Jun Dishes

verb/diSH/ : food or sex or gossip or fiction in real life

Home » Posts tagged "9/11"

Terrorist Attacks Wouldn’t Happen Here

BrusselsCornbread

I’ve never dedicated a blog to 9/11, or my experiences on that day and days after. The closest I ever got was a blog I wrote in 2013 pontificating on the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death, and even that came late. I don’t know why exactly I never wrote about 9/11, when I write about just about everything else under the sun. Maybe because my life was spared on that September 11th in 2001. and I was not among the injured, maybe because no-one close to me died or was among the wounded, but I think mostly because I didn’t want to ever re-live it. Because even if you weren’t in or around the mighty towers that fell, you will never forget that day in New York. Especially if you worked in finance and remember the many scattered calendar days of the years you might have spent in the towers working, banking, living in naïveté.

But on that fateful day I’ll never forget walking the three miles that felt like thirty, from my cushy midtown office at Citigroup to my home in the East Village, with droves of other New Yorkers, because mass transit was shut down and the city was on lockdown. Almost a harbinger of The Walking Dead, where it truly felt like the world was coming to a bitter end. Being numb and cell phoneless because there was no signal to be found. Hoping nobody close to you was buried or burned alive in the rubble that was once The World Trade Center.

So many years later in the wake of the Brussels attacks, I sit here in Belgium shaken and unable to shake this feeling of familiarity, of vulnerability. These last 24 hours have been cloudy to say the least. For even though I didn’t lose anyone per se on 9/11, I did indeed lose something, the carefree naïveté and belief that I was safe, that “terrorist attacks wouldn’t happen here.”

But in the five years I’ve lived here in Belgium, I somehow got that feeling of security and safety back. I’ve joked numerous times about how quiet and peaceful life here is in Belgium, to the point of boredom. And then yesterday, the country and its people were shaken awake out of that peace and quiet. And that feeling of “terrorists attacks wouldn’t happen here” smacked me hard in the face again, because I was wrong.

Again.

And that’s the reality. And not blogging about it won’t make it go away. It’s not easy, but I’ve chosen to blog about it.

Because it’s easy to say don’t let the terrorists win by letting your fears take over. It’s easy to say keep living your life in the face of terrorism. It’s easy to say don’t stay home get outside and show these terrorists that we will not be bullied. But all I want to do is stay home, and bake. Bake? I never bake. Anybody who knows me knows I don’t bake. Yet I baked this morning, with my son Noah who turned 4 years old on Monday.

Monday, before all this tragedy struck.

BrusselsCornbread

We baked a cornbread this morning. A good old-fashioned American cornbread. Noah is too young to know the significance in my choice of baking therapy, but he did ask me why I was crying. I couldn’t stop crying. So I told him I was sad for all the good people that the bad people hurt yesterday.

I tried my best to explain to Noah, what was plastered on the news yesterday morning, and it was consistent with what I told him just a few months before after the Paris attacks.

Noah: Mama, there are bad people in France.

Me: No, there are good people in France but some bad people went there and did bad things.

Noah: Yeah.

Me: This is why it’s important to grow up and be a good person and always help people, right Noah?

Noah: Yes mama.

And then yesterday…

Noah: I have an idea! My sword! I’ll fight the bad guys with my sword!

I told Noah that fighting back like that would only hurt more people. He tipped his head, thoughtful, and replied that his sword was only plastic anyway. If only we could all be so thoughtful and contemplate the results of our actions…so that parents don’t have to wrack their brains to come up with such explanations. When will it stop?

Which is why really, this morning, I just felt the need to raise my American flag by way of cornbread.

And now I’ll leave Noah in the faithful hands of his Opi so I can go give Rice House a good cleaning before opening for business as usual tomorrow.

Because, life does go on.

My heart cries and my eyes well with tears for the souls and innocence lost yesterday. But one day we will unite and fight and win. We will overcome.

We must.

Always dishing,

Jun

From Afar

globes

Since I moved to Belgium in 2011 there have been so many instances where news out of the U.S. rocked me and made me feel, as an American expat, so incredibly far away from U.S. soil. On an average day I don’t think about the fact that I’m thousands of miles from America, at all, because life gets so busy. But on days like today, or this past Monday, and every day this past week my reality is checked.

National news coverage here, and in most of Europe, is excellent but dry. “Dry” is not bad, it just means there’s more facts reporting and less sensationalism. I’ve said time and time again what a very moderately-tempered grounded people Belgians are, give or take a few football melees or union protests.

I remember that day in 2011 when Osama Bin Laden was killed I’d felt for one of the first times, so far away from America. I’d caught the news via Twitter and then hurried out of the house that morning to get to school, where I was taking my first level of Dutch. I’d rushed into the cafeteria when I got there and found the only other American expat in the school. He was black and gay, and my silver lining around the cloud of Dutch vocabulary lists in class every day. I’d blurted out the news to him with a few omgs scattered about and wanting to, well, celebrate. I was hushed immediately.

I’d blinked, mouth hanging open, because being hushed is not something that happens to me. But in that blink I realized that there was no usual “buzz” in the cafeteria. A hush had fallen over the room.

Most of the students enrolled with me in the language school were not happy that Osama was dead. The school was government-funded and free for “legal” immigrants. So? Belgium, like other EU countries, provides open asylum for those who have left their respective countries to avoid “serious harm.” Translation? I was outnumbered by thousands of more immigrants, here, who did not celebrate Osama’s death. Nor would they have celebrated it if they were back in their homelands.

I remember having felt like the oddest man out, and how quiet I’d been all through Dutch lessons that day. I’d come face-to-face with my naivety. It had felt surreal being in a building with people who mourned on a day I wanted to rejoice.

I know I am lucky I did not lose my life or the life of anyone close to me on September 11th. When 1 World Trade Center was hit I was underground riding what was the last running 6 train for that day, and I was ignorant to the fact that above ground was terrifying chaos. So for me, nearly ten years after 9/11, Osama’s death was something I felt I had the right to celebrate along with others.

I went home and threw a good old American barbecue with my husband Davy. We celebrated together privately (and on Twitter). We ate burgers and potato salad and watched CNN. Sometimes, sensationalism is comic relief enough to be relevant.

In the time I’ve been living here, just over two years, I’ve watched from afar the havoc Superstorm Sandy wreaked and learned of all the lives lost in Colorado and Sandy Hook. Good news and bad news alike from parts of America I’ve followed. I don’t know that I’d be doing anything differently if I was in America right this minute, but I know that from here I’m still watching and feeling so many same things everyone else is during certain moments of the day.

Always dishing,

Jun