This morning at breakfast as usual we watched CBS news (we tape it at night, your evening), the closing item was a series of videos done by the FEMA crews in the immediate aftermath of the Twin Towers collapses, the report in light of the coming painful anniversary of the 10th year since that Sept. 11th.
That's my birthday and I have an american family! From the years pre- 2001 it was the usual kind of a day, some cards, some gifts, calls from son and daughter from whatever country they happened to be in.
That year Andrea and I were living in the village of Montevecchia halfway between Milano and Como and that particular day I was in Grenoble in a meeting discussing operational issues related to our hi-tech R&D; close to the end the announcement was given that two planes had hit two skycrapers in New York! The meeting was called off shortly thereafter, I got in the car to drive back to Italy calling immediately my american wife Andrea, who at that moment was in a state of disbelief not quite wanting to accept that what the TV was showing was real! And so we kept talking almost non-stop for the four hours it took to get home; by that time reality had sunk in with the news of a third plane going down forced to do so by the heroic act of the passengers.
It was a somber evening at home, i told Andrea that the terrorists had made a huge mistake as they had fully awakened the ire of the american giant (act of war on their soil!) that will never be fully pacified; her blue teary eyes took on a steely look while she nodded yes with her head.
America was truly one nation then and the world (outside of macabre celebrations by the terrorists and their supporters) was truly and passionately united behind that immane tragedy with the famous:" We are all American!" (here in Italy "Siamo tutti Americani!").
Since then birthdays have come and gone always shadowed by the recurrence and the painful ceremonies accompanying it; but the unity within America and in the world at large was slowly but surely shattered by intellectually, morally and ethically dwarfish leaders (yes Bush but not only, as for me there were three B's, him, Blair and an almost irrelevant in practical terms, Berlusconi) that willfully preyed on passions, resentments and religious animosity, guided of course by priviliged relationships with god, no capital "g" applies here.
Here we are today with both the USA and Europe in a huge financial and debt crisis, wars on terror still raging, insurrections in North Africa and in the Mideast aplenty but with no clear future , and a rudderless world leadership due to the weakening of the West in general and America in particular, blame it on 9/11? Probably not, but maybe on its aftermath?
An imperceptible bending of the eyebrows and a slight sad smile will continue to accompany the greeting at passport control in the USA when they read my birthdate, I thank them and enter the country.