I’ve spent most of the last decade outside the US. I wasn’t there when the World Trade Center attacks took place. As an American living overseas, I was both involved and detached from what was going on. I wasn’t swept up in either the panic or the patriotism, but at the same time I was more concerned with events than my friends from other countries like the UK or even Canada were.
At this point, it’s one more significant event in history that I’ve witnessed in my life. Time has lent a certain emotional distance above the partial detachment of not being intimately involved with other Americans when it happened.
In some ways, this distance has been a positive thing. It allowed me to see more clearly what was going on in the early days after the attacks, and be more concerned about the future and less about immediate action. I’m actually pretty relieved that some of my worst fears weren’t realized in the months after 9/11. Still, from my perspective, a lot of people back home went kind of nuts for a while.
It’s one more thing that makes it harder to relate to people back home. I don’t care about sports, avoid religion, keep out of politics as much as possible, and don’t have the shared experience of living with other Americans in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. For better or worse, there is close to a decade of cultural experiences that I don’t have in common with everyone.