Sunday, February 07, 2016

2016 Expat thoughts: Going Home... the long way 'round?

There is a wonderful moment at the end of the 50th Anniversary special of the famous long running  science fiction series "Doctor Who", where  the Doctor (played by Matt Smith)  addresses  the subject of his characters seemingly endless wanderings through time and space,,,

Home... the long way 'round...

It is a sentiment that many of those who live the expatriate life can relate to all too easily. Maybe that is why I became such fan of Doctor Who. He really is the ultimate "expat". Wandering, travelling, but never homeless. Home is out there. He just hasn't found his way back there... yet.

I had my first "expat" experience when I was 15 and was a foreign exchange student in Germany. It is not an overstatement to say it fundamentally changed me, my outlook on, and future path in life. That lead to spending my gap year studying in Germany, and then spending all my Summers in college working at a Summer Camp in the Wetterstein Alps in Bavaria. Then after graduation from University, to my first expat work posting to Asia, in South Korea.

Now I live in London, not because of a work assignment , but because I fell in love with, and then married a Brit. And at the time, the Defence of Marriage Act, (DOMA) forced us, and many other same sex couples to leave the US in order to simply be with our legally married spouses. Now that DOMA has been partially overturned and those legal barriers to spousal immigration are gone, we are getting asked one question repeatedly..

"So.. When are you guys moving to the U.S?"

That is a difficult question, for a lot of reasons. Not the least of which is purely logistic. The lengthy, and complicated process of my move from the US to London over 5 years ago was physically, emotionally and financially exhausting. So the prospect of packing up our lives all over again to move half way across the world is a bit daunting. Yet the question keeps being asked, don't I want to come home?

Oscar Wilde once said the United States and Great Britain were two countries separated by a common language. While there so much about life in the UK that is similar to life back home, it is at the end of the day a foreign country, and I am, at the end of the day a foreigner here. A resident alien. So make no mistake, I miss home, as much as  I love our life here in the UK,,  having the clerk at the supermarket say; "Oooh! I just love your accent! Where are you from Luv?", is amusing the first ten times it happens. But when it happens every single time, it gets very old, very quickly.

So the  answer to the question do I want to come home  is, yes of course I do, and eventually I will be heading home,   I'm just going the long away 'round.     Yet as I watch the 2016 U.S. Presidential race take shape, its hard not to feel that going home again, wouldn't be such a wonderful thing after all.

I will be supporting Hillary Clinton in this next election, but to be honest, it's hard to get really excited about it. I do like her, but I find her to be an over-cautious centrist.  Bernie Sanders has struck a strong populist cord with many, but his elect- ability is highly doubtful.   Also, I should confess that   I am a Democrat by default. Those who know me still marvel at that, because I used to be a Republican. 

The  GOP left me in 1992 when it ran full speed off the cliffs of insanity deciding that the GOP platform would be not to give Americans something to vote for, but rather try to fear monger voters in to what and who they should vote against. (Gays, immigrants, women who want to control their own bodies, people who are not white conservative evangelicals.etc. etc.)

So when I see and hear  ALL of the current Republican candidates for President talk about the need to take away my civil rights, and how using the power of the executive branch of the federal government to forcibly dissolve my marriage  would be one their first priorities upon winning the oval office.  Along with claiming that allowing people and businesses to discriminate against me in the public sphere is "protecting religious liberty";   I can't help but feel that way home growing longer  and longer by the day.    


Living overseas sounds exciting,  friends back in the United States always say how much they envy the life I have. But they don't see the whole picture.   Yes  living as an expat is an exciting and culturally diverse adventure.   Yet at the same time  you are all too aware that should something happen to a loved one at home, like a serious illness or accident,  you are, (under the best of circumstances), at least a full day's travel away, if you are lucky.     

My parents are thankfully both in good health,  but I am all too aware of the distance  from here to there,    My husband being here in the UK,   was unable to get back to Malaysia to see either  his Father or  Mother when they each suddenly took ill and passed away.  I would be lying if I didn't admit that scenario at times wakes me up in the middle of the night. 

