Terrible News from Home While Far Away--and in French

I learned about the terrible events of 9/11 while on a consultancy for the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in Benin, West Africa. Our team was on a trip to various sites in rural areas of the country when one of our local team members got a message from her husband with the news. When we arrived that night in a secondary city we finally saw the horrible TV footage (all in French--no news in English until we returned to the capital city). My first thought was worry about my daughter-in-law who frequently flew from West Virginia to Pennsylvania. With great difficulty (very limited communications available and no cell phones back then) I was finally able to reach them, and find out with great relief that she was OK.

When we got back to the capital I got many, many heartfelt expressions of sympathy from the Beninese people I interacted with. When I finally arrived back in the Washington DC area after the trip, I found it totally transformed, streets closed, buildings blocked off and normal life paralyzed, especially in the downtown area. It immediately became very difficult to get into any government or important public building. The aftereffects made my work as an international development consultant very frustrating because of flight security and general access restrictions. Life in the DC area has never returned to the way it was before.

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