9-11 in the Galapagos
By Sandra Scott
We are in Puerto Ayora, Galapagos Islands in the home of our guide, Rafael Rubio, so we can e-mail home to check on family and friends. We were in flight between Quito and the Galapagos when the terrorists struck in New York City. Before boarding the plane we watched the news in the Quito airport and all seemed normal. By the time we landed in the Galapagos Islands the whole world had changed. We first learned of the attack when we boarded our boat about noon and the crew told us that two airplanes had rammed into the World Trade Center, another into the Pentagon, and one in Pennsylvania. It was too fantastic to believe. A terrorist attack was believable; but, nothing of that magnitude. As a special consideration, that night Rafael took the dingy into town and videotaped the news in Spanish for us because we are basically incommunicado at sea. The next day we saw the videotape and no translation was needed. It was still incomprehensible. On Thursday Rafael was able to get us a copy of the international edition of the Miami Herald by taking the dingy to another ship that had just picked up passengers from Quito. We sailed in silence as we passed pages of the newspaper to one another; the tragedy became more real. All 21 passengers and the crew of 8 were stunned. Everyone, whether they lived in Ecuador or Fiji, knew someone in New York.
Five passengers are Israelis who have just completed their military duty and are traveling "to clear their head" of the troubles in their homeland. All are especially empathic as they live with such terrorist's acts every day. For them there is no question as to why these acts happen. They are secure in the feeling that the United States was punished for befriending the Israelis. One intense young Israeli in particular feels the need to act as our protector and counselor in dealing with this act of terrorism. Quietly he talks to us for 10 or 20 minutes at a time trying to give us some perspective about this act and other acts of terrorism. It helps to talk and get another prospective.
Each day we make trips to one of the Islands where the animals know no fear. How wonderful it must be to no know fear. The seals, iguanas, lizards, albatrosses, and all else live literally side-by-side in harmony. Then we return to the boat where we are accosted with the pictures of the burning towers of the World Trade Center posted on the ship's bulletin board. It is hard for us, so far from home and in such an amicable place, to comprehend the full scope of the terrorist's acts.
As the young Israelis, so mature in the ways of terrorism, tell us, it will not seem real until the dead have names and are buried, one by one. Only then will the full impact of it start to take hold.
We take mental note of all our family and friends, figuring out where they should have been on Tuesday morning, and think of the unimaginable sadness of the families who had loved one on the planes and in the terrorist's path. It is overwhelming.
Charles Darwin developed his theories of evolution here on the Galapagos where, after nearly 200 years, all the animals still live in harmony. Obviously man has not evolved to the level of the lizards of the Galapagos. Not only do humans find it impossible to live in harmony, but they are the only species that kills their own kind in mass numbers. We still have much to learn for the "Peaceable Kingdom" that is the Galapagos.
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