By Kelley S. Willis
I was in Naples Italy when the planes hit. I toured Pompeii (couldn't get home, after all) while the ash fell on Manhattan. I stayed in Paris with family friends of my father from WWII, while we waited for the flight ban to be lifted.
I attended bi-lingual services at Notre Dame, for all the losses in America, and all the stranded travelers in Paris, while the Mayor went on the radio hourly asking for citizens to call in to volunteer to take in these same travelers that had overwhelmed Paris's hotels.
I came home to zombie-followers of Bush, liberal friends all, who had seen 8(?) days of noncommercial, unplotted TV news, seen the attack played ad infinitum and the speeches of Junior and Rudy run on perpetual loops on TV.
I had seen the true reaction of the world, in Italy, France and England, among locals and immigrants.
I remember our taxi driver in Paris, a Muslim who refused to let us pay for our fare.'We're all Americans now.' I remember the old crone from Greece, traveling to her brother's funeral, who patted my hand as we flew from Rome to Paris during the world-wide minute of silence, 'So sad. So sad.' And I remember the French Antarctic explorers, with whom we stayed, in their eighties now, who brought their 5-nation reunion to a halt as we entered, raising their glasses to these two disheveled Americans, "We are all Americans." I damned near cry as I type this, remembering their unanimous pride in America.
But the thing that I remember most is the monument the Parisians have put up, on the far corner of the gardens of Les Invalides, to the victims of the series of bombings in Paris in the mid-90's -- bombings most of us never heard about.
It is a fountain of a stylized, single person in a long coat, standing on a small rise. The person's backbone is absolutely straight, a rectangular bar than cannot be bent. The person holds something in the crook of its left arm. And that something explains the rise on which the statue stands. Because that something held by the statue is the person's head, open and unflinching, standing eye-to-eye with the observer. While the water of the fountain flows slowly out of the severed neck of the person, killed in a terrorist attack, flowing down the coat, the victim continues to stand, unbowed, open-eyed, undaunted.
I needed that monument that day, to remind me that people before us have learned how to survive, how to continue on, how to deal with tragedy of grand scale.
And I recall that statue as a symbol of all the people I met during those two weeks when I couldn't return home to America. It counters the hatred my government later ginned up against those same helpful, caring people, because they would not do what our president wanted in Iraq.
The statute reminds me of the opportunity America and the rest of the world lost due to the actions of the government we had that day.
Until I die I will never forget what our government did to them, and to us, after 9/11. I doubt I will ever forgive those bureaucrats, Republicans all, for that opportunity wasted.
Kelley S Willis
(Additional photos by Kelley Willis of the memorial in the garden Les Invalides. Recommended.)
(Editorial note: We thank Kelley Willis, of Venice, California, for granting us permission to publish this article, and accompanying photos, exclusive to CowHen.Net. Kelley S. Willis retains the copyright to this article, but grants right to republication if published in full, without modification, and with credit Kelley S. Willis, and citation to this post at CowHen.Net.)