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(This post may seem very juxtaposed after just reading about how I almost shat myself, but such is the way life goes. It’s never very predictable, is it?)

Once upon a time, I decidedly turned my back on America as my home and stepped on a plane to fly halfway across the world to somewhat settle in a country I have come to consider my home just as much as (if not sometimes more than) America. New Zealand has stolen my heart and returning to the States last summer for what I considered a vacation has made me realize that the best things I have from there are now just a part of my past. My house feels more like my parent’s house (but not entirely, my room is still my room and the memories from the years spent growing up there tie me to it in a way that is unique to any other place I will go) and Spokane is a graveyard of mementos from yesteryear. Some of the best times of my life so far were spent in Spokane for uni, but they remain buried in the past and can never be re-lived.

Now I’m not one for politics. In fact, I feel like a down-right idiot when people try to talk American politics with me and I have no clue what they are even referencing. Apart from finding as many America patterned clothing I can hold in my arms and wearing ALL of them at a clothing store in the mall, I am not overly patriotic. *I’m proud to be an American, but I’m not usually one to flaunt it. There is nothing worse than an arrogant, overly nationalistic idiot from any country (hence…stereotypes!). In fact, I hardly feel any deep ties to any country, America included. {*I ended up buying those sunglasses. I just had to…}

I have lived in Christchurch for about seven months now, in my flat for maybe five of them, and I have passed this sculpture almost daily.SAM_1425

To be honest, I hardly gave it a second glance. I’ve always assumed it was just another piece of rubble from the earthquakes displayed as some sort of memorial art by the river in remembrance. It is in remembrance, but not of the Christchurch quakes. I was alerted to its real origins by a friend of mine as we were walking past one morning. No, it’s not a part of any Christchurch building; it’s not even a part of any structure in New Zealand.

This warped mass of steel is 100% American.
From New York, to be exact.
It’s a part of the World Trade Center after September 11, 2001.
102nd floor, Tower Two.

We crossed the street to the Firefighters Reserve and examined both that sculpture as well as another part of the second Twin Tower that was over the bridge. It was a brief visit but I went back the next day by myself to have a closer look; I felt the need to be alone as I remembered such a heartbreaking day in our recent history.

The plaque reads:

“This sculpture in the Firefighters Reserve stands as a silent tribute to firefighters worldwide who risk their lives daily in the pursuit of their duty.
Firefighters are always on the front line and never more so than on September 11, 2001, when international terrorists hijacked four domestic SAM_1422American jet airliners and flew them, along with their passengers, into the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center….
In May 2002, five steel girders weighing 5.5 tons were salvaged from the site of the World Trade Center and gifted to the City of Christchurch by the City of New York for use in a public art work to honour all firefighters worldwide[…] The sculpture stands […] near the *historic site of the former Tautahi Pa. There were important Maori cultural and spiritual issues to be considered in placing a sculpture from a site of death near a significant life-giving site[…]”

Wow. Across the river was another part of the World Trade Centers. I stood there in a moment of silence and, without even realizing it, reached out my hand until my fingers SAM_1412were centimeters from touching the metal. I hesitated before gently brushing my fingers down the side. If there were such a thing as an emotional current between people and inanimate objects I would say I felt it pulse from the tips of my fingers straight to my heart. With one fleSAM_1415eing touch I felt more connected to America than ever before and my heart ached for the lives lost and families broken from 13 years ago in a way my twelve year old self wasn’t able to comprehend. Tears sprung into my eyes and I was honestly shocked by the physical reaction that I felt towards something that I previously felt so removed from. How can I be here, in New Zealand, touching a piece of the twin towers? I never saw the World Trade Center, never entered through the doors, never touched the walls or met anyone who worked there. I just assumed that after the attacks it was the end of a story that hadn’t even begun between me and those buildings. The towers were gone, all that was left was to rebuild from ground zero.

What amazes me the most is here I am, halfway across the world, physically touching one on the few remaining bits of a building I saw crumble on tv from across the US 13 years ago. Suddenly I am hit with a wave of respect, admiration, and pride for the country I come from, as well as deep sadness and empathy for what happened on September 11th. I am in awe of how global an impact that day actually had, and what an impact a twisted mass of steel had on me.

*The closest thing I could find to explain what the historic site was that they were referencing was this. You need to understand Maori culture a bit before really getting it, but you can get the gist. It’s pretty incredible how items or spots that represent life and death can sit almost side by side to each other…but that would be a whole other post.

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