I will never forget where I was for 9/11. We were with friends on a beach in the Western Algarve, a favourite place. E was two and a half and G was crawling around on the sand as a13-month old. L had not yet made it into the world and our friends had a new baby.
We wandered over to the restaurant for some lunch and were vaguely aware that something was going on inside. There was much talking, but there was no television. We could never have imagined the news that was clearly filtering through somehow to this remote restaurant perched under the rich red cliffs of this idyllic curve of sand.
Eventually my curiosity got the better of me and I asked one of the waiters what was going on. He told us what he knew of the horrors which were unfolding in New York, that cloudless blue September morning across the very sea which we was lapping at our feet. From the western tip of the Algarve, the next stop is America. Suddenly our happy family session on the beach was turned on its head and instantly transformed into a world where, in the matter of a few moments, all had become utterly surreal. It was almost impossible to believe that we could be fortunate enough to be on a beach holiday with loved ones and friends while thousands of other people were being submitted to unthinkable trauma across the water. There was an extraordinary sense of bewilderment, grief and guilt. Walking back to our little camp, we tried to get a handle on what on earth was unfolding across the water, but we had no television or radio to help us understand. Instead we just had a picture of our three little children sitting chubbily on the sand with big smiles and shiny eyes, innocently oblivious to the hatred and horrors which exist in the world in which they had recently arrived.
We have often returned to that villa and that beach, but I will never forget that September lunchtime.
Where were you? I would love to hear your stories of the moment you witnessed one of the most extraordinary, heartrendingly awful events of modern times.
I will leave you with a story I heard on the Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2 on Friday. It was the story of a firefighter who, before leaving home to start his shift the day before 9/11, left a note for his wife saying:
I can't believe that I still love you so much even now. Can't wait to come home and see you again.
He never came back.