Tuesday, 11 September 2007


This isn't at all what I planned on writing but let's see where this goes.

Everyone has their story of what they were doing when...

I was in Paris, just having moved back after temping in New York City for the summer. I got to know the Wall Street area for the first time as I worked, went to bars, took the ferry from Hoboken every morning. Looking at the Manhattan skyline from the Hudson River was like looking at a movie backdrop. It always seemed unreal.

On 911, I spent the morning with the 17th arrondisement tax people trying to straighten out the taxes I hadn't paid before leaving France for what I thought was forever. I needed some documents from home so I called my father around 9am NY time and he said there were strange things going on, reports of an attack at the Pentagon or something like that but he didn't seem concerned.

At 4pm, I went to pick up the kids I was babysitting for and overheard some mothers talking about something in NY, but still nothing clicked. Then I turned around and saw the father of the children I'd been babysitting for - a family from back home who'd I'd known for a long time - and he looked awful. He said totally panicked, "ok, you're here. Do you know what's happening? Get the kids and bring them home. D's brother works in one of the buildings". That's when I realized what was going on. We hovered around CNN until late in the night.

When I got back to Lille, I was shocked that no one in my French family would watch the news with me. No one could understand why I needed to watch the scenes over and over. For the first time, I felt I couldn't just get on a plane and go home. I felt isolated, misunderstood and violated. NY was my place and no one could or wanted to understand. French journalists seemed to be saying we deserved this...but did we? I tried to connect with the Lille American community but didn't find much comfort there.

About a year later, I went home for the first time. We went up to the reservation in my home town where you go to see the Manhattan sky line. As a kid, before I knew anything about highways, rivers or marshes in the Meadowlands, I thought I could just run down the hill and would end up at the foot of the Twin Towers. So looking out on Manhattan, I felt void.

The next day, my sister and I took the ferry from Hoboken to World Financial Center. Only, the movie backdrop was changed, like someone has erased part some of the scenery. We got off the ferry, headed towards Century 21 (funnily the only thing that survived around there) and I began to cry totally unexpectedly. It shouldn't be that way. There was a great emptiness, a void, and the feeling of death that I'll never forget.


Elisabeth said...

Interestingly, most of those bloggers who are on my blogroll and posted about 9/11 today wrote about where they were and how they reacted to the tragic events on that day.

Most of the time, I still can't believe that it really happened.

The Late Bloomer said...

Oh Reb, I feel for what you're saying here... I feel terrible because I didn't write about this on the 11th, even though of course it was something that I had on my mind throughout the day... And I've never written about it before.

I was living and working in Washington, DC at the time, and even though I wasn't in NYC and therefore wasn't in the "thick" of things, so to speak, I was evacuated from the government building where I was working and had to walk home, completely bewildered, lost and wondering what was happening... I saw the smoke across the river above the Pentagon, it was mind-boggling... I remember watching so much TV news that day, my mind just went blank and I had to sleep to clear my head.

It was such a painfully intense time, just so unreal. I do hope that people are learning to recover and look forward, but then again I know it's something we will never, ever forget.

Deb said...
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Deb said...

I think everyone knows where they were and exactly what they were doing on that day. No one could have imagined such a tragedy like that happening.

Unfortunately, one of the hijackers of the first plane lived in the apartment complex next to mine. And he trained at the flight school not far from where I lived in Florida.

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