Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9/11: Where were you?

I've read a few blog entries from people telling about where they were or what they experienced on "9/11" when terrorism reared it's ugly head (by non-citizens) in the U.S.A. So, I thought to stray from my usual subject matter and throw in my "two cents".

My (future) husband and I had just landed at Gatwick Airport in London, on our way to Spain, when we noticed that planes to the U.S. were being held. We were curious, but thought it was some small thing. On we went to Bilbao. We arrived at our hotel and noticed everyone huddled around a TV in the lobby. We stopped to watch, but my Spanish not being up to par, and only a Spanish government official being interviewed, I thought perhaps it was a local hotel fire or perhaps an ETA bombing. It was disturbing, but we moved on. We went up to our room, then out about town. We returned about 10 or 11 that night (Spain time) and turned on the TV, sound down, while we unpacked. We looked up a couple of times and thought we were watching some dreadful program that was itself showing a CNN program. But then we noticed that the "CNN" was up too long. And what we were seeing was reality. Up with the sound! We were stunned. I'd lived in NY for 13 years and suddenly feared for my friends there. We didn't know what to do.

We were afraid that being Americans might not be a good thing at that time. We could not get through to anyone in the States via phone. We learned there were no flights to the U.S. Fortunately for us, just about every city in Spain, from our perspective, has cyber cafes. So we went to one nearby and started emailing my friends in NY, and family/friends/co-workers in Detroit. We heard back from those in Detroit, were told what was going on from the American perspective, and were assured that they were fine. I did hear from my friend Bindu, who sent me a series of quick emails as the events were happening - running out to Washington Square to see the events, then running into her NYU office to email me, then running outside again. Perhaps my most sad memory of what she wrote is that she was looking up and wondering about all the birds flying away from the towers, when she suddenly realized that they were not birds, they were people jumping.

Absurdly, we decided we had no choice but to try to enjoy our vacation, but we remained tense and somewhat fearful about the future. However, we had this sick fear that the U.S. would retaliate and start World War III. It was all such a surreal experience.

After several days, we traveled south to Burgos to visit with my friend Daniel, who was having an art exhibit. Burgos is beautiful, and I wish we could return. My friend and his gallery reps took us to dinner that night. We had a wonderful time - they were very gracious - and we talked about what had just happened in the U.S. They were very sympathetic, but reminded us that this type of thing goes on in Europe not infrequently, and that people in that part of the world live with this on a day-to-day basis. Of course, they are right. The people of Burgos were compassionate; that night (9/14, I believe), the Burgos orchestra/symphony played an impromptu performance at the gazebo in the town plaza. American music was all they played - John Philip Sousa, Duke Ellington, and others. It made us cry; everyone there was so kind.

After several days we took a train to Barcelona. We continued to feel rather unsure, though much more confident than before that we would be fine. After several days visiting Figueres and Barcelona, we went to Cadaques, where my (now) husband proposed to me. Very romantic!

Then on to San Sebastian and Bilbao, then home to Detroit. At home there were two phone messages from my friend Susan, who had moved to NYC just a month earlier. She just sobbed into the phone and hung up.


If you've read this far, then please join me in praying for an end to the violence we wreak upon each other. It brings us nothing but sadness and sorrow. We should pray for each other, for ourselves.

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