I was in Africa: Gaborone, Botswana. Didn’t know anything about it until I entered in what was at the time the biggest general store in town, Game, where I found a group of europeans gathered in front of one of the large TV screens on the walls. It was tuned into a live broadcast from New York by CNN showing the first tower up in smoke and flames.
Before I could understand what was going on, the second tower was also hit by a plane and started burning. Some among the group of europeans started clapping and cheering – they were French, I could understand from the language they spoke.
Later that day, I went with an Angolan acquaintance to visit a couple from some Muslim-dominated East African country doing business in Botswana. At some point in our conversation, I said that I was thinking about sending a message of condolences to my American colleagues with whom I worked in a team of international consultants throughout Southern Africa for a project called Regional Activity to Promote Integration through Dialogue and Policy Implementation (RAPID) - by the way, this was the kind of work we were doing there at the time.
My companions were not enthusiastic about my idea, to put it mildly; the Angolan actually cautioned me against it. There was among them a overwhelming sense of “celebration” for what was there generally perceived as a lesson from the now called “Global South” that “the (arrogant, imperialist) Yanquis” and the West in general long deserved…
My personal feeling, however, was that no ideology or religion should arrogate to itself the “right” to cause so much pain to so many people in such a split moment of time – and I would feel and say very much the same if, as it happened here and there along history, the damage had been inflicted by “the Yanquis” or any other Western power upon any other country in the world. I was just moved by human empathy towards my American friends and colleagues. Yet there was still that strange sense of “grandeur” and even “sinister beauty” about all that spectacle, which somehow managed to subdue our reasoned thoughts about what was developing in front of our eyes.
So, I just kept quite afterwards sinking it all in and recalling the day, ten years earlier, when I had been to the World Trade Centre with a group of German economics students and the pictures we had taken on the top of those towers… I don’t know where they are now – they seem to have disappeared just like the Twin Towers.