It was late afternoon when there was loud pounding on the door, people shouting “CNN! CNN!” It was the next door neighbors alerting us to the bombing of the World Trade Center.
As the evening turned into night, one could think of nothing else. We’d just returned from a wonderful saiing trip echoing that of Odysseus through the Ionian Sea for my father’s 70th birthday and I was in Florence, Italy for just a couple of days before flying home to California. All I wanted to do was get home to the US but all flights were cancelled.
Each morning I started out by walking to the Ponte Vecchio to the Continental Airlines office to see when I could get home. En route to the apartment I stopped at the US Consulate next door where they told me no deal, try tomorrow.
When CNN International wasn’t on, I was actually developing my photos from the trip, even had time to mount them in photo books. I meandered around Florence seeing everything I could.
What I remember most are the people. I picked up clothes at the cleaners and they said they were so sorry. Same at the grocery. Through the Consulate I got to know some folks and they invited me to a memorial service with a lot of ex-pats.
One day at the main square, the Piazza Signoria, hundreds of people filled the space, holding hands while a lone church bell tolled mournfully for three minutes.
One day the Consulate said that the airline could get me to Newfoundland, but they were sure my summer dresses wouldn’t serve me well as I may be in Canada for some time!
Finally, I was able to catch a flight from Rome. When I went through Customs in LA, all the agent said to me was “Welcome home” and I cried. Again.
None of my family or friends were killed but it felt like America itself was wounded, and the world did reach out. We also reached out to each other. Frankly, I wouldn’t have met my husband of 18 years had we not run into each other in early October, 2001.
I heard former President George Bush speak at Shanksville, PA this morning, on TV. What a powerful speech. It’s a pity it’ll be buried by the right-wing media. I’ve agreed with little George Bush has ever said, but this speech is something we should hear and I’m going to look for it to read as well. Powerful stuff. We should listen, and think about the heroes of 9/11 and our future as a nation.
Our world is a different place, now with our major terrorist danger coming from within our borders. I think it’s time we all put our weapons (words are a weapon) aside and realize that we are one people, with problems that we have always solved together. That is what makes us strong, makes us the United States of America. Not red or blue, united. I write in peace and understanding, Dee