Where Were You?
Eight years ago today was a day that most Americans will never forget. I, however, didn't really feel the impact of this day until later. On Sept. 11, 2001, I was in Livorno, Italy as a missionary. It was 6:00pm and we were on our way to the church to teach English classes when an investigator stopped us and said that New York City had been bombed and was gone. Typical Italian exaggeration, I thought nothing of it until we got to church and people were freaking out. It was a very surreal evening spent discussing anti-American sentiments and why people felt so strongly about the US. I'd had a few run-ins with Italians who hated Americans in the months leading up to the attacks, and each one of those encounters shook me. But on Sept. 11, I felt nothing because, as far as I knew it was an Italian exaggeration of a very minor incident. Then we got the call.
My mission president called our zone leader, who called us and told us that we were to find a TV the next day and watch for 15-30 minutes what was happening. That was a first, as I'd spent the last 16 months avoiding TV's. Our ZL also told us that once we'd seen what had happened, we were to return home and stay home all day. We were to cancel all appts. and not call anyone unless necessary. The main reason for this was a rumor saying that the terrorists were first going for important government and fiscal sites and would next be turning to important Christian religious sites. Exhibit A, Roma, less than an hour away. It turned out to be nothing and my mission went on quietly, with very little impact from the events of Sept. 11. The only exception was that we had to stop teaching any Muslim investigators and I had a young Muslim girl with a baptism date already set.
Flash forward to Dec. 5, when I went home. First, we hit blizzards at every stop and ended up changing our flights at every airport. But the best part was the "random" searches. They didn't feel so random when I was "chosen" at every stop on our trip home. I think it was because we had to change our flights at every airport, instead of sticking to our itinerary...which was a red flag for TSA. The other big change was that my family could no longer meet me outside my gate and I had to walk through an empty airport to see my family. That was a very long walk.
But the biggest change I saw was the USA I came home to. When I left, people were mocked for having US flags on their cars, homes, etc. It was not really considered cool to be overly patriotic when I left home. When I came home and saw US flags everywhere, and I mean everywhere, I was a little creeped out. People were more unified and most people felt a comradery with their neighbors that was not there when I left 18 months earlier. It was a nice change but a little hard to get used to. So, while I'm grateful for the changes I saw in my country following these attacks, it makes me sad that it took something like this heinous act to make our country turn to its roots and the God that allowed the freedoms we enjoy. Though this act of terrorism has never really impacted me the way it has most of my friends who skipped school that day to watch the events unfold, I will never forget where I was on Sept. 11, 2001.