Saturday, September 11, 2010

Notes From When We Changed

I was in Canada – a friendly neighbor but a foreign country, nonetheless. My bags were packed and I was checking out of my hotel room and headed for the airport. A traveling companion came up to the counter in his pajamas and said, ‘Thom, what are you doing? We’re not going anywhere.’ I asked why. He said, ‘Have you not seen the news this morning?’ ‘No. I woke up late, showered and packed. What’s going on?’
He walked me into the bar adjacent to the hotel lobby where 50 or more people were weeping, howling and staring at several TV screens. I arrived just minutes before the second plane hit.
Nothing has ever been the same; I’m sure of it.
I recoiled and determined to make it to the Calgary, Alberta Airport before all hell broke loose. But hell had already broken loose and more was yet to come. Nonetheless, I persevered; found a taxi and made it to the airport. Long lines. Panic. Fear. Hysteria. Out of control. Flights halted. Ran to the rental car agencies. Last person to get a car. Drove back to the hotel. Re-booked my room. Called my wife. Desperate. Cried. Went to the bar for companionship. 10 AM. Ordered a beer. Had another. Watched the screen. Surreal. Wandered through the day. Food, finally. More attempted calls – lines busy. Separation. Reality. Emptiness.
Dinner with Paul C – martinis and steaks and anger. Fumbled through the night with strangers and friends. Tears all over. Dive bar around the corner – pool and jukebox. Woke up late and hazy. Found some friends. How the hell are we going to get home? So far away. Found a bus that could leave Thursday night - $6,000. I said, ‘Book it. There are 11 of us. I’ll write you a check or put it on a card.’
Two drivers – straight through. 40+ hours to Nashville.
Crossed the border at 3:00 in the morning. Kissed the ground – all 11 of us. Next day in Omaha saw a plane in the sky – giant cheers from the passengers!!!
Diners all the way back – about every 5 hours. Booze, cards, music and jokes on the bus. Couldn’t sleep – anxious and scared: was the world coming to an end; will I kiss my sweet one again; will I hold my children at least one more time? Please get us home.
Nashville – pre-dawn. Dark. Wrote a check; collected large cash tip from fellow passengers for our drivers. Got my bags and hugged my companions. Drove home in a dreamscape. Hugged my beauties harder than ever. Collapsed.
I cannot speak for any other American so I will simply say this on my own behalf: life on this planet was forever changed on September 11, 2001. My heart, my soul and my mind went to another place on that day and I have never returned to the state I was in prior to 8:00 AM EST on that day. Lines were drawn; hostilities embedded; distrust magnified; anger heightened; marked differences manifested. No, I have never been the same since that day.
Because of those heartless, cowardly and defiant acts my family and I were separated, terrified and confused. As this was happening to my family and me Osama bin Laden was laughing in a cave – so proud of his accomplishments. What kind of religion is that?
Not mine.


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