By Susanna Ray
People around the world were glued to the television or radio Tuesday, taking the news of the attacks in the United States almost as hard as if they had happened in Paris or Berlin.
"I was crying today," said 22-year-old Alexandra Schmidt, a university student in Dusseldorf, Germany. "It was like you saw it in a film, and suddenly it was reality."
Schmidt and her friend, Julia Bickelmann, 21, said they were both on their way home from classes when they heard the news of the initial airplane crash into one of the World Trade Center buildings in New York City. Bickelmann said that when she got home, "the telephone was ringing every five minutes at my place, and everyone was calling to find out if I already knew what had happened."
"What happened in the United States affects everyone in the world," she said. "There’s a kind of war that started today. Many of us were crying."
Herald publisher emeritus Larry Hanson and his wife, Raili, were enjoying the third day of their three-week vacation in Paris on Tuesday.
"Fortunately, CNN has had continuous coverage, because we were at the Eiffel Tower, and in the cab on the way back to the hotel, the cab driver didn’t speak English, but she was trying to use hand movements to tell us what had happened," Hanson said. "We thought maybe the stock market had crashed."
Hanson said he and his wife spent the afternoon in their hotel, watching the news. The hotel staff was clearly affected by the incidents, as well, he said, and treated the couple with extra concern and compassion. They ordered coffee from room service, and the woman who brought it to them "was just shaking, she was so upset and didn’t know what to say."
And when the couple went out for dinner, they were surprised when the popular restaurant they chose was nearly empty.
"The waitress said, ‘I think all the Parisians are home tonight because they’re sad just like I am,’" Hanson said, adding that the waitress even gave him and his wife hugs as they left.
Scott Gorman, a Herald writer now on a Fulbright scholarship in Kisakata, Japan, said people in the town of about 15,000 were "astonished and overwhelmed."
"People were in the streets all night" talking and looking for news about the attacks, he said.
The town, one of Japan’s northernmost city’s, is a sister city of Anacortes, where Gorman lives. It has a small American community, whose residents were extremely concerned about what was happening at home, Gorman said.
The impact hit even closer for him because a friend of 30 years was within two blocks of the World Trade Center. "He actually saw the plane crash into the tower."
Gorman said his friend was struck by the "enormous amount of compassion in New York" where people volunteered and began donating food, blankets and other supplies almost immediately.
Back in Germany, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said the incidents were "not only an attack on the United States but an attack on the civilized world."
Similar sentiments were expressed at a bar in Dusseldorf on Tuesday evening, where waiters and customers alike poured out their sympathy for the American people while stressing that the day’s events had shot across oceans to affect everyone.
"It touched me deeply," said Gunter Becker as he sipped a beer on his way home from work. "We always think of it happening in Jerusalem or Palestine. But it could be any one of us at any time."
It was particularly personal for many because they had either visited New York City themselves or had friends or relatives living there.
For Marc Zabel, a German bartender who stood at the top of the World Trade Center during a trip to New York a decade ago, one of the biggest shocks was the loss of a major landmark.
"I can’t imagine that there’s such a huge building missing in the center of one of the biggest cities in the world," he said.
Klaus Pochert, who spent the day working in an advertising agency before starting an evening shift waiting tables at a restaurant, said the mood in both places had been "dismay, and fear of what may come."
"It happened over there, but in Germany, as an intimate partner of the United States, you have the question why shouldn’t it happen here?" Pochert said. "But I’d say the biggest question is what is going to happen now? What is going to start in the next couple of days?"
Added Zabel: "Everyone’s been talking about it. Everyone’s afraid of a big war."
Herald City Editor Kathy Day contributed to this report.
Herald reporter Susanna Ray is working in Dusseldorf, Germany, on an Arthur F. Burns Fellowship for promoting cross-cultural professional ties between German and U.S. journalists. She can be reached at email@example.com.