Remember Me – In Honor of 9/11

Never forget.

xxx

 

Every year on the anniversary of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, I think about where I was when this event happened. I had moved to England during the summer of 2001, and I was about a week into my new job at the loveliest Middle School in all the land. I was so happy to be there, and I was really loving my adventure – and then the world changed. It was strange to experience a life-altering event in a different part of the world, so far from home and my family…so many people in the UK would hear me speak, assume I was American, and offer condolences or say something nice to me. However, I also experienced a lot of hatred from people, telling me that those on ‘my side of the pond got what we deserved’…such ugly words. It was such a time of turmoil, with people either banding together in a show of tremendous unity, or drawing even further apart. The evening of the 11th, I sat with my roommates  (two guys from England and a girl from Germany – I didn’t know any of them prior to all of us sharing a house together) on the couch in the living room, watching the atrocities unfold before our eyes…horrified by what we saw. One of my roommates – Nick – was a paramedic, and his heart was breaking for his colleagues in New York….the pain was visible on his face. My other roommate, Matt, worked in London’s Financial district, and his company had sent him home early that day as a safety precaution…he would have the rest of the week off work. We ordered pizza from one of the remaining neighborhood places that was open (most everything shut down around us), and the three of us sat on the couch, for hours, under blankets, eating pizza, and watching in silence. The guys took turns holding my hand, but we hardly spoke…because there seemed to be no need for words. It was a night I – and pretty much the rest of the world – will never forget. I lost touch with Nick and Matt after I moved out of that house, but I’ve never forgotten them and the kindness that they showed me that night. I was 27 years old, by myself in a foreign country, without any family nearby…thousands of miles from home – the world seemed to be under attack, and I felt frightened. The calm, quiet kindness of these two virtual strangers helped make me feel safe, and restored some order to my life. Isn’t the kindness of strangers a beautiful thing? 🙂

I wrote about the town of Gander, Newfoundland last fall, but I felt that today was a good day to repost this story – here you go:

I, of course, love the Canadian angle to the movie ‘Argo’ – it makes me proud to know that in a time of crisis, Canadians can be counted on to help…that’s kind of what we’re known for. Canadians have long been part of peacekeeping missions around the world, but they don’t tend to make the global news – which is probably the way they like it. That’s one thing I love so much about the homeland – Canadians do all sorts of amazing things for people around the world, but they’re pretty low-key about it, not tooting their own horns or requiring much fanfare. Canadians show up in droves whenever there is a crisis (Haiti, Hurricane Katrina – you name it, they are there), and the prevailing attitude seems to be that of course they would show up to help – that is what you do. I love that. 🙂 One of my very favorite stories of Canadians doing awesome things is the tale of the town of Gander, Newfoundland, and how they welcomed 6595 refugees who were stranded during 9/11 and couldn’t return to the US until air space issues calmed down. As 38 planes rerouted and landed in Gander, the town sprung in to action: schools and halls became emergency shelters, residents invited people to their homes for showers, warm beds and meals, people offered the use of their vehicles, pharmacists filled prescriptions from all over the world at no cost, businesses emptied their shelves of food/clothing/toys/necessities, banks of phones were set up to allow people to call home for free…this little town of 10,000 reacted in such a way that I doubt the refugees will ever forget their kindness. (if you can believe it, so much food was donated by the gorgeous Newfie people that it risked going to waste…doesn’t that just fill your heart with a bucket load of happy??!) The coolest part is that when the people of Gander received a bunch of media attention about what they did, most of them got rather embarrassed, as if the fuss was totally unnecessary – one resident was quoted as saying, “I feel like, why all this attention? We only did what anybody would do to help these people.” That is the very best part of all. 🙂 There has been a book written about this amazing and awesome event – “The Day The World Came To Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland“…I haven’t read it yet, but I definitely intend to. 🙂 One reviewer described this book as a story about humanity’s finest hour…what a beautiful phrase. 🙂

:)

 

We must never forget. Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. – Edmund Burke

xxx

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