Today I am taking the day off of blogging about all things wedding related, except for this post.
It seems amazing how quickly 10 years have passed since the horrific events of September 11, 2001. Many ask one another "where were you when you heard a planed had crashed into the north tower of the world trade center". Many of my friends in Arizona were being woken by family members or roommates, others were on the treadmill at the gym looking at a TV screen, and students were in classrooms, still in the first few weeks of the new school year. People across the US were in the midst of a typical week day, that took one of the worst turns ever on American soil.
I cannot not relate to my family members and friends on how they found out tragedy had struck our nation, for I was not in the U.S. I had just left the country on September 2, 2001, to study abroad for 1 year in Strasbourg, France. To learn of such tragedy so far away from the country I had just said goodbye to, I felt very afraid and alone. I felt vulnerable that I would be a target in my new home for the year.
I remember sitting at a cafe next to the Strasbourg Cathedral de Notre-Dame, when one of my new friends commented how she received a text from one of her mates back home (she was English), saying something about the WTC had collapsed. Where we sat that beautiful afternoon was somewhat far from where we all lived. I had no idea what that text meant, and to try to find answers was a huge challenge. I asked one of the wait staff if he had access to a television or a radio, he said no, and I remember him looking at me with a crazy look. I tried to call my parents from various phone cabins, and I couldn't get through-was it my phone card or were the lines jammed-I had no idea. I even had no idea if this text was a joke, I couldn't get answers.
Finally we had made it back to our apartment building, and I made a beeline to the tippy top of the building where the only TV sat. I rudely interupted whatever program a sweet Japanese student was watching to find a channel that was covering news, and there it was. My knees buckled, and I sat in horror and did not move. I soon realized I was sobbing, and that my roommates were surrounding me and another American girl, hugging us and crying with us. Nobody could speak.
The most frustrating part of this was that my French was not amazing at this point, and whenever the news was covering George Bush's speech, the narrator would overspeak the President, and I couldn't make out a word. 10 years ago, technology wasn't near what it is today, wifi wasn't as readily available, cell phones didn't have internet, so we couldn't simply pull up a laptop and connect to CNN. I had to wait-wait to get the full details, wait to get to an internet cafe, wait for the phone lines to clear and to finally speak with my parents.
At this point, I had no idea the Pentagon had been struck and another plane had crashed on a Pennsylvania field. I thought it was only NYC had that been struck. I later found out the details, but not all details. Much remains a mystery to me, unheard stories of the acts of heroism that took place aboard the planes-I just learned the other day of the "let's roll" guy, whom had called 911, the operator said a prayer with him, and before hanging up said "let's roll" before presumably stopping the terrorists from playing out their plans. It all gives me chills.
When I returned to the U.S. in June 2002, I returned to a very changed homeland. For starters, when I had landed at Phoenix Sky Harbor from my connection at Boston Logan, I walked out of the gateway, and stood in the seating area looking for my parents. They were nowhere to be seen, and I began to cry. People were looking strangely at me, wondering why this girl was so upset. I had not been advised that people whom didn't have a ticket couldn't go to the gates anymore, but they had to remain by the security check points.
A few years later I had returned to France to being my Master's Program, and made a pit stop in New York City to meet with friends. It was January, and it was very cold. On a day when my friend had to work, I chose to walk around the city, and found myself face to face with ground zero, as seen pictured above. There is something so beautiful about the metal cross, which was leftover from the rubble. I shot the image in 2005, 4 years after the attacks. So much destruction remained, and progress seemed on the move at a slow pace-the massive hole would take years to rebuild. I was so moved to have stumbled where I did, and to bid my own prayers at the site. All whom walked by the site would cease at speaking, hold their hands over their hearts, and fight back tears.
As a nation, the U.S. has really come together to form a united front and to stand tall in the face of terror. The world has joined as well, although it might not seem so. Many countries are our allies, and lost loved ones in the towers-it was a global attack on American soil. I cannot tell you how many sympathies were shared my way when I was walking about the streets of Strasbourg. If people heard me and my friends speaking in English, they would ask if I was American, and would share their condolences with me. One day while seeking the American Consulate to lay a bouquet of flowers at the base of the gates, a French lady passed by, raised her fist in the air and shouted "Vive Les Etats Unis"! (Long live the United States) I was floored, the outpouring was unreal. The tram lines even paused their runs for a moment of silence. It was touching to witness these acts of respect and love.
Remembering this day is a way to force myself to show greater kindness, to have more patience, to be more thankful for my blessings. I will end here, letting activity cease for the day, praying for those that have lost loved ones on this day 10 years ago, and be truly thankful for the life I have. May peace and hope continue to be with us all, and may we never face a similar act in our lifetime and future lifetimes.