Reflections on 9/11 from across the Atlantic

Just settling into my daily school grind here in Valencia, I am generally oblivious of the date. Temperatures consistently in the high 80s, I don’t have the changing leaves and pumpkin spice lattes to signal my start of another autumn school season. I knew that it was Tuesday and that I had my first Spanish Cultures and Civilizations class at 9 am. Priding myself on finally getting out of bed with enough time for a quick cup of espresso, I ran to the bus stop to meet my good friend Kat. After an advertisement for a music festival, and before a look at the soccer selections this year, 10 second news clip of “remembering 9/11” was shown on the bus. The fact that it was the anniversary of a day that changed America forever had completely slipped my mind.

Rushing around to buy textbooks, trying to understand my host family, figuring out the public transportation system, and getting to know my new friends had made me completely oblivious to anything outside of my personal Valencia bubble. Facebook pictures, BBC news online and short skype sessions are my only link to the outside world. Being passionate about politics and current events this situation is completely bizarre to me.
Instead, the headlining events are those that two months ago were still foreign concepts– the things that are hard to identify with because they don’t effect you whatsoever. The impact of the European financial crisis, and specifically Spain’s financial instability is everywhere. Protestors filled the streets of Valencia yesterday and we were all advised to stay away the center of town. Driving to the Madrid train station, Silvia reminded me about the 2004 terrorist bombings in the building in which 10 bombs killed 191 and injured more than 1800. Spain also has over 800 deaths to attribute to the active terrorist organization ETA, operating from the Basque region. To me, all of these events were just a blip on the news, a headline to read and to move on from. Maybe this is what the faith shaking events of 9/11 were to the Spaniards.

This disconnect of information reminded me of Plato’s allegory of the cave. As much as we don’t like to think so we all probably reside in caves, with an inability to connect with events outside of the scope of our caves. And this is probably inevitable, but this is also probably the best lesson that I’ve learned thus far.

This adventure in Spain isn’t just about learning the language. It’s about creating a personal connection across the Atlantic ocean. It’s about remembering 9/11 and crying about it and praying about it 4000 miles away because it’s made me a different person. It’s also about perspective. It’s not neglecting the world section of the New York times because other people are also crying and reflecting and praying about completely different things 4000 miles away– and this is exactly why I’m so passionate about international relations. Additionally, it’s taking the time to stop thinking and contemplating for a while to enjoy exactly what I’m doing in this moment.

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