On my blogging schedule for this week was a blog about the Lunar New Year which is being celebrated in many Asian countries this week. But the events of the past few days have made it impossible for me to write a light hearted blog about the culture and food we enjoyed in our years living in HongKong and Singapore. Instead I would like to share with you some of my thoughts on a life lived abroad.
James and I spent 27 years living outside of the United States. We were in Hong Kong when Pam Am flight 103 was brought down by a bomb over the town of Lockerbie, Scotland. We were in England when the Alfred P. Murrah building was bombed in Oklahoma City and we were in Singapore when the planes hit the twin towers on 9/11.
Our children went to international schools with children from many cultures. Their teachers were British and Australian, American and Asian. The aides in their classrooms were Muslim and Buddhist and Christian and Sikh. Our friends and colleagues came from countries all over the world. Our vacations were spent exploring the countries and learning about the cultures where we lived.
On September 11, 2001, it was evening in Singapore. Abby, our youngest daughter, was in bed and Sarah and Emily were doing their homework upstairs. James was in Malaysia with work and I was watching TV. We were an American family living on a small island nation made of an extremely diverse population. Indonesia, home to the world’s largest Muslim population, is so close to Singapore that smoke from fires there affected the quality of the air outside our house. We watched in horror as the tragedy unfolded and we worried about friends and family in the United States. But we were not for one moment afraid for ourselves.
In the morning, our children went to school where they found that the Singaporean Government had installed Gurkhas to guard them and keep them safe. Seeking to keep my mind busy while waiting to hear President Bush’s speech to the nation ( in what was the morning of the next day for us) I went for a run. And people waved to me and shouted words of support for the American people. Everywhere we went in the next few days people went out of their way to share with us their outrage and sadness for what had happened. We were all one people that day, mourning the loss of so many innocent lives.
And then I watched as the American people and government turned inward. Fear and uncertainly leading to the passing of laws which grouped friend and foe together just because they came from the same country or shared the same religion. And I felt the atmosphere change and the good will disappeared.
I get it. Terrorism is scary. I have friends and family spread out all over the world. We are all at risk. Our safety lies in friendship not fear, in open arms and open hearts. An outstretched hand offered today may lead to a hand up when we need it in the future. Because we are all in this together.