Even 20 years later, people still ask me where I was on Sept. 11, 2001.

After serving as director for Japan-U.S. security treaty affairs in Tokyo, I had been stationed at the Japanese Embassy in Beijing since October 2000 as an Arabic language officer. On Sept. 11, 2001, I was in my Beijing apartment with my wife watching CNN’s live coverage of the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon.

I was shocked, but hardly taken by surprise.