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.
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?