20 Aug 2014
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September 11 — Missing Out on a Moment

One editor's memories of being out of the country on 9/11.

September 11 — Missing Out on a Moment September 11 — Missing Out on a Moment

Each generation has a 'where were you when' moment. Pearl Harbor, the assassination of President Kennedy, the Challenger exposion. For most people my age (31) Sept. 11, 2001 is our moment.

The day the Twin Towers fell was a day of great terror, fear and national unity. People all over the United States came together to honor the dead and resolve to fight terrorism. Except for me — I was a world away.

In August of 2001, I joined several of my fellow University of Missouri students in the Missouri London program, an opportunity to study abroad and work for a foreign media outlet. By the morning of Sept. 11, I was alone in my flat in Kensington, bemoaning the fact that our placement officer continued to be confused about my emphasis. I was a print major and he kept finding me jobs at pop radio stations — not my idea of a good internship.

I turned on the BBC to watch the news as I made lunch and that's when I saw it — reports of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. I stood there and watched the live shot of the second plane come in. It was unreal and for the first time since I left home I was homesick.

Frantic calls to family members went unanswered — sisters in class, mom teaching and my father following Tiger Woods at the World Golf Championship at . It was quite possibly the most unsettling moment of my life to be so far away and unable to reach those that I loved the most.

One by one, people returned from classes and work to gather around my television. I was among a group of people with varying connections to the event — some from New York, some with military personnel in their families and one with a brother who worked at the Pentagon.

We grieved for our country's loss, but felt it in a very different way. We weren't there. Our memories are tinged with longing to be home, with news analysis from foreign media and with the kind words of perfect strangers. For weeks, every time we went out strangers would approach us to express their sympathy. The nation's mantra of 'we are all New Yorkers' became the world's as well. 

Europe, having faced terrorism before, didn't change much in the months following 9/11. Security measures at airports were already tight and the only change to my travels was the cleaning process we had to do coming in and out of the UK because of the Mad Cow scare.

Coming home in December, however, was a shock. I left one America and came home to another one. The land of my childhood no longer existed. 

Each year on 9/11, I pause to remember those that died, the people that I was with on that date and how the world changed. Then I watch the BBC for a few minutes. After all, I remember it British.

Editor's Note: Patch is running a series of stories on the upcoming 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Look for a new story each day this week.

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