So  this next Presidential election will determine just how long that long way 'round actually will be. A President Hillary Clinton would certainly  give us greater options to shorten that journey.   

After all...   There's no place like home.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

The Sound of My Silence...

Many of you have wondered why I have been largely  silent over the past few months, and  have not been blogging  on the  2016 US Presidential race.   The reason is pretty simple.

There is only so much crazy I can tolerate.  

I have watched the  unfolding events  around the  2016 American Presidential race with a growing sense of despair.    I had hoped that after  the 2012  election the Republican Party would find  that mindless factless, and patently racist obstructionism was not a path back to the White House.

Apparently  that hope was at best a fantasy.    The Republican Party  as it had existed throughout American history beginning with the election of Abraham Lincoln, is  dead.    It had  been in a coma since 1996, but now it is long past time  to declare the GOP  officially brain dead.

When the core platform of the GOP is to once again, make pre-existing conditions a reason to deny a person health care, and to take away civil rights from thousands of Americans by forcibly divorcing them from their husbands and wives;  You have to wonder at the basic sanity ,  let alone decency of the cirque d'insanity that  calls itself the Republican Party in 2016.   Let alone  their  current clear  front runner.


Seriously...  this  is what passes for a front runner in Republican Presidential politics in 2016.  But ok... lets pretend for a moment that Donald Trump is not the face, (and Id)  of the modern day GOP, who is next in line?  

That would be this guy...


Lets pretend for just a moment that  the guy who just won the GOP race in the Iowa Caucus is not a serious contender for the  GOP presidential nomination.   So who else is there?   Ladies and Gentlemen ,  meet  the guy who is next in line...   Marco Rubio.


There is no  reason  for any sane, decent patriotic American to even consider voting for any of the current crop of  GOP Presidential candidates.   

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Yeah... It's been a while. I blame the GOP.

 The blog has been quiet for a while. A number of you have emailed asking. "What gives?". Well, life gets busy ... Lame excuse I know,   but. It's all I got.

To be honest, I have also been waiting. Waiting for the Republican Party to sort out the bat-sh*t crazy cirque d'insanity that has been their Presidential candidate field to date. Every time I have sat down at the keyboard to comment on the GOP primary field, it just seemed a waste of time. None of the front runners were even remotely sane, let alone actual viable candidates for President of the United States.

The Republican Party has tried to cull the herd. Employing a process for deciding who gets to be in their Presidential Candidate Debates, so convoluted that is has become a bigger story than the debates themselves. Cue Rachel with a report on the chaos...


 That was LAST week. Things went downhill from there. By the time this week's Fox Business channel sponsored debate came around, not only was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie demoted down to the. "kids table" undercard debate for polling number underachievers; But South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, arguably the GOP field's most experienced candidate running, was bumped out of all debates.  

We are now at a point where people are tuning in to GOP Presidential debates not to learn about the candidates, but purely for the comedy value.

 
 
The GOP has their  two "front runners",  Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson.  Trump... Sigh... Okay, I'll get to "the Donald" in a moment,  but for now  lets just say  the fact that we having a conversation about  the next Republican Presidential Nominee, and that conversation includes the words "Donald Trump",  pretty much sums up the state of  the Republican Party in 2015.     As far as Carson goes...  Where even to begin?   We have a man running for president with a backstory, that he seems to have simply made up because, hey!  It sounded cool!   

Carson's claims range from having been offered admission to West Point over lunch with US Army General William Westmoreland, to having tried to hit his own Mother with a hammer, and stab a "close relative". A violent streak that prompted him to lock himself in a bathroom for three hours, where he apparently found Jesus, and instantly and became a god fearing man of peace and justice.

The problem is none of those claims from Carson's personal biography have stood up to even mild fact checking by Journalists. Prompting Carson to shriek hysterically how NO OTHER CANDIDATE has EVER been subjected to the kind of background checking and vetting he is being forced to undergo... Because you know... Nobody has EVER done any investigating into anything about Hillary Clinton. Yes..... he actually made that claim with a straight face.
 
