The View From Overseas

SULLY- I know all kinds of guys on the job in New York. Fifteen or 20 of 'em ….whenever a Boston guy or one of there guys gets killed we throw a big time to help out the family. Softball … Golf Tournies…everything…My sister was supposed to be heading down there, after my mother's birthday on the 8th. From Logan too.

MICK- If we had e-mail, … ya know?

SULLY- Ya, I know…e-mail…phones…anything. We gotta get to Dili…This is wacked Mick. This is unreal.

MICK- I know…I'm supposed to be in Bangkok in two days. I'll make calls from there.

SULLY- Two days?!!! Bangkok? We should be able to call from the station! Right here, now! These friggin' phones.

MICK- Ya…You know a lot of guys on the job in Manhattan huh?

SULLY- Ya…Manhattan, Brooklyn…the gang unit down there…all over. My cousin Maureen is married to a firefighter…Brian or Bobby Coffey…Something like that. I can't believe this…We need to go to Dili...Take a patrol down there…Do any of the prisoners need to go to court? Are there any warrants or other paper work that needs to be picked up?

MICK- I don't know, I'll ask Captain Bill.

SULLY- You should just tell him that we need to go…You just say "Billy-boy,…Sully and I are heading to Dili. We need to check our e-mail and make some calls." Make calls, find out if everyone is OK.

MICK- He knows I'm not from New York.

SULLY- So what!…Give me a break. We just got attacked! This is war Baby! This is no joke Mick…This ain't The Gulf or even 'Nam. This is legit…Bill will let us go…he's an Aussie, he gets it.

MICK- Ya, we need to go find out what's going on.

SULLY- No crap we do…I hope to God my sister wasn't on one of those planes…I know she wasn't, but…I don't know…all those people.

MICK- Thousands…everybody.

SULLY- The reception on this radio sucks!

MICK- Ya…You want to listen to it anymore? You want me to turn it off? It's the same reports over and over again.

SULLY- Nah…go ahead. Turn it off.

MICK- Turn it off?

SULLY- In a minute…one minute…This is unreal.

MICK- I know…

—William G. Smith

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There have been two times when I've been singled out as an American in Singapore. One was during the past presidential election debacle, when I found myself struggling to educate co-workers on the historical significance and justification for the electoral college. The second was the day after the attacks on the World Trade Center.

After living abroad for two years, and often finding myself as the only American — or even Westerner — within a working group, I began to assume that I was some sort of "global" citizen, fully adaptable to whatever culture I might be dropped in and above nationalism of any sort. After all, I readily drink kopi, eat kway teow and have learned to say "thank you" and other handy bits in Mandarin. I've developed friendships across the multiple races and religions — including Islam — found in Singapore. But when something happens in America, I discovered that, for most colleagues, even those who've lived in America, I am one of the few Americans that they actually know. While my thoughts immediately turned to friends and family in New York, my colleagues' thoughts turned to me as the sole person they knew who could potentially be impacted by the attacks.

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