US expats share 9/11 experiences

30th July 2003, Comments 0 comments

Thousands of US expats lived through 9/11 here in France - fearful of the fate of loved ones and painfully isolated. We spoke to five of them, who candidly recount here their recollections of the day, their reactions to the horror and how it changed them.

John N., New Yorker, now a documentalist in Paris:

"I was at work and a guy across the hallway came to see me and said a plane had just hit the World Trade Center. I thought it was some freak accident - you know, like a Cessna or something. We had CNN on in one of the offices, there was a small group of us and then the second plane hit. A Canadian woman colleague went "Oh my God" and that was it. It was just shock, horror...I left them and started sending e-mails to my brother in New York and my other brother New Jersey. Before the lines went down, I spoke to my Dad. I got e-mails off to all my friends there.

"I got replies the next day to my messages. My brother in NY described what he'd seen. It was unbelievable."

"Even just the other night, when I was watching one of the anniversary-timed documentaries which brought all the suffering back, I thought "you bastards". That's the nature of terrorism, they strike bread and butter working people. They were just ordinary folk. All those NY firemen and policemen, people who are just fantastic, snuffed out like that."

"You know, it's difficult saying it all in one go, but you just feel so angry that anyone can think they're so superior that they have the right to murder 3,000 ordinary working people. That's nothing to celebrate about - 3,000 innocent people. You just want to say to the bastards who did this 'Go fuck yourself, man, go fuck yourself'."

"I felt very sensitive when I was with French friends just after that - you know, I was a little bit on my guard. It's funny how it brings up the whole patriotic thing. You know, no-one can be as critical about your own country as yourself. But the politics has nothing to do with it; the American people are a great people, whatever you think of one president or another, and these were people who were struck down. Yeah, I get a little angry when I hear comments like 'the Americans had it coming to them,' as if that's a justification to murdering people like that. Did anyone say the French had it coming to them when all those terrible metro bombings happened? There's no difference - these are innocent, ordinary folk murdered we're talking about."

Sandra Freland, a journalist and web site writer, living in France since 30 years.

"I was struck by the change here, in France, among the business people I work with. They're all 25 to 30 year-olds and for two or three weeks after these people were on hold, as if elsewhere, the climate had completely changed."

"There was a sudden feeling of wanting to get in touch with friends back home. Soon after, I wrote letters to ten or so of them and they all replied immediately - very rare! - but our correspondence stopped there!"

"I felt that it brought out a cleavage between Americans living here, like myself, and those just passing through, many of whom rushed back, who needed to be at home. It was only the beginning of the separation."

"What struck me most was the utter cynicism - beyond comprehension - of using fellow human beings in an act like that. It would have been bad enough that they flew the planes alone into the buildings, but they took hundreds of ordinary innocent people with them, using them like torpedoes."

""I lost my first husband in a very violent accident 25 years ago, and every year, at the time of his death, the pain fills me. Something happened in all that horror which meant that, for the first time, I didn't feel the same pain as before, it was somehow different."

Harriet Welty Rochefort, 56, a writer based in Paris:

"I was at home and my French sister-in-law called me and told me to switch on the television. I started sending e-mails to check on family and friends in New York."

" I was in a state of shock for a good day or so. Then I felt anger and hate."

0 Comments To This Article