SALAMANCA, Spain – The world’s rhythm hasn’t skipped a beat. On a day when all the lights of America seemed to go out, it seems that they have only flickered here.
It’s almost a surreal feeling to spend Sept. 11 abroad. I watch the people here walk to work, laugh with their friends and go about their daily business, as if it’s not an infamous day, as if it’s not a day that changed American lives forever.
Of course the newspapers and televisions here all covered Sept. 11. I got to see the memorials, and I overheard several people talking about it. But here, instead of talking about where they were that day and what they did, they worry more about whether Spain would join in it what seems to be an immanent war with Iraq. Many complain about Bush and think that it’s not their fight.
They do care about America and about American students as well. I went to a memorial at the university and the small chapel was overflowing with students, primarily Americans, but from several different countries as well. But it’s just not the same.
During the half-hour service spoken in Spanish, I couldn’t help but feel an ocean away from everything important to me. The fact there were guards outside the chapel because of recent threats to American tourists abroad, didn’t help matters.
As the day wore on, it became more and more clear how much this date isn’t as important to the rest of the world. Here in Salamanca, this week is the week of the biggest fiesta of the year, celebrating the patrol saint of the city.
Each day there is drinking, dancing, bull fights and concerts. I watched in wonder as the ground shook with rhythm and the air vibrated with laughter on a day that no American city would dare have a party.
Of course I can’t expect the people of the country to feel as effected by the day as I am. It wasn’t their country, their city or their family that was hit. To them, it was a horrible incident, but it was somewhere else, to someone else. I feel as if I want to shout “Don’t you see the world has changed!” But then I realize it hasn’t. Or, at least, their world hasn’t.
It was a day that knocked Americans off of their feet and it’s so hard to see how quickly the rest of the world has re-joined itself.
I always thought Americans were kind of full of themselves. We thought we were the center of the world. That’s why most of us never bother to learn another language and why we think our culture is best. But I guess that I was full of myself when I thought the cries of America were heard just as loudly across the ocean.
Many of other American students here feel the same. Some of my friends had close family members working in the buildings and they cried, but it wasn’t the same as sharing in the larger community of mourning.
Of course the people here talked about it. Of course they felt sympathetic, and wonder if Spain will be next. But being here has shown me how it truly is an American tragedy. It has shown me how the rest of the world keeps on going even while the U.S. is looking back.
Maria is a senior majoring in English and Journalism. She will be writing a bi-weekly column about her experiences in Spain.