Lessons Learned from Spending 9/11 On The Road

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Xela. Feria 045

Spending 9/11 In A Foreign Country

Five years ago we spent September 11th in the city of Quetzaltenango in Guatemala’s Western Highlands. At the time Guatemala’s second largest city was gearing up for its annual Independence Day fair and there was little discussion of the 6th anniversary of that fateful day. The picture above shows the busy central park full of activity leading up to the feria. While we too were caught up in the festivities to a certain extent, it was also important for us to recognize the day and share with Shawn Reece what happened to our country when he was just 13 months old.

While sitting at my Spanish school in the morning, I heard rumblings about 9/11 coming from other students. A few were American, but most of the others were from one European country or another. This was perhaps the first time I heard a non-American view of September 11, 2001. I heard sympathy and sorrow, but also a concern as to why many Americans were not aware of the 2004 terrorist attacks in Spain and the 2005 attacks in London.

My Spanish school in Quetzaltenango.
My Spanish school in Quetzaltenango.

To me this is why travel can be so important. Sitting in that school, I learned another point of view on our attacks and another way of looking at the world in general. Many times we choose to live in our bubble and not look at what is going on outside.  A good example of this is when NBC cut to a commercial during the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony in lieu of showing a segment dedicated to the victims of the London bombings. Their excuse was that it would not appeal to an American audience.

I learned about another view of September 11, while in Guatemala as well.  A small group of expats living in Quetzaltenango invited me to a viewing of one of those conspiracy films about how the attacks were an inside job. While I did not and do not share their view of what happened, it helped me understand their position better. In my opinion becoming a better person involves opening your mind to the ideas of others. It doesn’t mean I have to agree, but simply listening helps me grow as a person.

The amazing Quetzaltenango Feria.
The amazing Quetzaltenango Feria.

In the end I still have a deep wound from watching the attack on my country September 11, 2001. Like many, I have visited ground zero several times and will always remember that day. I also pay attention when other countries suffer from needless terrorism. I listen when foreigners talk about similar attacks in their countries because I recognize those events have caused similar wounds to mine. As human beings we need to move towards a more united peace and remembering 9/11/01, 3/11/04, 7/5/05 and numerous other dates and events will help with that.

From a travel perspective, that day in Guatemala taught me quite a lot. It helped me realize people will always doubt what happened. It taught me to take a more global view of what is going on and perhaps most importantly, it taught me how important it is to share this information with the next generation. Today I remember all of the victims of 9/11 and think about the troops deployed around the world defending the United States. I also think about all of the victims of the seemingly continuous attacks around the globe that sadly continue to happen at an alarming rate.

Shawn 9/11/12


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