I know I'm a day late (and a dollar short), but I did want to acknowledge the five year anniversary of 9/11. I agree that it was the defining event of our generation, in that "Where were you when JFK was shot?" kind of way.
On September 11, 2001, I was in El Regadio, Nicaragua. I listening to the radio and my ears perked up when I heard "all airports in the United States are currently closed." Well, it was in Spanish, so I really heard "todos los aeropuertos en los Estados Unidos estan cerrados." I thought something like "Why the fuck would all of theairportss be closed? This doesn't sound good." and turned on the TV to see if I could find out more. In Nicaragua, there's only one television channel, and they don't adhere to copyright regulations, so it happened to be broadcasting CNN En Espanol. I learned that an airplane had flown into one of the twin towers in New York City, and no one knew quite what was going on. As I watched the live broadcast, the second airplane hit, and at that point, everyone realized that what was happening was no accident. The United States was under attack. I watched TV all morning, trying to get more information, and then went and found the other American in town, my sitemate Paige, to see if she had heard yet. At this point, I knew that two of the planes had left from Boston, and I was nervous for my family, especially my father because he travels frequently. I was finally able to reach them by telephone later that day, and was relieved to find out that they were okay.
During the next week, all sorts of Nicaraguans expressed their sorrow and concern about the situation. Elderly farmers stopped by the house where I lived to tell me that they had heard about what happened in my country, that it was a terrible tragedy, and that they hoped my family and friends were okay. A taxi driver in Managua told me that he was a mercenary who had fought for Fidel Castro and Daniel Ortega and could I please tell my President that he would offer his services for free to catch that bastard Bin Laden. Keep in mind that these people offering their sympathy have every reason to dislike the United States- they were Sandinistans whose spent ten years fighting in a civil war funded largely by our government. The nature of the attack when beyond old grudges or political differences. What they saw was an inhumane attack against thousands of innocent people, people just like them, going to work on an ordinary day. In the five years since, I think that's the saddest aspect of what has happened. At one point, we had the support, sympathy, and understanding of the entire world. Everyone (well, except for the perpetrators) was outraged by the events of 9/11. And instead of using that support and unity against an real enemy, our government squandered it, entering a foolish war in Iraq that has done nothing except stoke the fires that create terrorists, in addition to perpetuating a culture of fear here in the United States that lets them get away with it.