Lesson one in national campaign politics. If you attack the press for trying to verify claims you make. The press is going to take that as a big fat flashing neon sign that says. "KEEP DIGGING!" because clearly you are pants-on-fire lying. Annnnnddddd.... Cue the VERY predictable result:
 


Then there is Jeb Bush. At some level you gotta feel for poor Jeb, after all, he locked up the big GOP establishment donors right out of the gate. He is the closest thing the Republican party has to a Dauphin -style heir apparent. Not to mention the fact, that had he not lost to Lawton Chiles in the Florida Governors race back in 1994 it is likely that he, not his brother George W, would have been the GOP nominee in 2000. Oh how fortunes change...
 
The son of the 41rst, and brother of the 43rd President of the United States, a two term Governor of one of the most pivotal electoral battle ground states,  the heir to a political dynasty on par with the Kennedy;   Is running a campaign that makes the 1988 Michael Dukakis campaign look  good by comparison.
 
 
Over on the Democratic side, its all been pretty standard. Mild even. The Democratic debates have been far less entertaining, but have had their moments. Yes Bernie Sanders is a serious candidate, and he is slowly pushing Hillary Clinton out of her centrist comfort zone and to more progressive left-of-centre position. While former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley along with Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb; (who you really don't need to know about, because they're both gone already), just wished people would remember their names.
 



If nothing else, the 2016 campaign will make sure late night television comedy is epic.   

Back to Donald Trump... ugh! It's like we are living in some bizarre Back To The Future alternate time line where Donald Trump is considered a serious voice in America's national debate. A voice that says sh*t like this...

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the clear front runner for the Republican Presidential nomination, Donald J. Trump. What is becoming more clear every day, is that GOP primary voters have basically become the American Idol audience that kept voting for Sanjaya (Trump), just so they could get to see the veins in the Judge's (Republican National Committee's) foreheads, throb in pain.


American Idol voters finally did vote Sanjaya off the show. It remains to be seen if GOP primary voters are willing to be equally as pragmatic, or if they will destroy the Republican Party's hopes of ever winning another national election, simply because they can.

Grab the popcorn kids! It's gonna be fun to watch... 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Looking back from the other side of the Closet Door...

The following is a updated repost of  one of the first blog entries I ever wrote, back in  October, 2006.   
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I was bouncing around the web a couple of weeks back and stumbled on zabasearch.com. It is a site than helps you locate addresses of people. So out of curiosity I typed in the name of my best friend from High School. Sure enough a result for his name came up. Not sure if it was the right person rather than call, I sent a note with my business card attached saying, if this was who I thought it was, to please write back.

A couple of weeks went by... and I forgot about it. I honestly didn't expect to hear anything back. Then the other day I got an email and it was indeed from him. It is an interesting experience in a way. I really have not heard from him since I attended his wedding. At the time I really envied him. He was marrying a wonderful gal and starting to build a life. They now have a five year old son with a daughter on the way due in December. He said it was amazing to hear from me couldn't wait to hear all about what I have been doing over the past few years.

I will confess, I have mixed feelings about that.

For the most part, I have not kept in touch with anyone from my High School days. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed High School, had great friends and good memories. Yet it really was a whole different life. Like many LGBT kids in the mid to late 80's I was closeted and terrified of coming out. On some level every day had some undercurrent of fear of my "secret" being discovered. The ultimate put-down was to say something was "gay" or to be called a "fag". You saw the kids who were even slightly effeminate or "different" getting tormented on a daily basis.

So you kept your mouth shut and your eyes closed. When you watched those 80's brat-pack movies, while your friends oggled Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy, you didnt admit to anyone, not even to yourself that you thought Rob Lowe and Emilo Estavez were really hot.

Add to that, the media was full of stories of this new "gay disease" called AIDS, and the Reagan and first Bush Administrations were not interested in getting any information about it out to the public. So like a lot of gay kids I didn't know what to think. Could I get AIDS by coming out? By even holding hands or kissing a guy? Was it really God's way of getting rid of homosexuals? The fear you felt was this huge cloud that hung over you every day. You really did wonder if you were destined to be miserable and alone for your entire life.

