The World's Immediate Response to 9/11

Michel Setboun/Corbis
Michel Setboun/Corbis

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, people all over the world stood shoulder-to-shoulder in mourning, solidarity, sympathy and friendship with the people of the United States. Here are a few of those international reactions, both organized and spontaneous, that occurred in the days following September 11, 2001.

In London, the "Star Spangled Banner" played during the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, while traffic came to a standstill in The Mall nearby.

In Beijing, tens of thousands of people visited the U.S. Embassy, leaving flowers, cards, funeral wreaths and hand-written notes of condolence on the sidewalk out front.

In Moscow, women who spoke no English and had never been to the U.S. were captured on film sobbing in front of a makeshift tribute on a sidewalk, and every single church and monastery in Romania held a memorial prayer.

In France, a well-known newspaper, Le Monde, ran a headline reading, “We Are All Americans.”

In the Middle East, both the Israeli president and the Palestinian leader condemned the attacks, and made a show of donating blood.

Kuwaitis lined up to donate blood as well. Jordanians signed letters of sympathy.

In Tehran, an entire stadium of people gathered for a soccer match observed a moment of silence, and in Turkey, flags flew at half-staff.

In Berlin, 200,000 people packed the streets leading to the Brandenburg Gate.

A thousand miles south, in Dubrovnik, Croatia, schoolchildren took a break from classes to bow their heads in silence.

In Dublin, shops and pubs were closed during a national day of mourning, and people waited in a three-hour line to sign a book of condolences.

In Sweden, Norway and Finland, trams and buses halted in tribute, and in Russia, television and radio stations went silent to commemorate the innocent dead.

In Azerbaijan, Japan, Greenland, Bulgaria and Tajiskitan, people gathered in squares to light candles, murmur good wishes and pray. And in Pretoria, South Africa, little kids perched on their parents’ shoulders holding mini American flags.

Firefighters in Hungary tied black ribbons to their trucks, firefighters in South Africa flew red, white and blue, and firefighters in Poland sounded their sirens, letting loose a collective wail one warm afternoon.

Cubans offered medical supplies. Ethiopians offered prayers. Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan offered their air space, and dozens of other world leaders called the White House to offer their support.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Canada, Albania and Sierra Leone marched in the streets in shows of solidarity, and mosques in Bangladesh, Yemen, Pakistan, Libya and Sudan trembled with clerics’ condemnation of those “cowardly” and “un-Islamic” attacks.

Lebanese generals convened to sign letters of sympathy, and in Italy, Pope John Paul II fell to his knees in prayer.

Albania, Ireland, Israel, Canada, Croatia, South Korea and the Czech Republic all declared national days of mourning, and the legendary bells of Notre Dame echoed throughout Paris.

In Italy, race car drivers preparing for the upcoming Italian Grand Prix silenced their engines, and in London, hundreds stood quietly during the noontime chimes of Big Ben.

In Belgium, people held hands, forming a human chain in front of the Brussels World Trade Center, and seventeen time zones away, strangers in Indonesia gathered on a beach to pray.

In India, children taped up signs that read, “This is an attack on all of us,” and in Austria, church bells tolled in unison.

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Amazon
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65 Years Ago, a Bus Driver Had Rosa Parks Arrested. It Wasn't Their First Encounter.

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks made her historic civil rights stand by refusing to give up her seat on a public bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Had she noticed who was behind the wheel, she probably wouldn’t have gotten on in the first place, as the day Parks protested wasn’t her first encounter with bus driver James Blake.

More than a decade earlier, in November 1943, Parks had entered a bus driven by Blake and paid her fare. Instead of simply walking to the designated section in the back, she was told to exit and reenter through the back doors, as was the requirement for Black riders at the time. When she got off the bus to do so, Blake pulled away—a trick he was notorious for pulling.

The restored Montgomery, Alabama bus where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, on display at the Henry Ford Museum
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Parks avoided his buses for the next 12 years; of course, we all know what happened the next time they met, on a day Parks said she was too tired and preoccupied to notice who was driving. Parks and three other black passengers were ordered to give their seats up for a white passenger, and when Parks refused to move, Blake had her arrested. He had no idea that his actions—and more importantly, hers—would be the catalyst for a civil rights revolution.

Though the times eventually changed, Blake, it would seem, did not. He worked for the bus company for another 19 years before retiring in 1974. During a brief interview with The Washington Post in 1989, the driver maintained that he had done nothing wrong:

"I wasn't trying to do anything to that Parks woman except do my job. She was in violation of the city codes. What was I supposed to do? That damn bus was full and she wouldn't move back. I had my orders. I had police powers—any driver for the city did. So the bus filled up and a white man got on, and she had his seat and I told her to move back and she wouldn't do it."

In the rest of his short encounter with the reporter, Blake—who passed away in 2002—used the n-word and accused the media of lying about his role in the historic moment.

Parks had at least one more run-in with Blake, and it must have been incredibly satisfying. After bus segregation was outlawed, the civil rights leader was asked to pose for press photographs on one of the integrated buses. The bus they chose was driven by Blake.