U.S. expatriates say they don't live in fear

Many in Europe continue with July 4 party plans

July 04, 2002|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

LONDON - Despite the unease in the air - the inchoate threats of new terrorist attacks, the jitteriness at the airports, the State Department's admonition to Americans to "remain vigilant" - Tom Haley, an American photographer who lives in France, said yesterday that he was not particularly concerned about possible anti-American violence on July Fourth.

Not that he feels as secure as he did before Sept. 11.

"I know I've become more wary of broadcasting the fact that I'm from the U.S. since then," Haley said. "It's more of a wacko element that I'm worried about than an actual terrorist."

Americans in many parts of the world - in India, in Pakistan, in the Middle East - are at particular risk these days, of course, a fact driven home by the State Department's most recent "worldwide caution" bulletin. In the bulletin, sent to embassies and posted Monday on the department's Web site (www.travel.state.gov), Americans were urged to be careful about gathering in "facilities where Americans are generally known to congregate or visit."

But interviews with expatriates and officials in Western Europe revealed a phlegmatic group not inclined to flaunt their Americanness, particularly at a time when American policy is being criticized across Europe. At the same time, they said, they are hardly living in fear, particularly when compared to friends and families in the United States.

"I don't feel that someone's going to come up with me on the street and recognize that I'm an American and attack me," said Alexandria Mendelson, an American who is about to start work as a commercial director for a new media firm in London. "I'm feeling much more nervous about my new job than about July Fourth."

The American ambassador, William S. Farish, is throwing the traditional Independence Day party, with about 1,000 guests and slightly heightened security at the front gates, said Mike Stanton, an embassy spokesman. "Beyond that, it would be a normal Fourth of July," he said.

The embassy party will go ahead in Paris, too, with 2,000 guests. "We haven't heard about anyone backing out," said Richard Lankford, an embassy spokesman. "Actually, they're fighting to come."

Lankford said there had been no reports of uneasy Americans concerned about potential holiday-related attacks.

"Our consular section is in touch on a daily basis with important American institutions such as the American Church, the American Cathedral, the American University, the American Chamber of Commerce, the American Hospital," he said. "The discussion is all about visa issues. No one said, `By the way, do you think we're going to get whacked on the Fourth of July?'"

Many Americans in London said it seemed strange to worry unduly about terrorism in a city that had been an intermittent target of the Irish Republican Army for more than 30 years.

Mendi West said her concerns were low grade, but real nonetheless.

"I'm more nervous for my husband, who works for an American money management firm, than I am for myself," West said.

But then West remembered: After Sept. 11, her son put on a baseball cap decorated with an American flag, and she refused to let him wear it in public. Perhaps, it seems, that is a prudent approach at times like these.

"I wouldn't want to go to any `American-y' place tomorrow, or do anything that made me stand out as an American," she said.

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