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From Tuscany to Terrorism

I spent my summer in a small Italian town just south of Florence called Siena. My life there was beautiful. It was everything you imagine Italy to be. Small maze-like streets meandering their way through town. Beautiful people speaking a different language you only wish you understood. What in the beginning drove me crazy, later became such an integral part of my life that I miss it now. I ate pasta two, sometimes three, times a day and loved it. Towards the end of my visit, I became so comfortable that I could have stayed for a few more years, but I had to come back to finish my last year at Portland State University.

This trip was different than last year’s. The year prior I went as a tourist, seeing all the known sites and looking as American as I possibly could. I came home last year with a new-found love for Italy. I came back this year with a new love for the world.

This love for “world” was a part of me before Sept. 11. I realized after living overseas that we do have the best country in the world. We have more freedom than most people in the world could ever imagine. I take this freedom for granted at times, but now I see things differently. I realize that it is easy to live in America. It is also easy to love this country, but now, because of my travels I can also love other countries. We are like modern day Romans, and just like the Romans, we have done some amazing things. We have also had dark periods in our short history. It took me living in another country to fully appreciate what I have here.

I flew out of Paris on the morning of Sept. 10 with a connection in Montreal to New York. By the time I got to downtown New York, it was dark. I distinctly remember, as the bus cut in and out of traffic, looking up at the World Trade Center and thinking to myself, “What a beautiful sky line.” It took me another hour and a half to get to La Guardia via the subway and bus. By this time it was 2:30 in the morning. I had to be up at 5 a.m. to catch a flight to Kansas City, so I decided I was not going to pay for a hotel room to only get two and half hours sleep. I sat in the airport drifting in and out of consciousness. At about 5:30 I went to the ticket counter to get my seat assignment. I boarded the flight and we left New York at 7:30 a.m. the morning of Sept. 11. The flight landed in Kansas City at 9:30 a.m. Central Standard Time. We were not told of the attacks until after we got off the airplane. I saw my sister just moments before she saw me. She had a look of fear I have never seen before.

Because she did not know if I made the flight or not. I was in a daze, because of lack of sleep, and having just crossed over multiple time zones. It wasn’t for a few hours that I fully understood the enormity of this attack. To this day I still hope to wake up in Siena and realize it was just a bad dream.

Now back in my somewhat normal life, I have a new appreciation for the every day. I realize now that what I truly love about the American people is the diversity within our culture. There is an enormous amount of subcultures within our culture. This diversity is what makes us the strongest country on the planet — not the fact that we have more bombs or more money. From living in another culture and loving that culture, I see how unique America really is in this day and age. I hope that we can start to see outside our country and realize that there is a world of incredible people out there. I am now able to have pride in my own country and at the same time cherish other cultures around the world. It is very hard for me now to think of myself as just an American. I believe I’m more than that.