Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering 9/13

Can’t say I remember 9/11 because I didn’t find out about it until a couple of days after it happened.

I was in Kenya negotiating a partnership with a wonderful Kenyan man who makes a difference in Kibera, the huge, half-million-person squatter slum in Nairobi. We spent a lot of time doing the details and I was so fried after the discussions that I skipped getting online for a couple of days.

Kenya's pretty much a half day ahead of New York. So very few people there really heard about it until 9/12. And I didn’t get word until 9/13.

Not through CNN or any online news, though.

A couple of my Kenyan friends came up to me and hugged me and told me they were so sorry for the ‘plane that flew into the building in your country.’ They assumed I knew what happened but I had no idea what they were talking about. I thought it was some small private plane that accidentally crashed into a building somewhere. But I went to check it out at CNN International right away and finally got the full picture.

My first reaction was sorrow. After that, anger.

But then a strange feeling hit me that I had missed out on something that every American shared in real time but I hadn’t. Something really momentous and 'soul important.' I don’t think I’ve ever felt my ‘American-ness’ more deeply than I did that day on the other side of the world.

Because of post 9/11 travel restrictions I was stuck in Nairobi. The Kenyan government held a national day of prayer for America that I had a chance to attend. Moving. Hundreds of thousands of Kenyans came out to pray publicly for the US. I’ve never seen anything like it. One of the more humbling and encouraging moments I’ve had overseas.

The Kenyans—particularly the squatter slum dwellers—live their own kind of suffering every day. Wonderful to see people get beyond their own struggles to think of another nation and people in their moment of need. Pretty rare.

Afterwards, the Kenyans I knew wanted me to predict what the US would do. I told ‘em we'd get after Afghanistan. They all thought that was a good idea. I also told ‘em we'd probably use revenge and fear as a pretext to do some other countries beyond Afghanistan. Nobody liked that prediction.

Wish I’d been wrong.

Still, it was a pretty cool to feel the love. Feelings have changed dramatically overseas during my trips since then—even among the Kenyans in subsequent visits—but it was a sweet moment while it lasted.


Blogger 3wishes said...

Great post, thanks for sharing it. Although not nearly as drastic as 9/11, I have been in the situation of being off the mainland when tragedy strikes. My case happened in 71 with an Earthquake in Los Angeles. We were vacationing in Maui. We did hear about it, made phone calls to see if we still had a home. We did. But going back to school and being the only one not affected was pretty strange. When the other kids started to freak over a temblor.....I just smiled because I was actually able to feel it. Life is strange.

10:12 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

With all of the 9/11 remembrances happening online & around the country, yours is certainly the most unique. Thanks. Except for the predictions. Wish you'd been wrong too.

1:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I first found out about the attacks at school, about an hour after they happened. I was the first teacher to get there that day (it was early on the West Coast). The second teacher to show up told me what happened, and my first thought was exactly the same as yours - he must be talking about some little private plane (and that it must have been an accident). When he clarified that it was a 747, I got doubtful. When he added that it happened to both buildings, I laughed and knew he was making it up (he was a bit of an oddball). It wasn't until 15 minutes later when I overheard two other teachers discussing it that I realized it was true.

7:31 PM  
Anonymous johnteter said...

Wordcat, it is touching to hear about the genuine love and concern the Kenyan government and village dwellers had for America. It is a shame our policies and practices now make that very hard. But that was a beautiful moment you described.

Thanks for the encouraging note on my knee. I see the surgeon for MRI results on Wednesday. I appreciate the love.

3:07 AM  
Blogger Matthew Pascal said...

That's cool Wordcat. What a wonderful example of those who have so little reaching out to those with plenty...

I was in the Middle East on 9/11... and was truly humbled and honored by the actions of the many Arabs who were disgusted by the attacks.

Wish things had turned out differently...

11:23 AM  
Blogger Wordcat said...

thanks for the kind words all. Great to have you back in the mix MP! I'm praying for your North African apartment hunt....

2:10 PM  

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