A short piece I wrote in the summer of 2008, my reflection on 9/11/01 …
September 11, 2001 : A Removed Calamity
The tangy grapefruit was sour in my mouth. I had picked the flavor solely for its pretty pink color, and now gelato was not the treat I anticipated. But I smiled, no clouds on Mother’s birthday.
“Have you heard the news?” Two strangers, sporting large backpacks and American sweatshirts, rose from the steps of the majestic Duomo in the center of the square, addressing my father. It was the English words that caught me off guard, the familiar sounds distinctly different from the constant Italian rabble my ten year old ears had grown accustomed to over the past couple weeks. I grinned at the familiarity but the smile quickly faded as I took in the expression of the young men. They gravely, yet quickly explained something to my father. “Towers – plane crash – pentagon – terror – danger –” Confusion overwhelmed the situation. I didn’t understand. Something happened in New York, something that meant these two young men could not board their planes. Was it something bad? I looked to my father. Everything I needed to know was written on his face, and mirrored in his eyes
It was then I realized the square was deserted. All the Italians huddled inside corner shops and cafes to watch the scene that I could not place, that I could not, and did not want to understand. What I saw in my father’s countenance was fear, something I, never saw before. We took the curves on the country road more quickly that afternoon as silence pervaded the car. I had many questions, questions I knew had only unwanted answers. The evening was spent in front of the small television set. The same image: the towers fell thirty times that night. The plane crash, the toppling of the first tower, and the second plane, and the second tower. Meaningless Italian news reports were the soundtrack to the scene, as my frustrated father sat with his dictionary trying to understand the reports. The dial up internet connection was jammed, and the phone would not connect to the United States. I felt isolated. A calamity had occurred, that much I could tell, but whom, exactly what, and why?
Weeks later I sat in a different hillside Italian town, making slightly more sense of the Italian news reports, and still not asking my father to explain. He worked in those buildings once. His company’s offices were on the 67th floor of the second tower. He didn’t know if they had made it, but they had, and it had nothing to do with me. It was distant and I let the confusion overtake any fear that was left. It was easier. My father was here, alive. The event was distant, New York was far away from Perugia, Italy, and my world was left unchanged.
I started school that October, just for a month, in a small Italian Montessori school in the city. The director told us it was an honor for them to have two American students – how pleased they were for my brother and me to be there. Being tourists was considered a nuisance on many occasions, but after that September afternoon, the word American an outpouring of sympathy and kindness my family could not have anticipated.
Stepping over the threshold of each MacDonald’s sent shivers down my back. A threat surfaced to all American establishments overseas, particularly Europe. Would today be the day? Would this be the place? It never was and the fear subsided. Eventually the thought did not cross my mind, and I passed under the golden arches unfazed. By the time we returned to the States in spring, that September had faded to nothing more than a memory.
I hope we keep September 11 as more than just a memory, but as a time to commemorate and to honor by bridging the differences in the world that create terrorism, and foster feelings of hate. A status I came across on facebook a few days before 9/11 this year: