American expat life post 9/11

21st July 2003, Comments 0 comments

What is it like to be an American in Europe post September 11? The question provoked raw emotion and thought about an event that changed the world.

Leading up to the first anniversary of the horrific events of last September 11th, Americans living and working in Europe spoke with Roberta Cowan about how they felt on the eve of the anniversary.

Some people will hate us enough to kill us

Most American expats surveyed admitted that although the horror of 9/11 had an impact on their interactions with others, their day-to-day lives did not change as a result of the events in New York and Washington last September. Other’s said they refused to let the events change the way they lived their lives.

“I know that 9/11 is almost a year behind us but it has changed me. I now know as long as there is hate in the world things like this can happen and no matter how good or bad the polices of the US some people will hate us enough to kill us,” said BH.

ND, originally from Chicago working in IT in the Netherlands said, “For me, it’s a bit scary to be an American since 9/11 and I am certainly more cautious about where I travel. I am aware, for the first time in my life, of the hostility that exists towards America. 9/11 made me realise how Americans are perceived. I suppose I am more aware of my 'American-ness'.”

MB works for a multinational telecom company in Amsterdam and said that personally his life has not changed although he might be a bit more cautious.

“I do not worry from one day to the next what might or could happen. If we choose to live our lives like this, then in many ways, the terrorists have already won. Of course my 85-year-old grandmother wishes I would come home to the States because for some reason she thinks I’ll be safer there and little does she understand, it is probably much safer here!”

RB from San Francisco agreed.

“I refuse to stop and change the way I live, to be made to feel a prisoner or to live in fear, that’s craziness.”

I found myself on the defensive

Most of those surveyed felt supported by their friends and colleagues during the event and its aftermath although some said they were shocked and disturbed by reactions from people who they thought would be more sympathetic.

“Working for a large international company I am surrounded by people of all walks of life. The first few days after returning to work, I was apprehensive and not sure what to expect. My co-workers were hesitant to talk with me about what happened but they did ask if was OK and if I had family or friends in NYC. My Dutch manager called me while on his holiday in Italy within 24 hours of the event to confirm I was safe and OK,” said MB.

Copyright Robert Swanson

Another expat had a very different work place experience. He confessed that when his international colleagues and friends started to ‘bash’ America before 9/11, it bugged him. But, after the terrorist attacks, in his view the American bashing turned to comments like “America got what it deserved and Americans deserve to die,” he couldn’t take it anymore and would have to leave the room.

“People told me that I shouldn’t take it personally but that only reinforced that the victims of 9/11 died just because they were American,” he said.

He admitted that some of the criticism foreigners have of the US is justified but he is frustrated by the ‘one-sidedness’ of it all.

“Europeans are quick to point out the faults of American policies but they never point out the positive things. America gives more money and aid to foreign countries than any other and when a country needs help, America is the first place it looks.”

For ND, everyone in her immediate circle was supportive and concerned.

“I suspect my European friends felt as if they were attacked as well which meant that we really banded together to support each other. They may have paid more attention to me because I am American but I truly felt that everyone was hurt by the event.”

To RB’s surprise, people said things like ‘America had this coming, or, if you interfere in other country’s politics you are bound to have a few casualties.’ “I thought I knew these people well and that I figured out their politics but then they said really thoughtless and ugly things and I found myself on the defensive trying to explain and justify why it was important for Americans to be patriotic at a moment like this,” she said.

The actions of the Bush government in no way represent my views

Most Americans surveyed said that over the past year, through dealing with and processing 9/11, they were confronted with a variety of perceptions about America and Americans which, in some cases, prompted them to re-evaluate the way they look at their own identity.

“9/11 made me incredibly aware of not only being an American but also that everyone now saw me as an American,” said ND.

“Everyone I met in the months following asked me first if I was American and secondly if I knew anyone who was killed so I constantly had to re-live the event.” She also acknowledged that she was very aware of lingering anti-American animosity in both the Muslim and Dutch communities and to avoid confrontations she intentionally kept a low profile by speaking softly and acting more reserved in public.

Some of the people surveyed wanted clarity between how they identified themselves and how non-Americans might see American identity personified by the actions of the current administration.

RB said, “The way I feel about being an American and the actions of the Bush administration are two totally different things. My identity as an American is in the spirit of hopefulness that brought my Greek, Philippino and Russian ancestors to the US and not the actions of the Bush government that in no way, represent my views.”

The American war on terror has alienated us from the rest of the world

A year later, general sympathy, in some cases, has turned to criticism for the war on terror, the perpetuation of the American war machine and the increasingly isolationist stance of the Bush administration.

ld me that I shouldn’t take it personally but that only reinforced that the victims of 9/11 died just because they were American,” he said.

He admitted that some of the criticism foreigners have of the US is justified but he is frustrated by the ‘one-sidedness’ of it all.

“Europeans are quick to point out the faults of American policies but they never point out the positive things. America gives more money and aid to foreign countries than any other and when a country needs help, America is the first place it looks.”

For ND, everyone in her immediate circle was supportive and concerned.

“I suspect my European friends felt as if they were attacked as well which meant that we really banded together to support each other. They may have paid more attention to me because I am American but I truly felt that everyone was hurt by the event.”

To RB’s surprise, people said things like ‘America had this coming, or, if you interfere in other country’s politics you are bound to have a few casualties.’ “I thought I knew these people well and that I figured out their politics but then they said really thoughtless and ugly things and I found myself on the defensive trying to explain and justify why it was important for Americans to be patriotic at a moment like this,” she said.

The actions of the Bush government in no way represent my views

Most Americans surveyed said that over the past year, through dealing with and processing 9/11, they were confronted with a variety of perceptions about America and Americans which, in some cases, prompted them to re-evaluate the way they look at their own identity.

“9/11 made me incredibly aware of not only being an American but also that everyone now saw me as an American,” said ND.

“Everyone I met in the months following asked me first if I was American and secondly if I knew anyone who was killed so I constantly had to re-live the event.” She also acknowledged that she was very aware of lingering anti-American animosity in both the Muslim and Dutch communities and to avoid confrontations she intentionally kept a low profile by speaking softly and acting more reserved in public.

Some of the people surveyed wanted clarity between how they identified themselves and how non-Americans might see American identity personified by the actions of the current administration.

RB said, “The way I feel about being an American and the actions of the Bush administration are two totally different things. My identity as an American is in the spirit of hopefulness that brought my Greek, Philippino and Russian ancestors to the US and not the actions of the Bush government that in no way, represent my views.”

The American war on terror has alienated us from the rest of the world

A year later, general sympathy, in some cases, has turned to criticism for the war on terror, the perpetuation of the American war machine and the increasingly isolationist stance of the Bush administration.

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Leading up to the first anniversary of the horrific events of last September 11th, Americans living and working in Europe spoke with Roberta Cowan about how they felt on the eve of the anniversary.

Some people will hate us enough to kill us

Most American expats surveyed admitted that although the horror of 9/11 had an impact on their interactions with others, their day-to-day lives did not change as a result of the events in New York and Washington last September. Other’s said they refused to let the events change the way they lived their lives.

“I know that 9/11 is almost a year behind us but it has changed me. I now know as long as there is hate in the world things like this can happen and no matter how good or bad the polices of the US some people will hate us enough to kill us,” said BH.

ND, originally from Chicago working in IT in the Netherlands said, “For me, it’s a bit scary to be an American since 9/11 and I am certainly more cautious about where I travel. I am aware, for the first time in my life, of the hostility that exists towards America. 9/11 made me realise how Americans are perceived. I suppose I am more aware of my 'American-ness'.”

MB works for a multinational telecom company in Amsterdam and said that personally his life has not changed although he might be a bit more cautious.

“I do not worry from one day to the next what might or could happen. If we choose to live our lives like this, then in many ways, the terrorists have already won. Of course my 85-year-old grandmother wishes I would come home to the States because for some reason she thinks I’ll be safer there and little does she understand, it is probably much safer here!”

RB from San Francisco agreed.

“I refuse to stop and change the way I live, to be made to feel a prisoner or to live in fear, that’s craziness.”

I found myself on the defensive

Most of those surveyed felt supported by their friends and colleagues during the event and its aftermath although some said they were shocked and disturbed by reactions from people who they thought would be more sympathetic.

“Working for a large international company I am surrounded by people of all walks of life. The first few days after returning to work, I was apprehensive and not sure what to expect. My co-workers were hesitant to talk with me about what happened but they did ask if was OK and if I had family or friends in NYC. My Dutch manager called me while on his holiday in Italy within 24 hours of the event to confirm I was safe and OK,” said MB.

Copyright Robert Swanson

Another expat had a very different work place experience. He confessed that when his international colleagues and friends started to ‘bash’ America before 9/11, it bugged him. But, after the terrorist attacks, in his view the American bashing turned to comments like “America got what it deserved and Americans deserve to die,” he couldn’t take it anymore and would have to leave the room.

“People told me that I shouldn’t take it personally but that only reinforced that the victims of 9/11 died just because they were American,” he said.

He admitted that some of the criticism foreigners have of the US is justified but he is frustrated by the ‘one-sidedness’ of it all.

“Europeans are quick to point out the faults of American policies but they never point out the positive things. America gives more money and aid to foreign countries than any other and when a country needs help, America is the first place it looks.”

For ND, everyone in her immediate circle was supportive and concerned.

“I suspect my European friends felt as if they were attacked as well which meant that we really banded together to support each other. They may have paid more attention to me because I am American but I truly felt that everyone was hurt by the event.”

To RB’s surprise, people said things like ‘America had this coming, or, if you interfere in other country’s politics you are bound to have a few casualties.’ “I thought I knew these people well and that I figured out their politics but then they said really thoughtless and ugly things and I found myself on the defensive trying to explain and justify why it was important for Americans to be patriotic at a moment like this,” she said.

The actions of the Bush government in no way represent my views

Most Americans surveyed said that over the past year, through dealing with and processing 9/11, they were confronted with a variety of perceptions about America and Americans which, in some cases, prompted them to re-evaluate the way they look at their own identity.

“9/11 made me incredibly aware of not only being an American but also that everyone now saw me as an American,” said ND.

“Everyone I met in the months following asked me first if I was American and secondly if I knew anyone who was killed so I constantly had to re-live the event.” She also acknowledged that she was very aware of lingering anti-American animosity in both the Muslim and Dutch communities and to avoid confrontations she intentionally kept a low profile by speaking softly and acting more reserved in public.

Some of the people surveyed wanted clarity between how they identified themselves and how non-Americans might see American identity personified by the actions of the current administration.

RB said, “The way I feel about being an American and the actions of the Bush administration are two totally different things. My identity as an American is in the spirit of hopefulness that brought my Greek, Philippino and Russian ancestors to the US and not the actions of the Bush government that in no way, represent my views.”

The American war on terror has alienated us from the rest of the world

A year later, general sympathy, in some cases, has turned to criticism for the war on terror, the perpetuation of the American war machine and the increasingly isolationist stance of the Bush administration.

ld me that I shouldn’t take it personally but that only reinforced that the victims of 9/11 died just because they were American,” he said.

He admitted that some of the criticism foreigners have of the US is justified but he is frustrated by the ‘one-sidedness’ of it all.

“Europeans are quick to point out the faults of American policies but they never point out the positive things. America gives more money and aid to foreign countries than any other and when a country needs help, America is the first place it looks.”

For ND, everyone in her immediate circle was supportive and concerned.

“I suspect my European friends felt as if they were attacked as well which meant that we really banded together to support each other. They may have paid more attention to me because I am American but I truly felt that everyone was hurt by the event.”

To RB’s surprise, people said things like ‘America had this coming, or, if you interfere in other country’s politics you are bound to have a few casualties.’ “I thought I knew these people well and that I figured out their politics but then they said really thoughtless and ugly things and I found myself on the defensive trying to explain and justify why it was important for Americans to be patriotic at a moment like this,” she said.

The actions of the Bush government in no way represent my views

Most Americans surveyed said that over the past year, through dealing with and processing 9/11, they were confronted with a variety of perceptions about America and Americans which, in some cases, prompted them to re-evaluate the way they look at their own identity.

“9/11 made me incredibly aware of not only being an American but also that everyone now saw me as an American,” said ND.

“Everyone I met in the months following asked me first if I was American and secondly if I knew anyone who was killed so I constantly had to re-live the event.” She also acknowledged that she was very aware of lingering anti-American animosity in both the Muslim and Dutch communities and to avoid confrontations she intentionally kept a low profile by speaking softly and acting more reserved in public.

Some of the people surveyed wanted clarity between how they identified themselves and how non-Americans might see American identity personified by the actions of the current administration.

RB said, “The way I feel about being an American and the actions of the Bush administration are two totally different things. My identity as an American is in the spirit of hopefulness that brought my Greek, Philippino and Russian ancestors to the US and not the actions of the Bush government that in no way, represent my views.”

The American war on terror has alienated us from the rest of the world

A year later, general sympathy, in some cases, has turned to criticism for the war on terror, the perpetuation of the American war machine and the increasingly isolationist stance of the Bush administration.

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