As news of the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., made its way quickly around the world, reaction both public and personal carried a gentle undercurrent of relief: Now you are one of us, the rest of the world seemed to say.
From peacekeepers in Kosovo to teachers in Jerusalem to earthquake survivors in Japan, foreigners and Americans living abroad have faced the random threats of terrorism, war, and national calamity in a routine way Americans at home have never imagined. Only the Americans, the jokes used to run, expect a report from the nearest embassy dressed up like a weather forecast, telling them when the next suicide bomber will strike.
No one is joking now.
In Jerusalem, itself a city that perpetually lives under a surreal cloud of violence so random it demands a veneer of normal life, the day after the attacks on the United States were no less surreal than any other. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared a Day of Mourning on behalf of the United States, and Israelis took it seriously. Outside the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv locals began a candlelight vigil and erected a placard that read, "All of us today are USA." At 6 p.m. parishioners and visitors alike filed into a prayer service at St. George's Anglican Church. Along with the widespread show of solidarity, Sbarro's in downtown Jerusalem held a grand reopening for its fast-food outlet destroyed by a suicide bomber in August.
"In the United States when there is a great tragedy, we tend to tear down the building and build a memorial," said American Paul Wright, president of Jerusalem University College. "In Israel, folks fix it up as quickly as possible to show that nothing will deter or stop their way of life."
Students at JUC are nearly all Americans engaged in a year of study abroad. They and their Israeli counterparts are "pretty sober," said Mr. Wright. "They understand the risks of being here-and of staying home-and are heeding our advice well.
"It is interesting that over the past few weeks much of the world has criticized Israel for 'taking out' suspected terrorists and terrorist leaders by surgical military strikes. I wonder if the world will support the United States in doing the same as retaliation for this act," said Mr. Wright.
Pastors in Russia called a day of prayer for America, according to Igor Nikitin of the Association of Christian Churches in Russia, who said, "We are grieving together with our American brothers and sisters." Russians also laid flowers outside the U.S. embassy, where demonstrators once angrily denounced the U.S. bombing of Yugoslavia. Officials moved against streetside exchange booths, hoping to stop panic selling of U.S. dollars.
In London, where IRA bombs regularly clog city streets with blue-lit police vans and ambulances, "You can tell who is American on the streets because they look so much more shaken," said Rich Cline, HCJB World Radio missionary. "People are literally walking along sobbing. It's surreal."