|I wrote this on July 8, 2005.
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
Yesterday, three Underground trains and a bus were subjected to terrorist attacks in London. I went on one of the strangest walks I've ever taken in the afternoon to meet Marco, Jade and Sander once Marco was being allowed out of his building. I passed streams of somber-faced people trudging home, blocked-off streets, police everywhere. No buses, no lorries, no rumble of trains. It wasn't silence, exactly, but a kind of uncommon quiet.
It brought to mind September 11, 2001, of course. It suddenly occurred to me that I've never written about it anywhere. I was in Washington, four days after my family and I decided to invoke my maternal grandfather's living will and allow him to die. He'd suffered an aortic aneurysm a week prior and his last words approved a treatment that kept his body from dying but could not restore him to consciousness. I was very close to him. I was already grieving when the planes flew into the twin towers.
My mother woke Marco and me at 7:30 am, coming into my old bedroom with wide eyes and shaking hands. I'll never forget what she said. She told me, "We're at war." I thought she was overreacting. I was wrong.
We were glued to the television for hours, our emotions wrenched and wrung as the death toll veered wildly up and down and the video footage of the planes hitting the towers and the distorted Pentagon replayed incessantly. Finally we turned off the set and started making practical arrangements. Marco, my cousin and I were scheduled to fly out of Washington on September 12th. Obviously that was not going to happen, but we needed to return to San Diego. So we hurried to secure a car. We got the last one.
Although we were thousands of miles from New York, the same strange non-silence that we experienced in London yesterday pervaded throughout our long drive south. Despite the numerous cars on the road, the skies were absolutely empty. We felt the absence of jet noise keenly, like the lack of bus and train rumblings yesterday. The restaurants we stopped at, though filled with people, had a subdued atmosphere.
I sat in the back of the car while Marco and my cousin traded off driving. I read most of _The Sagas of the Icelanders_ and ate potato chips incessantly. I had to have them or I became very irritable. It was extraordinarily irrational behavior. My cousin drank two double Jack Daniels and cokes at every meal stop. We didn't talk about anything of consequence. We didn't talk about much, period. Even when we dropped my cousin off in Arizona with his girlfriend and he seemed to take comfort in her presence, we didn't mention my grandfather or the plane crashes. The time, only days ago, when this person, the man who never asks for anything, turned to me with tears streaming down his face and said, "I need a hug," felt incredibly remote. The combination of personal grief and the shock of terrorist attacks rendered us incapable of articulating anything. We were simply existing, surviving, trying to get home as fast as possible. Nothing seemed as appealing as sleeping in our own beds, being with our friends and returning to our jobs. Trying to recapture a sense of normalcy.
None of us were so blind to the events of the world to have ever believed in the sanctity of our country's shores or the unassailability of our personal safety. Nevertheless, our own homes offered a sense of security, no matter how shaky its foundations. Where else do you run to when threatened, however ephemeral or improbable the likelihood of attack?
pixiehead's thoughts on 9/11 and 7/7.
mysti77 was on the Underground during the attacks.