And of course at time I thought I was the ONLY gay kid on earth. Now I know that there were in fact more than a few. Even at my own school. But at the time, the sense of isolation was overwhelming. But then, time moved on. I left and in many ways never looked back.

I moved to Europe, studied there, came back to WI and went to college, after graduation worked, traveled back to Europe, then even moved to Asia. Eventually, I came back to the US and settled in Chicago, and then I came out.

Like many people, for me coming out was a frightening and painful process of self-discovery and acceptance. I think back on the fear I felt in those days and it seems like I am watching a movie of someone else's life. A life that I would not ever want to revisit. Yet in truth it was MY issue, not my friends. They had no way of knowing what I felt. The whole traditional High School experience of the first date, first dance , first kiss, first umm... "whatever", while a given for everyone else, was just not possible for a lesbian or Gay kid in South Central Wisconsin in the 1980's. Or at least not for me.

Many Gays and Lesbians who should be my age never lived to see today. The statistics on suicide for LGBT youth in the 1980's and 90's will give you nightmares. I am so amazingly fortunate to have the family that I do. My parents are the two most incredible, supportive and amazing people in the whole world. Coming out to them while scary as hell, was truly the end of an old life and the beginning of a new much brighter and happier one.

( Just in case I haven't told you - Thanks Mom & Dad.)

I marvel at many of today's LGBT kids with "Gay Straight Alliances" and alternative proms. When I read about kids taking their same sex partner to a high school dance, I can only smile and be amazed at how, at least in some places how far we have come. Though certainly for thousands of LGBT youth in America the reality has not changed from the one I knew .

Over the years I didn't stay in touch with people back from "back home". One wedding, an occasional Christmas Card was pretty much the limit of my contact , and even that soon stopped. Someone recently asked me why I didn't keep in touch with people from those days, and honestly I didn't really have a good answer. Hence my card to my friend.

I know what you are wondering. Will I tell my old friend (s) that I am gay? Will I open up my life now to those people from my life "then"? Does it even matter?

Honestly? I don't know. I'll keep you posted...
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FLASH FORWARD  Nine years...  October 11, 2015

It is worth noting,  the friend I wrote about  in  2006 , like so many other  amazing friends from my life  have shown me  in words and deeds  what I have always suspected,  my friends are in general, a lot wiser than I am.   As  I mark today's  National Coming Out Day there are straight allies in my life who  I still cannot thank enough,  

From the friend who answered that  letter in 2006,  and reminded me  why were friends in the first place, and  still today  reminds me to laugh at life  more than  30 years on.  To the Lawyer in Dallas who challenged my own  stereotypes of how I thought friends  would react to my coming out,  and instead ended up teaching me invaluable lessons about  acceptance and true friendship, traveling half way around the world to surprise me at my wedding.

There is the couple in Georgia whose friendship has literally spanned oceans and decades, who always knew, didn't care, and have always loved me for who I am.  The Career Air Force officer and his wife in Germany, who I had the honour of being a Groomsmen at their wedding, and years later are still sharing their adventures with me. To the School Teacher from Boston, who lived a remarkable  life of  always seeking the best in people, taught me to do the same  and  whose passing has left me  missing him every day.   All these amazing people, along with so many others I am blessed to call my friends.

And as always, my incredible family who just by being themselves  encouraged me,  and gave me strength  to just .... be myself.

And yes,  to those who,  for reasons political,  social,  and religious  felt they could not  continue our friendship,  I thank you as well.  Not because  I don't miss you,  for believe, me,  I  do miss you , every day. Yet  I owe you my thanks for  showing me that the choice to live authentically does not come without cost, and therefore must not, ever be taken for granted.  

Lastly,  to my amazing husband  Eric.   Who without even trying,  provides me with  living proof every day  that taking those steps to come out of the closet were by far, the best ones I have ever made.
 
