When I first realized I’d be spending the 10th anniversary of 9/11 abroad, it felt strange. I was apprehensive, unsure of how it would feel to spend such a painfully important moment in a foreign country. I felt weird, awkward and couldn’t imagine being separated from my dear Washington, D.C.

I hadn’t a clue that I’d be walking into another country’s nightmare.

Turn back thirty-eight years.  Santiago, Chile.  It is September 11th, 1973. The democratic government of President Salvador Allende falls in a military coup d’etat. The President, according to one account, commits suicide by a single bullet through his chin.  Martial law is declared; General Pinochet takes control. Within twenty four hours, a dictator’s reign has begun.

Over the span of the next seventeen years, over 3,000 people will be killed or, worse, disappear after being detained by the dictator – their bodies still missing to this day.  Some will be recovered – their remains having been mutilated by torture and tossed in mass graves, only to be identified decades later for their grieving husbands, wives, and children.

On the tenth anniversary of September 11th, I didn’t think I’d find myself spending quality time with the Chilean socialist party. But I did, and though I find myself quite far from being socialist, we shared a sidewalk – and a hope that such atrocities will never happen again.

Neither 9/11 supersedes the other – no country has a monopoly on tragedy, especially when it comes to that infamous day. That they share a single date is no more than coincidence, one of those quirky little twists of fate. But there is a moral to these stories – that even in our modern “civilized” society, there exist flagrant human rights violations and unspeakable violence.

On September 11th, I held vigil, along with many others – from Manhattan to Santiago – to honor the victims. We gathered around candles, bearing our red, white, and blue, to take a somber moment to remember those who lost their lives in these two senseless tragedies – and to pray that no more pain be inflicted on this date in the future.

Photos from la marcha para los derechos humanos



  1. Poignant observations indeed, and a timely reminder of the dangers of righteousness and hypocrisy when applied to the affairs of other nations.

  2. Caroline, You have been able to juxtapose two terrible and unjust events of history.  Your words make us reflect on our history, revaluate our lifes, and decisively stand firm and  shout with the Argentinian mothers of Plaza de Mayo saying: “Nunca más”,  that is,  never again such atrocities be allowed to happen.

    I wish you continued success in your studies and experiences this semester with SIT Study Abroad in Santiago de Chile.

    Jose B. Alvarez
    Academic Dean for Latin America
    SIT Study Abroad

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