In the week of 16 Settembre 2001, there was an air of unsteady calm in Rome. Some paura — fear. Yet, a real sense of the strongly-held Italian belief in destino.
My third week in Rome had a certain unrealness to it. For me and my American friends, there was an attempt at normalcy, but definitely some survivors’ guilt. I asked myself so many times: is it all right to find pleasure in life again?
As for Rome, there were rumors one day of a bomb: first, I heard, at the Vatican walls. Then, the Palace of Justice. Both places, by the way, within short walking distance from where I’m living. Neither rumor was true.
I continued to get my news in Italian–which could get tricky. Per esempio, I am pretty sure I read that after the second plane struck, a UFO was spotted heading towards the towers. “Is this true,” I asked my barrista, who speaks no English. He didn’t know. However, he had managed to teach me what each sweet pastry in his coffee bar is called.
The flow of e-mails from America slowed considerably. I suspected fatigue. I know that folks in the U.S. can not get away from what has happened. Some of MY guilt in Rome–was that I can. I got a letter from a Manhattan friend that week. She echoed what I had heard from everyone. There is a lot of fear, a little suspicion, and a constant reminder of what has happened–with battleships in the river and military choppers overhead.
On Saturday night, I was watching news with my padrona a casa, Gina, and they played a clip of Celine Dion, singing God Bless America. “What is that,” she asked. Through my tears, I tried to describe it with my sparse Italian vocabulary. “Una cantata del mio paese”– A Song of my Country.
CITTADINI DEL MONDO
of the World”
I have worried since the attack that I would feel so distant from my friends and family in New York and the rest of the country. I know that life in the U.S. is irrevocably changed and, for the next three months, as it changes I will not be part of that. I can read the papers and understand, but I will not be going through the day-to-day emotions. I was so sick at heart about that possibility, that I seriously considered changing my plans and returning home.
But, as I sat with a group of my new friends on a warm Roman evening, saying goodbye to the American friend with whom I shared this tragedy, I realized I have the unique opportunity to discover the thoughts of people from all over the world. In this group alone, there are represented six countries.
Israel, Denmark, Russia, Switzerland, America, New Zealand. From very different countries, bound together by a desire to learn, we are able to communicate, albeit haltingly, in the language of a seventh country. I have been given the chance to gain a unique world view.