 

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

17 Years Ago... Remembering Matthew Shepard

Wednesday October 7th, 1998 was a fairly ordinary day in Chicago. I was working for a small consulting firm in the near West suburb of Oak Park, and had spent the day in a series of fairly productive meetings. So I felt pretty good when I got home from work. I was puttering around my apartment making dinner when I picked up the remote control for the TV and turned on CNN.

The lead story was a brutal attack of a young man in Laramie Wyoming named Matthew Shepard. Shepard, age 21, had been beaten into a coma and left tied to fence along a rural highway outside the city. The news report noted that the victim was a young gay man and was not expected to survive.

I remember walking down into “boystown” (the north Halstead area of Chicago, and the center of the city’s Gay community). There were lots of people standing around outside the bars, and restaurants along Halsted Street, talking about what had happened in Wyoming. A makeshift memorial had been set up on the corner of Halsted and Roscoe.

I walked into the 7-11 there on the corner and bought a small votive candle, lit it and placed it with the growing number of candles, handwritten notes and flowers that were being placed around a picture of Matthew that someone had printed off the internet. I stayed for a little while talking to people who were gathered there. Some people were angry, others sad, but we all knew that something in our own community had changed as a result of what had happened,  hundreds of miles away in field outside Laramie.

In 1998 I had just moved to Chicago after being overseas in South Korea. I was in the middle of my own “coming out” process,  and was gathering up my courage to have “the talk” with my parents when I went home for Thanksgiving in a few weeks time. I will admit the news of Matthew Shepard’s brutal murder shook me up. Suddenly the decisions I was making to live openly and honestly as who I was, had potentially fatal consequences.

On an intellectual level you always knew that there were “gay bashers” out there. People who were so conflicted about their own sexuality that they felt the way to “cure” themselves was to attack others for what they feared most about themselves. Yet now those hypothetical risks, were not so hypothetical.  What's more, those cosequences now  had a face, and a name.

As I walked home, my thoughts turned to Matthew Shepard’s parents. What must they be thinking and feeling? Had they known Matt was gay? Did it really matter? Years later I would have the great honor of meeting Judy Shepard,  and hear her tell her own powerful story .

Now 17 years later, I marvel at how my own life has changed. I am married to an amazing man, we have incredible friends and loving families who remind us every day,  that the world is not as bleak and dark a place as it seemed,  on that October night in 1998.

Yet I am still saddened and angry that there are many people in America who honestly feel that Matthew Shepard got what “he had coming to him”. That demonizing , discriminating against, and even murdering Gays and Lesbians is somehow “doing God’s work”.

People with a vested interest in keeping LGBT people as the one group it is still safe to hate. People who seek to profit, personally, politically and even economically from fomenting deadly hatred and fear of others. Bigots whose actions and beliefs are the farthest thing from being Christian, yet claim to have a monopoly on what they claim God thinks and who they claim "God hates".

I really don’t have a point to make here, other than to say it’s important to remember Matthew and so many others like him who have died as a result of hatred and bigotry. If you want to get involved, here are a few great places to start...

The Matthew Shepard Foundation: http://www.matthewshepard.org/

The Trevor Project: http://www.thetrevorproject.org/

The Ben Cohen Stand Up Foundation: http://www.standupfoundation.com/

The We Give a Damn Campaign: http://www.wegiveadamn.org/

The "It Gets Better" Project:  http://www.itgetsbetter.org/

Thanks,

Dave

Monday, September 21, 2015

Time Flies... Towards Change

 Tempus fugit et nos fugimus in illus…    “Time flies, and we fly with it..”

It was a pretty hectic weekend around here. First there was the Malaysian Food and cultural festival in Trafalgar Square on Friday night. Normally my Malaysian Chinese husband would view such events with haughty disdain, claiming the food offerings had been watered down to be point of having lost all authenticity. Yet when the dust settled, even Eric had to admit they did okay.   

