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Michel Setboun/Corbis
Michel Setboun/Corbis

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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Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism
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The POW Olympics of World War II
Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism
Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism

With the outbreak of World War II prompting a somber and divisive mood across the globe, it seemed impossible civility could be introduced in time for the 1940 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan to be held.

So they weren’t. Neither were the 1944 Games, which were scheduled for London. But one Polish Prisoner of War camp was determined to keep the tradition alive. The Woldenberg Olympics were made up entirely of war captives who wanted—and needed—to feel a sense of camaraderie and normalcy in their most desperate hours.

In a 2004 NBC mini-documentary that aired during their broadcast of the Games, it was reported that Polish officers under German control in the Oflag II-C camp wanted to maintain their physical conditioning as a tribute to Polish athlete Janusz Kusocinski. Unlike another Polish POW camp that held unofficial Games under a veil of secrecy in 1940, the guards of Woldenberg allowed the ’44 event to proceed with the provision that no fencing, archery, javelin, or pole-vaulting competitions took place. (Perhaps the temptation to impale their captors would have proven too much for the men.)

Music, art, and sculptures were put on display. Detainees were also granted permission to make their own program and even commemorative postage stamps of the event courtesy of the camp’s homegrown “post office.” An Olympic flag was crafted out of spare bed sheets, which the German officers, in a show of contagious sportsman’s spirit, actually saluted.

The hand-made Olympic flag from Woldenberg.

Roughly 369 of the 7000 prisoners participated. Most of the men competed in multiple contests, which ranged from handball and basketball to chess. Boxing was included—but owing to the fragile state of prisoners, broken bones resulted in a premature end to the combat.

Almost simultaneously, another Polish POW camp in Gross Born (pop: 3000) was holding their own ceremony. Winners received medals made of cardboard. Both were Oflag sites, which were primarily for officers; it’s been speculated the Games were allowed because German forces had respect for prisoners who held military titles.

A gymnastics demonstration in the camp.

The grass-roots Olympics in both camps took place in July and August 1944. By January 1945, prisoners from each were evacuated. An unknown number perished during these “death marches,” but one of the flags remained in the possession of survivor Antoni Grzesik. The Lieutenant donated it to the Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism in 1974, where it joined a flag recovered from the 1940 Games. Both remain there today—symbols of a sporting life that kept hope alive for thousands of men who, for a brief time, could celebrate life instead of lamenting its loss.

Additional Sources: “The Olympic Idea Transcending War [PDF],” Olympic Review, 1996; “The Olympic Movement Remembered in the Polish Prisoner of War Camps in 1944 [PDF],” Journal of Olympic History, Spring 1995; "Olympics Behind Barbed Wire," Journal of Olympic History, March 2014.

 All images courtesy of Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism. 

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President John Tyler's Grandsons Are Still Alive
Getty Images
Getty Images

Here's the most amazing thing you'll ever read about our 10th president:

John Tyler was born in 1790. He took office in 1841, after William Henry Harrison died. And he has two living grandchildren.

Not great-great-great-grandchildren. Their dad was Tyler’s son.

How is this possible?

The Tyler men have a habit of having kids very late in life. Lyon Gardiner Tyler, one of President Tyler’s 15 kids, was born in 1853. He fathered Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. in 1924, and Harrison Ruffin Tyler in 1928.

We placed a somewhat awkward call to the Charles City County History Center in Virginia to check in on the Tylers.

After we shared this fact on Twitter in 2012, Dan Amira interviewed Harrison Tyler for New York Magazine. Lyon Tyler spoke to the Daughters of the American Revolution a while back. They were profiled by The Times of London. And Snopes is also in on the fact.

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