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Nowhere Was Safe Anymore': Nine Stories From Non-Americans in Other Countries and How They Experienced 9/11


"If it could happen there, it could happen anywhere."

As the United States remembers the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, those who are not American and were in other countries at the time are also sharing their stories about where they were and how they heard the news 13 years ago.

A thread on the social news site Reddit asked non-Americans how the 9/11 attacks were displayed in their countries.

Photo credit: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock Photo credit: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Here are some of their unedited responses:

  • Canada: "Woke up to the radio station mentioning all about it. Arrived to my grade 8 class, and my teacher let us watch 20 minutes of it after the National Anthem. Then he turned it off. When we asked why we couldn't watch anymore, he responded with 'You will watch that footage for the rest of your life. Terrible things have happened and there are no answers. Let's move on and check in at lunch time.'" — Redditor spiff-d

  • France: "In France, i was 18, i remember very clearly channel surfing and stopping on what looked like a very bad tv drama with a news caster i had never seen before talking over the image of the first tower burning. It took me a few minutes to realize that was actual footage they were looping. The news was talking about how this was the largest attack on American soil. That no one knew who or why it had been done. Then the second plane hit and everyone lost their mind. The journalists were going ape [s**t] and i just remember the shock. I could not tell you the tone they had, even if it was probably very sympathetic towards the victims, especially when the images of people jumping started to arrive. But i was just incredulous. It looked like fiction from there. It was hard to believe something like that could happen. After the attack, new terms started to appear on tv. Bin Laden, al-quaida etc... we had not seen those before on french tv." — Redditor TheSwedishFrog

  • Chile: "I'm from Chile, and while our local press did continuous coverage, it wasn't with any specific focus on anything, save for the occasional 'we found a Chilean in New York who can tell us about what's happening on the ground'. The surreal part for me was that our cable TV started replacing almost every international channel with whatever US media they could get their hands on. Watching MTV Latino turn into a live, untranslated feed of a New York FOX affiliate was incredibly strange, and it has never happened again, for any global event. Same with Fox TV and Sony Latin, which mostly broadcast sitcoms and movies. The attack was literally in every channel. The way these US channels were reporting the news was so unknown to us, that by 2 or 3 pm I really felt like there was a chance of some ICBMs being launched... it was scary on a global level." — Redditor TheSwedishFrog

  • Germany: "All major German TV channels stopped any planned program for hours and reported live from the scene. Think like a non stop news show. One German news anchor (channel was RTL) got an award later on I think for managing to be composed and keeping people updated on whats going on for literally hours. The event stayed in the news for the next weeks, but normal programming was resumed the next day outside of news shows." — Redditor rinmic

  • Germany: "Also German here. For me it was the second day of a new school year and I remember beeing at a friends house in the afternoon playing video games. When his mother came home she told us to turn on the TV because 'It's war!' First we couldn't believe what we were seeing. We thought is was some kind of disaster movie. The next day at school everybody discussed what was going to happen. To be honest, I had a new girlfriend since September 10th and my mind was elsewhere. She's my wife now so I sometimes say we came together when the world was still okay. — Redditor skeddar

  • Sweden: "They made a really big deal about it in Sweden. School had just stopped, as I walked by the cafeteria on my way home I notice the cafetiere lady crying hysterically and teachers trying to comfort her. Didn't think much about it and went straight home. Barely reached to open the door before my dad yells at me to come to the TV-set quickly. He was watching the CNN coverage of the attack and he quickly explained what had happened and that the first tower had just fallen. Shortly after that the second tower went down. The rest of the day was dedicated to my dad pretending to be Nostradamus predicting wars, famines, economic collapses, conspiracy theories and so on. The day after it happened our teacher rolled in the TV-set and put on CNN for the entire class to watch. She spoke a bit about the loss of life, how and why it happened and what the consequences might be. At the end of that class we held a minute of silence. Later that same day our principle called the entire school into the gathering hall and there she held a speech similar to the one our teacher held a few hours earlier and then we had another minute of silence. There was some coverage on local news but mostly just tidbits taken from the CNN and ABC coverage. National news had it a bit more advanced with hourly updates from their own news teams at location, interviews with nearby residents, and consequence analysis with experts and whatnot. They kept at it for about a week before stepping it down gradually. After 2-3 weeks we barely heard anything more about it." — Redditor Jauxerous

  • Russia: "I remember little Russian me coming home from school (7th grade) and seeing my mom tearing up in front of the TV. She said - Look what's going on in the United States. I couldn't understand what she was talking about, because I was refusing to believe that the "movie" playing on the screen was an actual footage... Everyone I knew was deeply scared, especially taking into consideration that Russia itself had recently suffered from major terroristic attacks. It felt like the world had changed forever and nowhere was safe anymore." — Redditor MichaelScottIsMyHero

  • China: "I was in Shanghai when it happened. I remember watching cctv the National agency and when they were showing images and scenes of what was happening they were playing really wacky and comical music. I remember thinking we? Is this a joke? Then my friend who was watching with me commented on the exact same thing. It was so surreal how they were showing it. The music was like something they play in a really cheesy candid camera show." —Redditor youwanttofly

  • Australia: "Well at the time I worked in a large Australian supermarket, the largest in the country. As the event was unfolding, the coverage was just unprecedented. The supermarket that day was completely empty. I have never seen anything like it before or after. The staff stood glued to TV screens. A phrase that stuck with me was one of the commentators saying 'well one thing is for certain, life as we know it is over.' Which was very true. At first the coverage was unsure of what was going on, but when the realization that t was an act of terror sunk in, it was more of a feeling of disbelief. It took a little while for the media coverage to turn from the immediate events to looking forward and analyzing the actual impact of the events. EDIT more info Well personally my first thoughts were for my cousin, she is a New Yorker. I was coming on shift at 5am, I can't remember what time Australian the attacks occurred. Customers started to come in in the morning but some left discarded trolleys of food and just went home to watch the coverage. By 8am the store was empty and stayed that way all day. The reason that the commentators comment sticks with me today, is that as a 20year old, I truly didn't understand what he obviously did, the way aviation and anti-terrorism measures etc would change. Also, the feeling that 'if it could happen there, it could happen anywhere' was very strong here. We led a very charmed existence before 9/11. It was also my first real exposure to the idea that people we don't even know, could want to kill us! To me that was very sobering." — Redditor Shelleywarwick

Read more stories of accounts of the 9/11 attacks in other countries on the Reddit thread.

Front page image via Dan Howell/Shutterstock.

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