In France, ever since the beginning of last week, we are asked one question over and over. On the radio. In newspapers. (And probably on tv... but I no longer have tv.)
“What were you doing on ‘9/11’?” - “ Que faisiez-vous le 11 septembre?” No need to add the year.
Then the new issue of Time magazine came out.
(Thanx to Swee’ Pea, I was able to subscribe to the American digital edition for iPad.)
This issue is all about 9/11 of course with incredible pictures and interviews. It was not easy to go back into such a painful past. What can I say? I only was a witness, million of miles away.
Million of miles away and yet so close.
“What was I doing on 9/11?”
I was in Brussels, resting after a couple of hours spent trying to practice my reading skills (after this dreadful onset of Wet MD).
So there I was, feeling very tired but hopeful because I was making progress.
The phone started ringing.
At the time, he was an exchange student enrolled in a master’s program in fundamental physics at the University of Texas at Austin.
“Mom, turn the tv on. CNN. Hurry. Please hurry. Something horrible just happened. Mom, please, don’t hang up.”
The tv room being right across the hall from my bedroom, it took me a few seconds to get tuned to CNN.
The top of the WTC north tower was on fire. Huge billowing red flames. Well, you have seen the pictures a million times.
I stifled a scream.
Then Swee’ Pea and his two roommates started screaming to the top of their lungs a few seconds later, right in my ear... from Austin, Texas.
A plane had just crashed into the south tower.
I am still wondering whether or not I really saw this plane. I think I did because I remember starting to sob. So incredible. So unbearable.
We are French and we were living very close to Paris when there were all those deadly bomb attacks in 1995. I remember having to face daily life in Paris no knowing whether or not we’d still be alive at the end of the day. I remember calling friends. "Where are you? Are you ok?"
Life went on though... for most of us.
But what was taking place in New York was way too different and so horrifying that I was speechless. No words to describe what was happening before my eyes.
I called Popeye who was at work. He already knew because people had called him from Montreal to let him know. He was appalled. He had not called me because he wanted to protect me, I guess.
I stayed glued to CNN. From time to time, Swee’ Pea would call me. One of his roommate’s mother was working very close to the WTC and he couldn’t get in touch with her. (Much later, we learnt that she was safe.)
They were getting frantic of course.
Then the unbelievable happened. We watched the towers collapsing while on the phone.
I remember feeling suffocated by so much horror and dread.
On the other side of the phone line, the boys were going out of their minds.
By then the news about the Pentagon and the ‘lost’ plane had been broadcasted.
Day of dread, sorrow and grief.
At the time, we had strong links with the States. On 9/11, our family felt very American.
I have always been in love with New York. If I were to pick another city where to spend the rest of my life besides Paris, it would be New York. Feelings shared with my men.
When Swee’ Pea was 13, we spent a few hours on the Top of the WTC Observatories. Seeing New York from up there was so amazing.
In 2000, we spent a nice evening in ‘Windows on the World’ with our son and friends. I remember it was a rainy and foggy evening but inside, we felt so happy and secure. I still remember the smiles of the people in the lifts and of the waiters and waitresses there.
In March 2001, we were in the Lounge at Kennedy Airport waiting for our flight to Paris.
Our stay in New York had been more than extraordinary.
We had managed to go to the Metropolitan Opera every night despite a blizzard that had hit the city on the day after our arrival.
We had enjoyed our stay at the Plaza - an old dream made true.
I was coming back to Paris with a lot of pictures which I knew would make it to galleries and art exhibits.
“You know what?” I said to Popeye. “This year, we have not been to the Twin Towers.”
“Not enough time,” he answered. “But don’t worry. We’ll be back next year.”
Who could have imagined that on 9/11, 2001, our world would turn out to be so tragically different?
My heart is still crying for this forever lost world. Crying over the greed and the hatred that rule our new world.
Crying even more for all the people who died on 9/11 and for all those who keep dying because of 9/11... ten years later.
*Good Luck, and Good Night*