Then it was up early on Saturday to head over to London’s O2 Arena to hear a lecture by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Speaking to a fairly packed arena for nearly two hours on the subject of compassion. Followed by a very interesting Question & Answer session led by Daniel Goldman, author of the book “Emotional Intelligence

By the time Sunday rolled around, we were ready for a more relaxed day. Having puttered around the house being domestic in the morning, watching the Rugby World Cup match between the United States and Samoa. (Samoa pretty much clobbered our boys I’m sad to say….) We then headed to Central London for a late lunch, and some window shopping. As we were walking down Shaftesbury Avenue, just past Cambridge Circus, it was there we saw it…

What we saw was the reason I am optimistic about the 2016 election in the United States, and the future of Western Civilisation in general.

You see, for the past few weeks the ultra-social conservative wing-nuto-sphere in the United States has been losing their collective minds over the idea that marriage equality for same sex couples is now a fact, not just a concept. Hypocritical bigots like three time divorcee Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, have shrieked hysterical cries of anti-Christian oppression because they are not allowed to impose their beliefs on others. While the usual cast of hate-peddlers line up to ride that train of contrived victimhood as long as possible,  to milk donations from the bigoted and gullible.

Then there was what Eric and I saw Sunday afternoon here in London. Two young men, they had to be at the most 16 or 17 years old. Clearly a couple, clearly in new young love. Arms round each other as they walked down the street, they stopped briefly to wait for a third friend walking behind them to catch up, seizing the moment to share a brief, sweet and harmless PDA (public display of affection). The shorter of the two, leaning up to kiss his boyfriend.

 Walking along behind them, I had to smile and marvel at how different the world is from the first time I walked down this same street in 1986. I wasn’t that much older than these two young men. At the time the idea of even being “out of the closet” let alone waking down one of the busiest streets in a major city as a couple, just like any other seemed inconceivable.

Yet here I was, 29 years later, again walking down Shaftesbury Avenue, but holding my husband’s hand, and watching these two young men ahead of us just… being a couple. No furtive glances to see if anyone was watching. No awkward looks or hateful comments from any passers by. They were just a beautiful young couple out enjoying a beautiful early fall day.

Watching the Republican Presidential debate last week from the Reagan Presidential Library, the likes of Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, and Bobby Jindal shook their little fists and stamped their feet. Claiming “radical homo-facists” are out to criminalize Christianity. Claiming these two young men were attacking western civilization itself. Opportunistic hate merchants like Tony Perkins, and Bryan Fischer desperately trying to keep alive a battle to preserve bigotry.  

The base of Republican party has decided to try to stand in way of history. Like George Wallace in the doorway of a school in Alabama shaking his little fist in defence of racism. A generation later the Kim Davis’ of today are just as out of touch.

The good news is, it is a battle they are losing. In so many places, the world truly has moved on. Not everywhere of course. There are still many parts of the world, even in the United States where that wonderful young couple would be quickly attacked or even killed for such a harmless display of affection. Yet in many other places, the tide has clearly turned.

The millennial generation isn’t buying the hatred and bigotry that Tony Perkins and his ilk are peddling . Instead we see a generation that sees diversity as a good thing not a threat.  In his lecture last Saturday, the Dalai Lama spoke of how compassion is a innate human characteristic, that sadly in many instances we are taught to disregard. Yet he said he is hopeful that as a species, we can reclaim it.

Those two young men, blissfully caught up in each other’s company are not a threat to Kim Davis, or anyone else, Love is not a zero-sum proposition. My marriage doesn’t diminish anyone else’s.

Tempus Fugit… Time flies, and as with all things, the only constant in the Universe is change. By clinging to the strategy of trying to get people to vote against other Americans  because they are unable to get  get people to vote for their ideas, the 2016 Republican Presidential Candidate Clown Car will clearly and thankfully, end up where in belongs. In the electoral ditch.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Remembering A September Morning...

(The following is an updated repost  of an entry from Sept. 11th, 2011)

Today the media, and the blogposphere will undoubtedly be full of all sorts of remembrances and commentary around what is the 14th  anniversary of the terrorist attack on the United States on September 11, 2001.

To be honest I really don't like to dwell on the topic. Not out of any sense of personal pain, but more out of respect, for those people I know who were far closer to the events of that day than I was. My experience that day was a somewhat surreal one.

