Monday, July 4, 2011

It's ok to be patriotic.

One month before I turned 21, September 11th happened. I was in college. I was studying abroad in Italy. I was sitting outside on some steps reading something for class, a history text of some sort. I was by myself. Others were around but I was alone, sitting there, studying. Suddenly someone came out of a set of doors and  sort of announced what had happened. At first I didn't really understand what they meant. I didn't really know much about New York or what the buildings were called, or how big they were or what significance they held.  Of course, every soon, I realized the gravity of the situation, and huddled around the one available television in the nearest building and watched as the story unfolded. We were all shocked of course, really shocked, just...speechless. I remember my first reaction as it all began to sink in... "I want to go home." I wanted go home. And for me, this was the first time in my life where "home," really just meant, "America."


I didn't necessarily need to see my parents or my friends. I didn't have a longing for my own bed or my house. None of those things mattered really. No, all I wanted, was, America. Plain and simple. I wanted American soil. I wanted to have my feet on American ground. Never in my life had I felt that way before, and I dare say, I have never felt that way since. I have had moments where I have been traveling and wanted my own bed or familiar people and places, but never such a longing, a deep and utter *need* for the country itself. It was a new sensation and something that is hard to describe.

 I remember feeling so stupid. So stupid to be in Italy. So stupid that I was there, on some fancy semester abroad, when I should be home, crying, and blaming, and questioning, and grieving, with my people.With *my* people.

The first thing we were told was to not announce our presence. The sign outside our University was taken down, the gates were locked, we were  forbidden to leave campus until we heard other news.  When we finally ventured out of our area into the world, a few days later, we were told to try and hide the fact that we were Americans, speaking English only when necessary, and travel in smaller groups, just in case we were targets. It was scary.

Every 4th of July since that semester in Italy, I am forced to reflect on that feeling. The first time in my life that I really felt that America was my home, where my heart truly longed to be, and how I was told to not let that show, and how that hurt so much.

Today is the last 4th of July I will celebrate in America for at least a couple years. Martin asked me today, as we were coming home from a day of celebration with my family, if this particular July 4th had more meaning, knowing that it will one of the last we spend here for the foreseeable future. I said yes, of course it has more meaning. I am not so dramatic or silly to say that I will *never* be here again to celebrate America's birthday. Of course I will. But every year that I am not, I know that I will feel this day more keenly. There will be a pricking in my eyes and a lump in my throat when I think of my homeland and how I am away from it on the day of its birth. Happy Birthday America!

What do you mean it isn't *my* birthday?!


  1. Oh my gosh...this brought tears to my eyes, Olivia. America is going to miss you guys A LOT!

  2. Yeah, I could barely get through the lyrics to "America the Beautiful," at Church on Sunday. You don't know what you have until it's gone...or you know, 4,000 miles away.