Sunday 11 September 2011

9/11 Memories

Apparently you always remember where you were when tragedy strikes be it JFK or Diana dying or the planes hitting the twin towers.

Ten years ago, I was touring America with two of my best friends, Carol & Nicole. We had driven from California to Chicago where we were staying with the family of a friend. I’d phoned home to England and told them that we couldn’t decide what to do next. We were thinking about carrying on to New York and seeing the sights and to meet up with other friends who we knew would be there at the same time.

As it turns out we decided to head back to California over the next few days. They were actually the days of my life. Giggling, arguing, laughing at Japanese tourists who turn up the most unlikely of places, ice cream socials with old people, camping, arguments, ridiculous States with nothing but corn, snow in September, being stopped by the police, smelly feet, shopping at Walmart, being apparently abandoned by the two said best friends and doing the tourist thing:

After the snow and apparent abandonment we spent the night in a random hotel in Boise, Idaho and then drove all the way back to CA. A couple of days after we got back was the 11th of September and I remember the first 10 minutes as though it happened yesterday....

We were all sharing a room and the phone started ringing. Nicole and I pretended to be asleep so Carol got up and answered the phone. In my half asleep state I could hear Carol saying ‘what do you mean you’re coming home?’, ‘No, I don’t know what’s happened’. Then the TV went on and her words turned into OMG, OMFG, What’s going on? At which point Nicole and I ran into the living room to discover that the planes had flown into the Twin Towers and they’d both collapsed.

We sat on the couch in a state of bewilderment watching the replays over and over again of what had happened. Nicole is an engineer so we asked her endless questions about how the fuck this could have happened.  Her Dad worked for the local government which was why he was being sent home and was who Carol had spoken to earlier.

Carol and I tried to speak to our families at home to reassure them that we hadn’t gone to New York but were safe and sound thousands of miles away in California but we couldn’t get a line out. Initially they were asking all Americans to donate blood and to do whatever they could to help the cause. As I was English and we were in the full throes of foot and mouth they wouldn’t let me donate and I remember thinking how terribly unfair this was!

The other thing was the panic about our friends that were visiting NY and not knowing where they were or when they were leaving. Weirdly enough they’d been to the Twin Towers the day before and were on a plane over the Atlantic when it happened. They were devastated afterwards that all the people they had spoken to the day before on their visit had likely died.

All three of us are big fans on Country music but the only song I remember them playing afterwards was:

I’m proud to be an American,
 Where at least I know I’m free

And I won’t forget the men who died,
 who gave that right to me

And I’d glady stand up next to you. 
and defend her still today......

Part of my soul has been American since that day and I still cry when I hear that song.

Eventually I got to speak to my family, to reassure them that I wasn’t in NY and that they had nothing to worry about but I’ve never known my Grandma be so cross and so upset all at the same time.
Eleven days later I flew home to England and heard their stories about 9/11.

One thing that I hadn’t considered was the time difference. My family (knowing that I’m an intrepid traveller) had presumed that we had gone on and headed for NY as I’d suggested when we were in Chicago.  They were watching the news and saw everything unfolding. After the first plane hit they were freaking out about me being anywhere near New York. I can only imagine their horror and distress as they watched the second plane hit. They actually WATCHED it. To top that off they watched each building fall presuming that even if I wasn’t there I was in the immediate vicinity.

Until recently I never appreciated quite how horrific that must have been. It was awful for the whole world, but for us watching it when it all had happened and the buildings had already collapsed was sheer disbelief. I can’t imagine watching it all back and seeing everything unfold not knowing if Chick was there or not. It just fills me with absolute horror.

When I came home I went straight to see my Grandma who to my amazement broke down and cried and told me never to break her heart like that again.

Do I agree with the way our Governments dealt with it?  Well that remains to be seen and is a whole other blog post. However when I think 9/11 my first thought is all those people that were caught up in the tragedy and the terror they must have felt.

 My second thought is my two best friends, how much fun I had that Summer and also how much I miss Nicole. Carol lives in London and is as good as my Sister so we get to spend a lot of time together.  I would love and miss them anyway but 9/11 binds us in a way that can never be forgotten.

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