COLUMN: Being American
Published: Sunday, September 15, 2013
Updated: Sunday, September 15, 2013 22:09
I woke up this past Wednesday and right away took a few minutes to talk with God. After praying for souls I never knew, people I would never meet, and peace after an event I would never fully comprehend, I rolled out of my unfamiliar bed. This would be my first Sept. 11 outside of the U.S., and I honestly didn’t know what to expect.
I was in for a bit of a culture shock. At home, Sept. 11 is a day of remembrance, prayer, and an outpouring of love. Here in the UK, it’s a Wednesday. Not once were the tragic events mentioned. Not by any of my British flat mates, not by the priest in the mass I attended, not in any conversations I heard around campus. No flags were at half-staff and no speeches were given. Eventually I had to speak about it, so I looked to one of my flat mates who then asked, “Is that still a thing you do, commemorate it?”
So while the world continued to spin at its fast pace over here in the UK, I followed my American intuition and slowed myself down. I reflected, I remembered, and I prayed. Facebook and Twitter helped me connect back home, as a stream of posts and tweets constantly reminded me of what the day was. It was not just a Wednesday. It was Sept. 11—a day that changed America and its people forever.
Though I was only eight, I remember exactly where I was when it happened. I vividly recall sitting on the tile floor of my elementary school (the tiles were checkered green and white), and my teacher crying quietly. The news was turned on—then shut off quickly. We had quiet reading time as the school administration decided what would be done. Within the hour, we were sent home, where my mother, sister, and I stared at the TV for hours. Phone calls were made, family was contacted, and fortunately we were some of the lucky ones. Others were not so fortunate, and for those we spent the night in prayer.
It’s not just that day I remember, however—it’s the memorial services that happened as each year passed. I remember different church services, memorials I saw, people I got to thank personally for their service and bravery. I remember the first time I was told the story of Welles Crowther, BC’s own hero of 9/11. Each year I, along with my fellow Americans, take one day to slow down, remember, reflect, and love. Each year this one day is etched into my memory, and no matter how far I am, I am still a part of the community that lost so many brave and innocent members.
I’ve had quite some time now to think about what it means to be an American. By the end of the year, I will have spent over 25 weeks outside the good ol’ U.S. of A., and while I am blessed to be able to have such experiences, I still know where to call my home. I am from the country that founded itself because its mother country infringed on natural human rights. I am from a country whose government serves its people. I am from a country where political and social activisms are praised. Most importantly, I am from a country of which I am proud.
This is what sets Americans apart. My time in the UK, among other places has shown me the stark difference in the fundamental spirit of people belonging to other nations. The UK itself is comprised of England, Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, making it nearly impossible for the people to have the same sense of unity and camaraderie. The British flag is not hung on walls of dorm rooms and U-K chants are not drunkenly shouted in the streets. While others may condemn us for our noisy nature and extreme patriotism, these characteristics are ones I am glad I hold, for they show that I am proud of my country.
It is days like these when I miss home. I miss the pride of American people, the optimism found sewed into our souls. I long for the hard working attitudes and dedication to freedom that made the American Dream possible. I ache for the love and sense of community shared among us.
Most importantly, it is days like these I reflect, and remember how proud I am to be an American.