While most people at USF witnessed the attacks here in Tampa on television, many in the USF community were overseas Sept. 11, 2001 and had a different perspective on the events of that day and of the past year.
Paula Lee, a professor in the Humanities Department, was on research leave in Paris. After spending time elsewhere in Europe, she arrived in Paris the morning of Sept. 11. a few hours before the attacks. A frequent visitor to France, she noted a sharp difference in the treatment of Americans in Paris.
“I found an astonishing amount of support,” Lee said. “Knowing I was American, my neighbors were extremely generous and helped me in any way they could. ”
She also noted the lack of stereotypical French condescension.
“I had never seen such pro-American sentiment in France.”Americans in Paris also gathered in droves.
“At the American Church, a nondenominational church, American and French people came together,” Lee said. “Heads of state came to lend their support, as well”
The changes in security were even more drastic than in the States.
“In Paris, they instituted the plÃ¢n vigisirate, an anti-terrorist measure,” Lee said. “All public restrooms and garbage cans were sealed, and there was frequent questioning by authorities.”
She also noticed a heightened military-police presence, especially on Le MÃ¨tro, Paris’ subway system.
“You’d see Arabs singled out and questioned frequently on the subway,” she said.
Foreigners found significant deficiencies with airport security.
“The main lasting change I’ve seen in America has been airport safety,” said Mike Salmond, a British native who is a graduate student in visual arts. “It was almost comical how minimal the security was at airports, especially in Tampa. It was like a breath of fresh air to come here, but now I’ve seen loads of changes where it’s on par with Europe.”
Like many Europeans, he said the main problem is with American foreign policies and not America itself.
“The only good that may come from this is that America will believe itself to be part of the greater world and listen to other countries,” Salmond said.
Salmond likened the media deluge of terrorism to that of IRA bombings of London in the 1980s. After a while, the public became decidedly desensitized to the point that the fight against terrorism didn’t matter. He hopes that America doesn’t react likewise.
“It’s a horrible way to learn a lesson,” said Salmond.
Others in Europe felt more divided on the issues. Vince Nihoul, a Belgian exchange student, had similar feelings to Salmond.
“There were many who felt more radical, as if the U.S. should have expected (the attacks),” said Nihoul.
In Belgium at the time, he felt that there was a ripple effect for all the world’s great cities. Brussels, the headquarters of NATO, said that it was also in danger and shut down most public facilities.
While Nihoul said he would like to see changes in America’s international policy, he believes the world feels the same as America.
“I think, politically, Europe’s relationship with America will be the same as before,” Nihoul said. “But we are definitely closer on an emotional level.”