I had gotten up very early and caught a flight from Chicago Midway to Houston. I was heading there for work. It was about 20 minutes into the flight, the seat belt sign had just turned off, and people where shifting about, getting comfortable. I had just pulled out my laptop to work on the presentation I was going to be giving later that day. Suddenly the seat belt sign came back on, and the crew announced that everyone was to return to their seats and prepare for landing, the flight would be returning to Chicago.

The Pilot then came on the speaker system to say that there was nothing wrong with the plane, and we were returning to Chicago because the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) had ordered the flight to return to "clear air traffic". He said that was all the information they had, and he apologized for the inconvenience.

Everyone on the plane thought the same thing. (Not terrorism.) Chicago Midway had upgraded to a new Air Traffic Control System earlier in the Summer and a few weeks prior, there had been a series of glitches that had delayed several flights. Everyone groaned, made comments about "Government Efficiency" assuming it was yet another problem with Midway's system that was going to mess up  our day. 

This  assumption that was bolstered when the captain came back on the loudspeaker  and announced  that we were not returning to Midway but rather we were diverted to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

The woman sitting next to me was happy about this thinking at least it might be easier to get on the next flight out to Houston. I nodded, and said "I hope so", thinking of how I might salvage the rest of my schedule that day and make my afternoon meetings on time.

It took us about 30 minutes of circling over O'Hare before we could land. Sitting in a window seat I watched as the line of planes waiting to land stretched to the far horizon and oddly enough, no planes were taking off. I commented on this to the woman next to me, and she said "wow Midway's systems must be really screwed up!" I laughed and said that what we get for Ronald Reagan having fired all the good Air Traffic Controllers. She laughed and said she had forgotten about that.

We landed and had to wait an additional 20 minutes to get a gate. but finally pulled up to a jetway , and we all lumbered off the plane into the gate area I was getting annoyed because people were not clearing the area in front of the door but were all standing around the televisions that were tuned to the CNN Airport Network. I was about to say a loud "excuse me!" when I happened to look up at the TV and saw CNN  replay footage from ABC of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center.



CNN then cut to live shot of a column of smoke and ash where the World Trade Center Towers were supposed to be, but weren't. I called my office and my boss told me not to come in, The area in downtown Chicago around the Sears Tower was being evacuated. I called my parents and let them know I was not in Houston, got on the CTA Blue Line and went home.   The rest of that day I did what most Americans did, watched the news, and when the images became overwhelming, I put on my roller blades and went blading along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

It was brilliant sunny day. One of those late Summer, early Fall days that you get in Chicago that make you appreciate what a beautiful city it is. As I stopped at Oak Street Beach and admired the downtown Chicago skyline, I didn't think that somehow the "world had changed". But rather I found myself thinking how the United States had  sadly, finally  joined the rest of the world.

Before that that morning, Terrorism was something that happened in other places, Israel, Lebanon London, Belfast , places far away. Even the first World Trade Center bombing for many people, didn't seem like international terrorism. After all, the people responsible were caught when they tried to get the deposit back on the rental van they had used. (How sinister could people that dumb be?)    That is what changed I think, it was the moment America lost the illusion that somehow our two oceans would keep us safe from global terrorism.

For friends of mine who lived in New York on that day,  I understand  that  today  is a much different  experience for them.   A good friend of mine is  a New York City Police Officer  who  lost an arm in the attack that day.   Another friend of mine worked  for an investment bank housed in the  North Tower,  she had a doctors appointment so she didn't go into work  that morning.   For her, today  is a reminder of  the  friends and co-workers  she lost  that day.

For the numerous friends of mine who have served, and currently serve in both Afghanistan and Iraq with the American and British Armed Forces, they deal with the effects September 11, 2001 on a far different level than most people ever will.

So this evening, as many Londoners and ex-pats attend the 9-11 memorial service at Westminster Abbey , people all over the world will remember the events of that day, pray for those who were lost, and show solidarity and support for friends and family for whom this anniversary is far more personal than political.

God Bless America, God bless us all.