  That trunk held 70 pounds of items we guessed we might need for our new life in Asia.  When we realized we forgot it, my husband rushed back to the airport and easily reclaimed it with a big sigh of relief.

3 weeks later a midnight phone call from my mom awoke us in Asia.  Buildings collapsing.  Planes grounded.  Chaos.  A world away and half asleep I wondered what was going on.  The fatigue of transition meant that I fell right back to sleep.  In the morning we met with our coworkers and learned more.  We read Psalm 91.  The arrows that fly by day.  The pestilence that stalks in darkness.  The destruction that lays waste at noon.  The words lived.

Some visiting friends checked into a nicer than normal hotel.  We all wanted to watch CNN.  A few hours of coverage gave us enough idea of the seriousness of this act of terror.  War, we knew, followed any such act of violence.

Throughout the year, we encountered the new state of the world.  We heard of close friends going to war yet 9/11 occupied only a few minutes of conversation with our local friends.  We received a new Yemeni student in our language class and his dark stare made me pack up my shorts early.  Rumor had it that other foreign students participated in a huge brawl over an insult delivered about 9/11.  Another rumor related how a Middle Eastern student hung a poster praising the attacks.  But no one wants to wake the dragon so we felt pretty safe.

Upon returning to America 10 months later, I noticed drastic changes.  We deplaned on 4th of July weekend.  Lining the halls to passport control stood dozens of heavily armed guards dressed in black.  I looked up and noticed the sign that welcomed me to the United States.  Travelers donned t-shirts seeming to demand God Bless America.

This was not the America I left.  I didn’t know what to think but I did know that by not experiencing the fear and the terror in the same way, I was different.  Where others dressed in patriotic shirts and wore American flag pins, I had quietly packed away my baseball cap that displayed the American flag.  I retrieved it only on special occasions…like the 4th of July because I love my country.  DSC_0252

I guess I would say that living overseas post 9/11 challenged me to look at nationality and faith while standing outside my earthly home.  I’m still figuring out how it shaped me but in a few areas I know more than I did before 9/11.

This world is not my home.  I am an ambassador on assignment anywhere I live.  And, I long for my true home more than I long for the United States of America…and I long for the US a lot sometimes!

I know, too, that a 70 pound bag left on the curb is no small thing anymore and goodbyes get said barefoot at security because the world is not safe.  It never was.

For those of you overseas during 9/11, how did 9/11 affect you?

3 thoughts on “From the Outside…

  1. Allison,

    I love this post. It sums up my thoughts every 9/11 because I just don’t feel the same emotions that other Americans do that were living in the US at that time.

    We were in Estonia when 9/11 happened. I found out by a phone call from one of our stinters as I was walking out the door to an appointment with the student. I went on the appointment and afterwards we went to a friend’s house that had CNN and watched. Two days after 9/11 the attacks were no longer on the front page of the national newspapers. That Sunday, at our church we listened to a sermon about why the US should not retaliate (we were the only Americans in the church). Let’s just say that it was a very different experience from that of most of my American friends.

    Sometimes I feel a little guilty about now feeling more strong emotions on the anniversary of 9/11. Suzanne and I were just discussing those feelings of guilt yesterday. To be honest, I feel more emotions every November 17 on the anniversary of the Czech revolution (having lived in Prague during the midst of that) than I do 9/11. Yet I love my country.

    I have felt the same conflicted emotions you have about wearing the shirts with the US flag on it and all. I appreciate you writing about it.

    Thank you.


    1. It so different living through something versus seeing it unfold from afar. When I hear people’s stories about that day, they differ so much from mine and I can feel left out. We just have a different story to tell, I guess. Thank you for telling yours!


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