I was in a state of shock, because [my daughter] Elizabeth lives about fifteen blocks away. We couldn’t get through. In the evening, we managed to get through via South Africa, which was really weird.
What I feel from a lot of my American friends, although they’re not really able to put it into words, is a sense of violation. It’s a horrible thing to have that feeling broken – that America was this place where they all felt safe. We’ve lived [in England] for the last thirty years with that – people who would throw bombs in pubs and shopping malls, where innocent people were. I’ve been in several situations where that’s happened, where you would hear a bomb go off. It was very scary.
With terrorism, whether you kill five people or 5,000, it is still a disregard for normal human values, what you expect in a civilized society. I never believed in violence as a way of achieving the political ends that we mentioned in songs like “Street Fighting Man.” The people that believe in it – I have no time for them whatsoever, no time for the romantic notions that surround them.
I was in France at the beginning of this, then in Britain, and the overwhelming feeling of shock was swiftly replaced by an outpouring of brotherhood. There was real solidarity and sympathy, the feeling that we wanted to be there with you. It was genuine and very moving. There was this thing on TV from Germany, this huge attendance at a memorial service. It was massive.
But how that translates into the next step, this intangible military activity – the mystery of that is, how is it going to be and what is going to happen? The Middle East is a lot nearer Europe than it is America. That means quite a lot when you’re talking about ballistic missiles and the involvement of Iraq. I’m not saying people are running scared, but it’s a different view. And we have many people of Middle Eastern origin living in these countries, which complicates the emotion.
People are saying to me, and I felt the same way: “I couldn’t do anything for a week. My life, all my things, feel so trivial.” But to some extent, after the shock and mourning comes the adjustment to real life. During times of war, my parents tried to carry on as normally as much as you can, with adjustments. You can’t let terrorists completely change your lifestyle. They would love that. That’s a victory.
People are knocked off their feet. But you don’t want to lose hope and morale. You have to mourn. You’re glued to CNN more than you should be. But in the end, you have to do what you do.
This story is from the October 25, 2001 issue of Rolling Stone.