Monday, 12 September 2011

Memories of 9/11

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:

Dear Stace
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.

5 comments:

Pondside said...

My story is like millions of others. We're three hours behind NYC, so I was getting ready for work, when I turned on the news, just to see the weather forecast. What I saw defied belief.

CountessLaurie said...

I had just arrived at work and was talking to a coworker when someone walked by and said a plane hit the WTC. We assumed it was a small plane and a rookie pilot who somehow accidentally crashed. When the second plane hit, then we knew.

elizabethm said...

I was working in our office in Edinburgh, unusually. Someone came in with a story of something awful happening. We stood round someone's computer to check the news and saw the second plane fly into the second tower. I remember my stomach turning to ice. It was my birthday.

Family Affairs said...

I was in buying a domestic appliance and watching it on one of the shop TV's. Unbelievable. Just been in NY for the anniversary events with Alice - she wrote an amazing piece about it for a children's newspaper - on my blog!! Where r u? Did you get my email? Lx

Procrastinator extraodinaire said...

Typical of my latter years, I was driving to the Midlands with my father to orchastrate a house move, solo, whilst my husband worked :( Okay my dad had come along to help. Thankfully my two young children were with my mother, usually I have to incoperate them into the moving day chaos and there are now four, plus dogs, cats and any other anilmals we have aquired. Xx

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