On September 11, 2001, I was in Paris France for the week attending meetings as a business advisor to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which is headquartered there. Representatives from many other nations were also in the OECD complex when the attacks occurred, and the building was locked down for several hours while the circumstances involving the terrorist attacks were under investigation.
My husband was in our hotel room watching film footage on TV, unable to understand the reporting in French, but recognizing the World Trade Center and Pentagon had been attacked.
Coincidentally, about two and a half weeks earlier, I was at the World Trade Center for an international tax conference that I helped organize. I also used to live in Alexandria, Virginia, about two miles south of the Pentagon, which I drove by every day on my way to and from work in D.C. Targeting these locations for the attacks was very personal and familiar to me.
The events affected me in several ways. While I have always been proud to be an American, the connection I felt to my citizenship on 9/11 was profound, and in a way I had not felt before. I wanted to be back home in the U.S. with family and colleagues, but was unable to get a flight back to D.C. for about three weeks.
Suddenly there were police officers walking around the streets of Paris carrying rifles and looking for trouble. The fact that life is uncertain and could unexpectedly end at any time resonated with me. Waiting for a special occasion to do something no longer seems like a good idea to me. Being alive is the special occasion. So enjoy life and help others along the way. I don’t know how my story will end, but my text will never read…”I gave up.”
As to how 9/11 effected people around me, we live in a different society now in terms of expectations for safety and security. In Paris some stores now search your purse and bags as you enter. Many previously accessible facilities in the U.S. are now closed to the general public or access is extremely restricted. Boarding an airplane can involve a barrage of invasive screening procedures. A neighbor, a family man across the street, advised us that he had purchased a gun. When I asked why he said, “You know, 9/11.”