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I am writing this on a long night flight to Sydney, Australia. American planes dropped the first bombs on Afghanistan this morning, and I won't know until I land how widely this war has spread. I'm not quite sure what day it is (we lose one in the air), and jet lag is probably not a state conducive to writing. Yet I've had an extraordinary few weeks—haven't we all?—and feel a need to sort it through, which by profession and by inclination I do through writing.

I learned of the terrorist attacks when my brother called me on the morning of an ordinary workday. Like almost everyone, when I heard about the attacks I stopped what I was doing and sat glued to the television as the surreal events unfolded. All the commentators' speculation ended when the second plane hit and it became clear this disaster was intentional, not an accident. Three planes were missing, no four—no, maybe six. And then something no one could imagine took place live on network television. Two of the mightiest man-made monuments in the world simply vanished in a cloud of darkness before our eyes.

I have never been especially patriotic. I've traveled too much overseas, I guess, and have seen from afar the arrogance and insensitivity of the U.S. Sometimes I envy my friends who travel with a Canadian, rather than American, passport. Our military, our Olympic athletes, even our tourists walk with a swagger. I remember being in the Philippines around the time of the Sydney Olympics and asking my host if his country had ever won a medal. He hung his head, "We almost did once. And we have a chance for a bronze in boxing at this one." A nation of 90 million people had never won a gold medal. Meanwhile, the Americans were furious if they didn't take home at least ...

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October 2001

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