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Sep. 10th, 2009 at 9:51 pm
9/11 was mostly a regular day for me, so I don’t have many specific memories.
September 11th 2001 found me in a rural village in western Kenya. I had already been living there for several years and continued living there for several years after. My mud house was divided into two rooms; I kept water collected from a river in a large tank inside my home (having already had one kept outside stolen) and used candles for reading.
My normal routine after returning from the school where I taught was to:
That night, I got as far as making dinner with the news when I heard, about 3/4s of the way through that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City. To this day, I have no idea if that report was close to live time or somewhat delayed.
My one luxury was a satellite radio. I quickly switched over to the audio for CNN that the receiver got and listened for as long as my little battery’s power lasted. I remember hearing the buildings crash down, but I suspect that I was hearing replays–it is hard to keep track when all you have is the audio. I also remember hearing (I think–I have never heard any other reference to this, so I hope I didn’t make it up) about a raid on some hotel rooms in a hotel nearby. I was very confused about what had happened, but had no other access to information.
At school the next day, each of my colleagues came to me immediately and somberly shook my hand and offered condolences. It was very touching. They all inquired if my family and friends were safe, which of course I did not KNOW, but assumed they were. Kenyans reacted similarly to me all week and some explained that they knew what I was going through because they had suffered similarly with the Embassy bombings.
Truthfully, the event continues to feel quite unreal to me. By the time I moved back to the United States (and electricity and TV), 9/11 was old news. Since I was an American living abroad, I did not feel personally attacked or vulnerable, because the non-Americans all around me reacted to me only with warmth; nor could I internalize the “us against the world” sentiment that people say prevailed. Although I lived through this, it feels more like history.