War, what is it good for?…

I posted this as a comment on another person’s blog – my reminiscences of September 11, 2001, and the time that followed, on the 8th anniversary of the day that changed our world.
It ended up being quite a long comment so I decided to also post it here.

I doubt that there are many people in the world who’s life didn’t change as a result of the events that happened on September 11, 2001.

I should preface the following by saying that it’s my own personal point of view as an Aussie living in the US at the time. I’m also going to generalize quite a bit about Americans and reiterate that this was how I saw things as a non-US citizen, even though I had chosen to make my home in the country with my American husband.

I was living in Salt Lake City at the time. My habit was to go to the gym (on my work campus) before I started work every morning. The TV was almost always on in the gym, but this one morning no-one had turned it on. I didn’t care so much about the TV – I was there to work out. If it had been on I would have seen the tragedy unfold, but as it happens I headed up to my office none-the-wiser. I logged onto the Internet but couldn’t get to any news sites, neither could anyone else. At that stage no-one knew what was going on, it was all just unfolding. Word started filtering through that a plane had collided with one of the towers of the World Trade Centre in New York, then that both towers had been hit – and that maybe it was an attack on the US. It was all so unbelievable, and we didn’t have instant access to the ‘net to find out what was really happening due to all news sites being overwhelmed. The news trickled through to us very slowly and it took a long time for any of us to find out, let alone believe, what had happened.

The aftermath, on an everyday level, was incredible. Amercians in general had no idea until then, just what the rest of the world thought about them. Many of them believed they were universally loved by the western world, and that the west should all be thankful for all the US had done for them over the years. The ‘America saves the world’ psyche of the movie Independence Day seemed to be what they all truly believed. They were a very patriotic people even before September 11, 2001. Now they were rabidly patriotic. They were deeply offended by what they perceived as a lack of support by other countries. I remember an email doing the rounds that was being quoted everywhere. It was an article written by a journalist (sorry I don’t remember the journalist’s name) saying how the US gave so much support to other countries and yet no other country ever gave them any support; one example being how the US had sent firefighters to other countries but hadn’t received similar help when they needed it. At the time, Australians were helping to fight fires in Florida. People didn’t realise that the article was actually written by a Canadian journalist, who had died in the 70’s, around the end of the Vietnam War. I made this point to a work colleague after I commented how offended I was by the email when another colleague had sent the email to everyone in the company. She told me she had no idea it wasn’t a current article and her minister had even quoted it at church on Sunday.

Afterwards, people didn’t know that Australia had joined Bush’s war on terror. I had someone criticize Australia to me for not doing so (one of the people who would no longer buy French wine or use the term ‘french fries’). She was quite aggressive about it and was taken aback when I told her that we had, in fact, sent troops.
These people were all intelligent, well-educated people.

I was told that I wouldn’t understand how Americans felt because I wasn’t an American.

They took it very personally, and I can understand that, but I do believe it was an attack on the whole of the western world. Where else could terrorists attack and not directly affect so many countries?

On a side note: I used to listen to (Australian) ABC radio online during the day at work so I heard about the first Bali bombings when they happened a year after the terrorist attacks in the US. The incident didn’t even make the regular TV news services. I believe it was reported on the news channels, but not widely reported. Most people I spoke with had no idea it had even happened, let alone that 88 Australians had died.

Hmmm, I’ve rambled quite a bit, sorry about that.