It was the day of our women's Bible study, and we were mourning the loss of one of our members, who was killed in a bus accident. A new woman had joined us, and she stood to speak: "My name is Peggy Gnehm, my husband Skip is the new American Ambassador to Jordan. We arrived yesterday. Skip served in Jordan before, and in Kuwait and Saudi. We seem to show up when there is conflict. We want you to know that we are here for you; we don't know what the future holds in this region, but we are here to serve."
Her comment about conflict was reassuring, with the Intifada on one side and Iraq on the other.
Later that afternoon, we had a Jordanian couple over. I was frazzled cooking with three boys under 6 under foot, and when a friend called to say that we needed to turn on the TV, I said "I am busy." She said "Turn it on. A plane has flown into the World Trade Center." I did, just as the second plane hit, and I realized the magnitude of what was happening.
Our guest immediately said: "This was Osama bin Laden's work." I had no idea who he was. His fiancé said: "Please God, don't let it be Arabs who did this, the world hates us enough already."
I went outside for fresh air and was immediately struck that busy, noisy Amman was as silent as a tomb. There was no celebration, only stunned stillness. I could almost hear neighbors whispering, "Please God, don't let it be Arabs."
The phone began to ring, friends from the United States asking if we were OK. You guys are the ones getting attacked, not us. Are you ok? Then came another flood of phone calls: Every Jordanian who had our number called to say how sorry they were. Later, we received condolence visits, even strangers in stores would offer their sympathy. Two Jordanians died in the tragedy.
Our ambassador and his wife were indeed there for us. God brought them the day before we needed them, and through the second Gulf War. Four years later, Jordan had her own 9/11, when on Nov. 9, 2005, three hotels were attacked simultaneously by suicide bombers, one in the middle of a wedding. We lived close enough to feel the windows shake.
Arabs are more often targets of terrorism than the West and bear media-imposed culpability when they can be its victims, too. The perpetrators had nurtured fear and pain of others into hatred. In the 10 years since, I have been dismayed when I see fear and pain morph into hate in Christian hearts. It's another thing to reflect on as we remember 9/11.
-Wendy Merdian is a writer who has lived with her husband and children in Amman for 20 years.