11 years ago I was on a business trip in Seattle, Washington. I live in New York. I had flown out to Seattle on September 10th for a meeting on September 11th and was to fly back to New York on September 12th.
Needless to say, the meeting scheduled for 9/11/01 never occurred. I was stranded in Seattle for over a week. I finally was able to fly home on September 19th. We flew near Ground Zero on our way to Newark airport in New Jersey. The flames were still burning and smoke still pouring out of the gaping hole that once was the Twin Towers. And I cried all over again.
I think the thing that most defines that time for me is how it brought people together. I had been on that business trip with a man who was the president of our German facility. He had flown in from Germany and was also planning on flying right back to Germany on the 12th. He was a speaker at the meeting and I was there for the actual meeting.
Prior to 9/11 this man did not give me the time of day. I had been warned by my boss: "Don't take it personally- you are female and you are an American; he doesn't really respect either". My boss was male and from our England facility- he was British. He told me to just do the job and know 'it's not you'. I had experienced this Germans' indifference before. He was once in our New Jersey facility and I remember then that he would not make eye contact with me. He would not acknowledge me in any way. So I knew what to expect in Seattle. In his eyes, I was a 'non-person'.
After the planes crashed on that morning, all the hotel guests gathered in the lobby. None of us wanted to be alone in our rooms. The hotel put TVs all over the lobby and people gathered and watched and cried. I remember seeing my German co-worker. I approached him and asked him what he thought about this attack on the United States. As a non-American, I was truly interested in how he saw all of this. I was so moved by what he said. He sang the glories of the American Spirit. He spoke about how wonderful we Americans were- how we pulled together and stood up and he was humbled by the dignity and outpouring of love he witnessed in America. His eyes teared up and he didn't try to hide it. He told me that he loved America and for today, he was an American. It was a life changing time for everyone, all over the world.
A few days after I got home from Seattle I received a phone call one very early morning. It was my new German friend. He was calling me (at home!) from Germany to make sure I had gotten home safely from Seattle, and he wanted to talk. He told me about his trip home...he ended up driving up to Van Couver and was then flown to a tiny airport in Canada, where he stayed for days until he could get home to Germany. He wanted to hear my story. He also wanted to tell me how much he admired Americans. How proud he felt to belong to humankind because of his American experience.
Time passed. Memories faded. Life went on. A year later my German friend was back in the United States in our new Jersey facility. When I saw him, he didn't speak to me. He didn't acknowledge me. Life had returned to normal. But I was OK with it, because I had the memory of his his tears and how for a short time, we Americans all became hero's for a moment in time...
God Bless America...and never forget.