Often during days of remembrance for great tragedies the first question asked is “Where were you?”
This day is no different. I invite all to tell me their tales. Where were you when the Towers were hit? When they fell?
In return, I shall tell you my tale, unique by perspective only.
You see, in spring of 1998 we moved from the US to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. When we moved there, we purposely chose to live in an area that was locally populated, not the Expat area. We wanted our children to have a true to life experience when it came to living in a foreign country. We were the only expats living out in Mirdif at the time and we loved it. For several years we lived a quiet life enjoying our Expat status and the sights and sounds of a foreign nation. Mosques surrounded us and the calls to prayer sounded five times a day. As much a part of our lives as the sound of church bells ringing at a nearby church. It became the backdrop to our lives. We were not afraid.
But, on September 11, 2001 our sense of safety was shaken to the core. I had gotten up, like I did everyday and turned on my computer to meet a friend online for our morning IM chat. Immediately she asked, “Are you okay?” I paused and kind of laughed to myself. “Yes. Why wouldn’t I be?”
Her response took the breath from my lungs. “Because a plane just flew into the Twin Towers in NYC. Go turn on the t.v.”
I immediately signed off and ran to the living room. I turned on CNN and watched in horror as they spoke about the first tower being hit. As I watched the second plane hit and my knees went week. They began to banter about the word terrorism. In a panic, I picked up the phone and called our house maid/nanny who’d taken our children out to a local grocery store to buy some candy. Suddenly the neighborhood where we’d felt safe seemed a dangerous place to be. The mosques around us started chanting over their loud speakers and the words America and Americans were interspersed with Arabic. I know logically that they were calling people to prayer…to pray for our people and our nation, but in the moment it seemed almost sinister and frightening. The children arrived home with our wonderful housemaid (we loved her like family and that’s what she was to us). I hugged them and her and then told them what had happened. We all watched the news together. I cried as they talked about the lose of life. Then…then news of the Pentagon being hit…and my knees buckled. I sat on the coffee table and wept. As a Veteran, my heart ached for the men and women at the Pentagon. They were my brothers and sisters in arms. Then the news that another plane had been taken and crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. I prayed for those people too. We watched the news all day. They grounded all flights within the US, including International flights. Those words sent a shock through us. For the first time since our adventure began we had no way of going home.
That night we stood out on our steps and looked at the sky above our gates and spoke in soft tones about the days events. We heard the mosques chants echoing around us and we clung together, comforting each other. The next day the embassy called with a request that all Americans bring their passports and come to the consulate for a meeting. We attended the meeting and listened as they tried to reassure us that we were safe in Dubai. One person brought up the fact that the Bin Laden family owned the construction companies doing all the work in Dubai. They told him that’s the Saudi Bin Laden’s and have no connection to Al Qaeda. Then someone said “Well, what about the picture in the paper today of Osama Bin Laden sitting on the beach? He was sitting in front of the Berj Al Arab.” The man from the consulate kind of laughed it off. We were all scared and no amount of reassurance was going to keep our families safe especially when the news stated that terrorists flown from Dubai and some financing had come out of Dubai.
There is more to what happened over the days following 9/11 but this exercise was to tell you where I was.
Now, if you are so inclined, tell me your tale…