The View From Overseas

I've received e-mails from friends literally all over the world, checking to make sure I'm OK and expressing their condolences for our collective loss. A couple weeks ago I was in a café in Madrid. When the waiter found out I was American he immediately expressed his "solidarity" and said how sorry he was for what happened. Even now, over a month later, when I meet anyone new and they find out I'm from NYC, they immediately ask how my family is and if I'm doing OK. It's very touching, the outreach of support and caring from both old friends and strangers alike.

In Paris two weeks ago, I walked by the American Embassy to find yards of flowers piled up on the corner, under the watch of severely armed guards. There was a Condolences Book where people could write in their thoughts and support for the cause. "We are with you America," "We haven't forgotten what you did for us in Normandy" — note after note amidst the elaborate floral display, I felt an overwhelming sense of both emotional pain and supportive love, as the tears streamed down my face.

Contrasted to that, however, is the sentiment that has been continually trickling into conversation, that America deserved this. We are viewed as an arrogant, self-centered, hypocritical country by many of our European counterparts, to the extent that they celebrate in private that we finally got our dose of what they have endured on their soil for decades. I've had nobody tell me this to my face. But it's extremely prevalent in the press, in conversations overheard on the streets, and many of my European friends reluctantly admit that the conversation does take such a turn when there are no Americans around to hear. It saddens me that people could be so callous — dismissing the death of thousands of people because you don't agree with the government policies. Ignorance is so very dangerous.

I fear for my safety. And for the safety of my family and friends at home. But I'm determined to continue to live my life — more vigilantly certainly — but with as much normalcy as possible as the events continue to unfold. I look forward to spending Thanksgiving with my family in N.Y., but I will be flying a Spanish airline rather than an American one. I'll be visiting friends in D.C., but will drive rather than take Amtrak. And I'll spend some time with my precious niece and nephew, ages 5 and 3, in Florida, give them both an enormous hug that will likely last just a bit longer than usual, take long walks with them on the beach in the sunshine, wonder what sort of world they'll be growing up in, and say a prayer.

—Helen Grace Bannigan

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It's just after the second plane crashes into the World Trade Center, about 3:30 in the afternoon here, 9:30 a.m. in NY. I think I'm writing at home when my friend phones me to tell me what's going on and I don't believe him. I phone my mother in New Jersey. She confirms it for me, describing the horrific images of the two buildings on fire, telling me about the people jumping from the windows. Even with the satellite delay on the phone, the trembling in her voice is unnerving. I jump in my car and race over to my friend's guest house because I know they have CNN — I don't realize that all four regular channels in South Africa are already rebroadcasting either CNN or Sky News.

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