Ten years ago today, I was vacationing in Queenstown, New Zealand. A "day ahead" thanks to the time difference, we woke on 9/12 to the news of the terror attacks. Our hotel was silent as everyone watched the images on tv in the lobby. It was surreal knowing that our country was under attack and yet being so many thousands of miles away. We frantically tried to contact our close friends in New York and D.C. to confirm their safety; connections were difficult. We felt helpless.
Our guide persuaded my travel companions and me to forge ahead with a planned daytrip to Milford Sound, one of the most gorgeous places on the planet. Nature's poignant beauty juxtaposed with our own shock at manmade horror to overwhelm us.
When we returned to the hotel, a card was waiting for us under our suite's door. In his own handwriting, the hotel manager expressed his condolences "on this sad day for America." I later found out that he had handwritten similar notes to every American staying at the hotel. There were over 90 rooms booked by Americans that day. 90 handwritten condolence notes.
A few months ago, New Zealand suffered its own disaster, theirs caused by nature, not man. Recovery will be a long road. And that's why today, on the tenth anniversary of our American nightmare, I am honoring the compassion and resilience of the New Zealand people with a donation to the New Zealand Red Cross 2011 Earthquake Appeal. Because just as tragedy is universal, so is friendship.