The 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States had particular resonance in Cambodia, ambassador Carol Rodley told those who gathered at the US embassy in Phnom Penh yesterday for a solemn ceremony to mark the 10th anniversary of the attacks.
“I think talking about, and reflecting on, resilience has a particular poignancy here in Cambodia because Cambodians themselves know suffering and loss and have demonstrated great resilience,” she said during the early-morning event.
Rodley praised the triumph of the human spirit and the resilience of the survivors, families and communities affected by the terrorist attacks, which claimed more than 3,000 lives that day.
This strength, she said, was embodied in the Cambodian spirit. “Many of us who live here are impressed by the resilience that our Cambodian friends, colleagues and counterparts demonstrate on a regular basis.”
Those who gathered for the ceremony recalled how the attacks changed their lives.
Elizabeth Gibbons, who was in Washington at the time, remembered the “terrifying” day clearly because it was her son’s first day of boot camp. “I just remember thinking: ‘My son is starting his military career and his life will never be the same.’”
As a soldier coming of age during the war on terrorism, he “grew up quickly”, she explained. “He’s 28 going on 50.”
One foreign service officer who asked not to be named said the attacks had reaffirmed his commitment to public service.
“It was because of the attack on September 11 that I wanted to get back into government service,” the former Los Angeles police officer said.
One UN worker observed the scene first-hand from her midtown apartment in New York.
“I remember stepping outside and seeing all the people walking from downtown.
“You could smell the burning and it was hot, and everyone was dressed in their best clothes because they were all coming from work.”
She compared the scene to Phnom Penh in 1993 when UNTAC military personnel occupied the capital in the wake of the May elections.
“I remember seeing tanks in Phnom Penh during UNTAC in 1993, just after the election.
“I never thought I’d see tanks in New York City, and there were tanks in and guys in fatigues.”
The American flag was lowered to half mast after Rodley’s brief speech.