Monika’s Musings

miscellaneous tidbits on marketing, advertising, and life in general

9/11 and a tiny silver lining on the darkest cloud


I just finished Dan Brown’s Inferno and several times he makes reference to a plaque which states “On this day in this place the world was changed forever”. Sadly, there are such days in real life and we don’t seem to need special plaques to remember or recognize them. I say “sadly” because the changes we remember so vividly are usually negative and of some sort of horrific nature. This, of course, does not mean to say that there aren’t many days which mark how our world has been changed forever in a positive way, but those never seem to be newsworthy and earthshaking enough to be remembered by just about anyone who was alive at that time.

Like most of you, I will never forget that 9/11.

At the time I was president of my university’s student government association. One of the things that made AUP unique, was that it had its own student-run bar – the AMEX – which was indescribably awesome in so many ways, apparent to just those of us who used to – practically – live there. The manager at the time was the quintessential Italian guy – you know – those who are never in a rush and who get away with everything. For a while we had been pestering him to organize some sort of event for the slow hours in order to attract more students to the bar and he had come up with the idea to project movies, but never seemed to do anything about it.

When the first plane hit the North tower I was in a meeting at Campanella - the cafe across the street from the AMEX, completely oblivious that horrific history was being made as I sipped a latte. When the meeting ended, I walked into the AMEX and remember being simultaneously surprised and pleased: there were so many kids there, eyes locked on the screen. I thought Stefano had finally gotten his shit together and had organized his movie sessions – and, My God – see how popular they were!

This thought took a fleeting second. In the next, I realized the place is unusually quiet.

I spotted one of my best friends. His dad is black, so his complexion is naturally quite tan.

He was pale. Almost transparent. His eyes, HUGE, fixed on the screen.

I turned around, very slowly.

And just then, in front of my eyes, on the huge screen in the AMEX I saw the second plane hit the South tower.

Even now, 12 years later, as I write this, my whole body is in goosebumps.

It was in that moment, one of the darkest of my life, that I truly saw AUP’s magic. Its value was not in “gravitas” as the marketing agency hired to advertise the university would later suggest. Nor was it in amazing academics, despite the fact that some people really wanted to believe this. AUP’s magic was in every single one of us: its students.

I have mentioned before that we came from more than 100 nationalities. It seemed that we were all there, crowded together in the tiny AMEX. Everyone was shocked. A lot of the American kids were crying: you couldn’t get a line through to the States; many of the kids had parents who worked in the towers. As they were experiencing one of the worst days of their lives, their Arabic friends were besides them, offering comforting words, hugs and support.

The world outside was pointing fingers, allocating blame, somewhat lightly to whole countries/world regions and taking sides. The world inside the doors of 31, ave Bosquet was suffering through a human tragedy. Nationalities, religious beliefs, political affiliations did not matter. We were there for our friends, sharing their horror, living it with them. Their shock and sorrow were our own, regardless of where we happened to be born.

While the outside was consumed by hatred, our love was stronger than ever. We were a new world. A better one.

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