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Being American 

September 12, 2001

Dear Friends and Family,

There are times when we feel more American here than we ever thought of feeling back in California. There are also times when we know we are disconnected. Yesterday and today we have been both.

First, the basics. We're OK. Our family is OK. Geoff was working in his lab in Washington DC, across the river from the Pentagon. While neither his brother nor I could get a phone call through, email gave us the basic "I'm fine" that we needed. His note added that it was amazing to smell the Pentagon burning. Too close. Too close indeed.

Originally, Marianne was to be on a plane to California today. She needed a final OK from her doctor and a good dose of chatting with her mom, Gabby and friends. All that will have to wait until we feel safe putting her on a plane to America. When will that be?

During our stay here, we've become TV news junkies. We get CNN International, Euronews and BBC. Each is "24 x 7". For the past 24 hours, we've been inundated with the same images and analysis that everyone in the viewing world must be seeing and hearing. The images are unimaginable. The analysis is both unbelievable and obvious at the same time. There is no meaningful comment to add from seven time zones away.

I just walked past the U.S. Embassy here. It's around the corner, on the other side of our block. It is surrounded by serious young men in body armor with serious assault guns. There are flowers and candles on the fence. They allow no pictures so this Diary is not illustrated. That's OK, we've all seen enough illustration for now.

Locally, we receive sympathy and condolences from everyone. They understand that the terror was not just against individuals in Arlington and Lower Manhattan, it was against all Americans. More than that, they understand it was directed against the values of personal freedom that they seek. Maybe they are asking themselves if it is worth it. A question we all need to ask ourselves and hopefully answer in the positive.

Interestingly, the economic effect of yesterday's destruction was immediately reflected in the currency exchange rate. Monday, one U.S. dollar would get you 5 hryvna, 38 kopeks at our neighborhood exchanges. Today, 5 hryvna or even less. Does that mean the US is worth 7% less today? It would seem so.

Meanwhile, Marianne and I continue the plan to leave in 18 days for our European Road Trip. Maybe now more than ever, we value our time and intend to make the most of it. This is something we urge everyone to do, even if it is no more dramatic than simply loving and caring for those around you as if there is no tomorrow.

Stay in touch,

John and Marianne

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Put on website Septemebr 12, 2001.