Ten years ago tomorrow I was in my classroom at Nicaragua Christian Academy in Managua, Nicaragua when I overheard Aldo, one of my students, talking about a plane hitting a building in New York. I assumed he meant a small plane and didn’t think much of it until I heard more students talking about commercial planes and hundreds of casualties. The rest of the day was kind of a blur.
I distinctly remember my friend Liam wheeling out a TV and showing the news to crowds of (mostly Nicaraguan) elementary school students almost exactly like I once watched new coverage of the space shuttle Challenger explosion when I was their age. I also remember the strange looks on the faces of the Nicaragua cleaning crew. It was evident that they wanted to share their sympathy but they just weren’t sure how to go about it.
In the days that followed, Armando, an ancient security guard at school, had several pointed discussion with me in which he asked me to make sure the U.S. didn’t launch nuclear weapons at Afghanistan (because I could control that sort of thing). I also remember two Nicaraguan students who, much to my dismay, made it very clear that while they didn’t condone the attack, weren’t too bothered by it either.
But the thing I remember most happened a few days later. Some teacher colleagues and I traveled to Costa Rica on a short vacation we had planned before 9/11. We went out to eat one night in a small restaurant and sitting on every table was this message:
Later that evening the restaurant owner passed out candles and held a moment of silence to help share the pain and express support for the U.S. It was very comforting to see people in another part of the world, often significantly poorer than their American counterparts, and often at odds with U.S. policy, put aside their differences and just help share in the suffering.
Sometimes I wish we were as concerned about what happens to them in their countries.