Nearly 10 years ago when Muslim terrorists struck the United States, most U.S. expats in Costa Rica felt impotent. The nation was under attack, and the best citizens here could do was watch the tragedy unfold via television.
The situation became worse. Air flights were grounded. No tourists arrived and those here were trapped for six days. Canada also grounded flights and beefed up security.
Foreign residents and Costa Ricans began to get feedback from loved ones and friends who were in New York. Some were just a few blocks from the twin towers.
Costa Rican police officials became nervous. One motorcyclist who showed up at Banco Nacional in La Sabana dressed in camouflage was detained briefly and was confronted by aggressive police questioning.
The Cuerpo de Bomberos lined up in force at the U.S. Embassy and paid an emotional tribute to the United States and the New York City firemen who died at the twin towers. Police also conducted an honorary review at the embassy.
There were prayer gatherings, and the small Muslim community went public to give its support. Then-president
Miguel Ángel Rodríguez condemned the terrorist attacks in his Independence Day speech four days later at Parque Nacional.
Now nearly 10 years later, Costa Rica has changed, in part due to the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Security at the nation’s international airports have been tightened. The U.S. Embassy is peopled with staffers who have spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of the Marines there wear medals awarded for their bravery in the two Middle Eastern wars.
A.M. Costa Rica has a small but steady readership of U.S. servicemen in Bagdad and Kabul.
There is continual concern about infiltration by Muslim terrorists and Iranian agents into adjacent countries and perhaps Costa Rica itself.
The death of the man who engineered the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism calls up memories of the events nearly 10 years ago. Osama bin Laden was 54 when he died from fire by U.S. Navy SEALS Sunday in Pakistan.
U.S. President Barack Obama made the announcement about 9:30 p.m. Costa Rican time on live television. Obama said bin Laden, the al-Qaida figurehead, was not a Muslim leader, but a “mass murderer of Muslims.”