13 September, 2011

10 years and one day ago

10 years and one day ago, I was in Tennessee. I had already quit my job in preparation for going to PNG in January, (2002). I was awake, but still in bed when my Mom called and left a message on my machine. She told me that an airliner had crashed into one of the twin towers and that some people were wondering if it had really been an accident or not. I turned on my TV, and a few minutes later, the second plane hit, and all doubts about whether or not the first had been an accident vanished.

I had been living in that house for 7 or 8 years and so had accumulated a fair amount of stuff in that time. I dug out every TV I could find, (this came to a total of 3 or 4 TV's) even a little Sony Watchman that somebody had given me, and tuned in all of the major networks at once. I also turned on two radios to different stations and then watched and listened in shock as the story unfolded, watched in horror as people chose to leap to their deaths live on TV rather than burn to death, and continued to watch long after the towers eventually fell.

I shifted my attention to whichever TV was showing scenes of Ground Zero rather than some idiotic talking head spouting gibberish. I believe it may have been the only time that any news event has ever reduced me to tears. I was on my knees in my living room, crying my eyes out and not even certain what I was feeling.

If war had been declared the next day, I would have joined up. I was 28 years old and felt that I had something to contribute. Emotions were running high all over the country and everybody was banding together against a perceived threat. I even sent out an e-mail to my supporters telling them what I was thinking, and got e-mails in return encouraging me to follow where God was leading.

Eventually, things calmed down and life went on into a new kind of normal. When I left for PNG the following January, there were still National Guard units stationed at the airports, guys with rifles who watched me (and anybody else who was travelling) carefully from the time I arrived to the time I left--it was a lot like what I experienced in South America in the 1980's, actually. I had a 21 hour layover in Singapore and I was afraid to leave the airport, as I didn't have a boarding pass for my next flight and when I had left the US they weren't letting people into the airports without boarding passes. So I slept on a bench in the observation lounge at the Singapore Airport.

During my language and culture training in PNG, Spetember 11 was all anybody wanted to talk about, and I sat around many a smoky cook fire under many a thatched roof hut, talking long into the night with the young men of various villages about the motivations for the attacks.

There was a theory in my village was that I was a refugee from America, who was fleeing the war after the Philistines had attacked my country.

Anyway, that's where I was 10 yeas ago!

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