My father, step mother and I were on a tour of Great Britain at the time of the first plane crash, we were touring Oxford. As we were walking about, a young woman across the quad was screaming and crying…we did not know why.
We found out about the events of that fateful day when we got back to the bus. I have always wondered if that young woman had received one of the many ‘farewell calls’ made that day - it makes my heart ache thinking about it even now, twenty years later.
On the bus, I cried as we headed back to London where our tour was scheduled to end and we were supposed to head home on 9/13…that did not happen. The last evening that our group was together, we all met in the lobby bar - people from USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and our tour guides. It was arranged by someone in the group to have Budweisers for all and to toast each other, that day and wish each of us a safe journey home. It was a beautiful gesture and sign of solidarity.
the days to follow, as we could not get a flight home for close to a week afterwards since air travel had been ceased to North America, we basically were in a daze. It did not feel appropriate to sight see so, we walked through parks and were warmly greeted by many people.
On 9/14/01, a memorial was held across from the U.S. Embassy in London at the Roosevelt statue. Many people were there and three minutes of silence were observed….I have never experienced such quiet - even the birds seemed to stop chirping. The Queen was there, as well. I met a young man from America (Bill Feeney) who had been in the Peace Corps and was living in London. We hugged, cried and held hands for a long time. Flowers, cards, signs, stuffed animals and other offerings were laid in remembrance to the loss felt by the world that day.
As a person who worked in federal employment, I felt the need to do something so, I found the lady organizing this memorial and offered my help with anything - I needed to do something. She called me at my hotel and we volunteered at a further memorial where people could write thoughts in a collection of binders. The out pouring of humanity and warmth was overwhelming - it once again, showed that people can often times by at their best when horrendous things happen.
We finally flew home about five/six days later…it was good to be home. As I arrived at San Francisco International Airport, after staying in Dallas overnight, I was astounded by the quiet and lack of crowds - it was then that I more fully understood how life had changed and that America’s naïveté, my own included, had come to an end.