Twenty years ago, on September 11, Ambassador Jim Nicholson had just arrived in Rome. Nicholson had been named by the Bush administration to serve as Ambassador of the United States to the Vatican, the Holy See.
“9/11 was a shocking event,” Ambassador Nicholson told Aleteia in a recent interview. “I had just arrived in Rome and I was preparing to present my credentials to the Holy Father, John Paul II, the head of the sovereign state of the Holy See. It was shocking.”
An American diplomat, Nicholson recalls the immediate solidarity expressed abroad. “The sense of everyone in Rome, the whole international community was that they too had been attacked,” says Nicholson. He pauses, then soberly says, “It was a sad day.”
News of the attack
When the ambassador first heard the news of an incident in New York, he was calling on the French ambassador to the Vatican. Nicholson recalls that a member of his security detail approached him as they arrived at the French ambassador’s residence.
The wife of the French ambassador gently assured him, saying hopefully, “I’m sure it was an accident.” However, as Nicholson departed the visit he received news of the second plane striking the World Trade Center. At that point it was clear that we had been attacked.
“Turnout was overwhelming among diplomats expressing their condolences, their sympathy, their support,” says Nicholson. The Italian Prime Minister at the time, Silvio Berlusconi, arranged a rally in Rome. “Over a million people turned out to show their support for the United States,” said Nicholson. “I joined other diplomats and the Prime Minister to speak at the event, which was an overwhelming expression of alignment with the U.S.”
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