9/11 - A Third-Culture Perspective
This post was written by Stephen Nielsen. Read his bio.
9/11/2001 – I was likely sitting, playing in my house. I was four years old, soon to turn five. After hearing the news, my parents were home and were likely praying. We were on the other side of the world, Jakarta, Indonesia. I only remember this because this is what my parents have told me.
A third culture kid is “a child who grows up in a culture different from the one in which his or her parents grew up.” My mom is American, my dad is Danish and Indonesian. I was born in the United States, and after around 3 years, moved to Indonesia, and after 2 years we transplanted to Denmark. I say that I grew up in Denmark, because that is all I can recall. I lived there for almost 14 years before I started my freshman year at North Park.
I grew up in a Denmark which was increasingly influenced by American pop-culture. I visited America every other year and went to church and schools in international settings. We always marveled at everything America had to offer…
If you meet me on the street today, you’ll likely think that I am just another white American. I talk like an American, I play and watch “American” sports, my first language is English, I carry an American passport; I am American. Yet, I never learned the pledge of allegiance, was never a boy scout, rarely watched American TV, and I played soccer instead of football,
In my English class in 8th grade my teacher asked the class and I why today was significant. He then began to explain what 9/11 was and that today was its anniversary. It still wasn’t a significant event for me, but as popularity of social media grew, it popped up in my feed more often, yet, as an American citizen, I felt no draw or emotional attachment.
It was something that was part of my history, should have been part of me emotionally, and I should have found a sense of pride and nationalism for the heroes of that tragic day 17 years ago. Yet, I never did. I grew up in a place where the attack on American soil wasn’t an issue every year. Where 9/11 wasn’t remembered for the reasons Americans remember it today. Why Americans #neverforget.
Scrolling through my twitter feed this morning, every picture that I came across was an image commemorating this day 17 years ago. In contrast, as I’m writing this, the headlines for two Danish news outlets are about how people are using snapchat while driving, and the status of a soccer player who allegedly stuck a taxi driver. After a little digging, the first headline about 9/11 is this: “USA has used 10.000 billion kroner on war since 9/11”. Danes understand what took place, it was world news, but it holds less significance.
After arriving at North Park, it was weird to stand during the national anthem at a collegiate sports game. American’s do that, I’m American, I never did that. Huh. Growing up as a Danish-American meant that I lost out on some cultural norms from each country. I was neither fully American, nor fully Danish growing up. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just means that during sometimes of cultural or national significance, such as 9/11, I didn’t have national or emotional investments.
9/11 doesn’t instill the same intense sense of national pride or mourning for myself, and I assume people like me. This was not my national tragedy. For those who have been struck by the lasting impact of 9/11/2001, this day will never be forgotten. 9/11 had global implications, but not all of them were the same.