How 9/11 changed lives of these American expats in UAE

Bernd Debusmann Jr.
Filed on September 11, 2016 | Last updated on September 11, 2016 at 07.23 am
How 9/11 changed lives of these American expats in UAE

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As the world prepares to commemorate the devastating attacks of September 11, 2001, that killed nearly 3,000 people, American expats in the UAE remember where they were ON that fateful Tuesday morning, and how it changed their lives.

'My friend's mom died in the attack'

Mike Singer, a Dubai-based expat, was in university not far from New York City when the planes struck the twin towers.

How 9/11 changed lives of these American expats in UAE (KT8265910.JPG)

"I can still feel the uneasy chill running down through my entire body," he said. "Confusion, anger, sadness, empathy, hate: All these emotions powering through my mind as I tried to comprehend what was going on. Was it going to be okay? How could I try to explain to anyone, let alone myself, that the world wasn't coming to an end?"

It was then that he looked across the room to find a friend of his named Jeff. "No words, no reaction, just a pale white face with his eyes wide open," he recalled.

"Now it all hit me. Jeff's mom ended up losing her life the day the world stood still."

Despite the tragedy, and the wars that followed, like many Americans, Singer remembered a sense of community and caring that perhaps did not exist before the planes struck.

"Some may say that 9/11 was all negative - with the loss of life and the miniature version of a world war that ensued - but people came together," he said. "They stood as one, as part of a family, or as part of an international change.

"We can only hope that it never takes such disaster to bring out the beauty behind us as human beings."

 'We thought it was a mistake'

Tony Graham, a Dubai-based executive who in 2001 was living in Ireland, heard the news while in a business meeting in London.

How 9/11 changed lives of these American expats in UAE (KT8266910.JPG)

"Just as I was going to my last meeting of the day, someone said a plane hit one of the World Trade Centre towers in New York," he recalled."My colleagues and I paused for a moment, but then concluded it was either a small recreational plane or just a mistake.

"By the time we came out of the meeting, everyone in the office was clearing out. That's when we heard the news that a second plane - a passenger jet - hit the twin towers."

Scheduled to fly back to Ireland, Graham managed to get on one of the last flights out of London City Airport. "It was only as we were sitting in the plane waiting for takeoff when the gravity of the situation really sank in," he said.

"After sitting in silence for a while, all I could think of to say was 'I'm afraid we're going to war. This changes everything'.

"I had already been overseas for eight years in 2001, but as an American I don't think my feelings about it were any different. We were attacked, period."

'I was shocked ... I felt exposed'

Another American expat in Dubai, Steven Anderson, was out on the town in Budapest, Hungary, when he heard what happened.

How 9/11 changed lives of these American expats in UAE (KT8267910.JPG)

"By the time I found out, the towers had already collapsed," he said. "I felt exposed, and shocked, and at that time was wondering whether it was one or dozens across America to follow."

The true impact 9/11 had on him was made clear at an event he attended at the Hungarian embassy in Washington DC.

"When the Hungarian ambassador asked me to give a few words to the people present, I stood up with a million things I wanted to say, but just froze as I gazed across the many faces waiting on my words," he said. "It had taken all those months for the aftermath to hit me. I had an emotional knot in my stomach that was a combination of extreme sadness, anxiety, anger and wanting answers.

"However, how it has affected me long term changed dramatically by the way the US Government handled the aftermath with a total lack of transparency. Due to this caustic method of handling the American people - who were eagerly searching for answers and got nowhere with the government - they turned this into a bigger conspiracy theory object than who shot Kennedy."



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