Posted by: David Meale, Economic Officer
For me, the 9/11 attacks occurred at night because I was living in Taiwan. I immediately called my wife in the United States. She was eight-months pregnant and getting ready to deliver our second child. We stayed on the phone for a long time, watching the tragedy unfold and yelling, “I can’t believe this!” to each other, over and over again.
During the weeks that followed, the work I did as an economic officer changed very quickly. The United States Government suddenly became very interested in laws and activities around the world that might have bearing on the ability of terrorists to transfer money in support of future attacks. All of us rapidly learned a new language for engaging host governments. Expressions like “suspicious transaction,” “Financial Action Task Force,” and “hawala.”
Meanwhile, my wife’s pregnancy advanced, and I prepared for travel to the United States for the birth of my son. During those weeks, the anthrax attacks unfolded, and it felt like there was no limit to how bad things might get just as my family was growing. When I arrived in the United States a month later, it was shocking to see armed members of the National Guard patrolling the airport and flags and ribbons of support for our country attached to cars everywhere.
My son’s birth on October 18 went well, but I knew that day that he had been born in a changed United States of America. The 11 years since have certainly demonstrated my country’s resilience, but it still surprises me to watch my son’s confused face when I tell him about the days before the attacks… a time when you didn’t have to take your shoes off while passing through airport security and when two 1,350 foot (411 meters) tall buildings – my son loves skyscrapers – gave a unique silhouette to the Southern tip of Manhattan.