I’m not one to make a big deal of observing various dates and, frankly, all the emphasis about September 11 rather caught me by surprise this year. I’m not sure what prompted the emphasis on honoring the victims with a day of service. Maybe it’s because we have a different President. I do hope the emphasis hasn’t been an effort to make political hay out of an event which was horrible for so many.
As I was driving home from the History Museum last night (attended an interesting program but that’s another post), the radio station I had on in the car was replaying a number of interviews which had been done with different community members who were involved in some way with the events of September 11 on the first anniversary. That made me think back to that day.
I remember it so well. I was on a bus tour in Western Australia. I got up that morning in my hotel room in Perth and turned the TV on, expecting to get the weather news. Instead, I saw film of planes flying into the World Trade Center and people running away from the building, trying to escape this huge cloud of dust which was fast overtaking them. At first, I couldn’t make sense of what I was seeing. Was this some kind of movie? But as I continued to watch, I learned this was no movie … this was real and had happened in my country. Tears came … and continued to come whenever anyone talked to me about it or I read the newspaper.
I can’t adequately describe how it feels to be so far from home at such a time. I felt helpless. There was nothing I could do but be thankful that if I had to be stranded far away from home, I was in the best place I could be. The Australians were so friendly and supportive. Every city had memorial displays of flowers at some important monument in that city. They held vigils and mourned. Of course, they had lost citizens in the tragedy too because some of the employees working in the World Trade Center were from Australia.
It was strange to get all your news of home filtered through the reports of someone from another country. People on the tour asked me what I was going to do about getting home after all the airplanes were grounded. I had arranged many business trips to Asia for my bosses so I knew if necessary, if I could get to Tokyo, I could get a flight from there to Vancouver. If I could get that far, I knew I would be able to get home. I could possibly get a train to Chicago where I could rent a car and drive the rest of the way. Or if I couldn’t get a train across Canada, I could rent a car in Vancouver and drive home. It might add an additional week to my six-week vacation but I could get home if I could just get to North America.
Fortunately, I did not have to do that. By the time my trip was over — some three weeks later — I was able to fly to Los Angeles and from there home. The security at the airports I went through was very tight. I had to keep showing my passport and going through metal detectors afterr metal detectors but eventually I was back at my home airport and catching a shuttle bus to take me to my car so I could come home.
Perhaps my perspective is skewed because I wasn’t in the U.S. that day. I just know it’s a day I can’t forget … not the horrible events I saw on TV nor the kindness of the Australian people I was with.