I happened to be in the USA on 9/11. Not in New York City but 700 miles to the west in Chicago, working a printing trade show.
I saw the memorable events evolving live on TV at a downtown hotel, having my breakfast in a buzzing atrium lobby. First hearing reports of a ‘small airplane incident’, next witnessing the brutal shake-up as the second plane hit, finally seeing the story expand into Washington and Pennsylvania. The rest as we know is history.
The events on 9/11 – and everything that came afterwards as
a result – have affected our thinking and our way of life up to this very day (agree, frequent business travelers?). They brought some of the worst nightmares for many people, but also bits of the best mankind has to offer: people joining forces to help and mend wounds. Emotions and images that will stay with us forever.
Having worked and lived earlier in the US for five years, I believed to have developed some understanding of the American society. During the few days following 9/11, grounded where we were as all commercial air traffic was cancelled, I discovered a lot more.
I was amazed to see how quickly and naturally a whole country came together as one. How the shocking discovery that even the US could be hit right into the heart slowly made its impact (“you Europeans are already used to live under a threat of terrorism, aren't you?”). How fierce business competitors quietly organized joint bus transportation to get their staff back to their families.
As this morning I browse through the USA Today newspapers I brought back with me (and kept ever since), I wonder if the people of our tiny country, where public debates today focus on trivial differences and (un)likely separations, would also be uniting spontaneously under similar circumstances.
Then again, I hope that I will never have to really find out…
Gear notes: irrelevant
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