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Day 254: Long-Distance

Sunday, September 11, 2011

expatriate: n. One who has taken up residence in a foreign country.

I was scheduled to fly here - on a one-way fare, which wasn't a problem in those days - in mid-September 2000. But a temperamental gall bladder got in the way, and I ended up undergoing a surprise operation ('emergency surgery' sounds so dramatic, and it wasn't quite life-or-death, just painfully sudden) two days before the flight.

British Airways was very accommodating and, presented with a letter from the surgeon, at no additional charge changed the departure date to four weeks later, to early October.

That year was, as you might expect, full of 'new': new partner, new house, new routines, new life. A lot of my independence dried up - I couldn't just hop in the car and go. Even if I could have acclimated to driving on the wrong side of the road, I had no sense of geography and hardly knew where anything was in relation to where we lived.

Each month was an adventure - the hours of darkness as we approached the winter solstice... birds I'd never seen before... currency that looked like Monopoly money... radio stations and holidays and grocery stores, all different.

Several times that year I'd considered keeping a journal. A friend had given me a copy of Peter Mayle's "A Year in Provence," and I'd read "Notes from a Small Island," by Bill Bryson, and I thought perhaps I'd have a story to tell about what it was like to pick up and move to another country.

In nearly every situation I tend to tell myself 'I'll remember THAT. Surely THAT will stick in my memory.' And of course I always forget, or almost always. That's what happened. Day piled onto day and little things were forgotten.

As the end of that first year approached, I realized there were some things that were no longer alien, things that I'd gotten used to and that had become routine. I wondered if the anniversary of my arrival would in some way mark the end of 'new' to have it replaced with 'familiar.'

Then came 9/11.

It was a lovely fall day here, much as that morning was in NYC, and after lunch we planned to begin winterizing the fish pond. Himself went out first and I said 'I'll be out as soon as I check my email.' A headline on the home page said 'A plane has reportedly crashed into one of the twin towers at the World Trade Center.'

When I clicked on the link it repeated exactly that - with something like 'updates to follow.' I thought it must be a small plane, maybe a commuter plane, that had crashed into one of the skyscrapers - it happened once to the Empire State Building in the 1940s, for example. (This was of course several years before the private plane that crashed into a high-rise apartment building in New York.)

I went outside and said 'Odd headline on the US news; they said a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center, but that's all it said. It must've just happened.' Himself replied there would probably be more by the time we went back in.

It was maybe forty or forty-five minutes later that we'd finished up, and I went in while he finished putting the tools away. Checking the computer again - well, you know what happened next. In that three-quarters of an hour, all hell had broken loose.

The worst moment for me was the announcement that a plane had gone down in 'southwestern Pennsylvania.' That's close enough to where my children then lived that finding out exactly where it had gone down became paramount. As it turned out, thank God, they were far away from it - but even so, Shanksville is probably less than a hundred miles from Gettysburg.

We stayed with television coverage for days - through the live broadcasts, I was so close, but so very far away.

That single event, the one that united us all no matter how diverse our backgrounds, our beliefs, our opinions - that one moment crystallized a realization for me: no matter how long I live in England, I will always be an American.

I've watched as the new buildings are being erected and as the memorial designs - incredibly moving tributes - have been constructed. As proud as I am to be part of a nation that has pulled together to face the ongoing threat of terrorism, I am even prouder of the hope symbolized by the new World Trade Center.

We won't forget the past - but our faith lies in the future.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Thanks for sharing your experience with us. This is and still is such a tremendous tragedy!

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    3362 days ago

    Comment edited on: 9/13/2011 2:31:55 PM
    AMEN to that Kasey. So glad your family was in clear range. GOD bless those that weren't. HUGS to you so far away.
    3363 days ago
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    3364 days ago
  • LARRI2010
    I, too, blogged about "that day." Interesting how both of us had gall bladder issues at that time.
    3364 days ago
  • CAROLYN0107
    Thanks for sharing. I too am an Expat.... have been more than half my life. I was home in America though for 9-11. My 9-11 is found at:

    3364 days ago
    I wasn't anxious for this day to arrive knowing that the TV would be dominated. But I was already riveted to it before we went to church. It is surely a day of memories. Never in my life did I imagine that those buildings would just crumple like they did. My good friend Pat lived in New York at the time and had just retired from her banking job right downtown near there.
    3365 days ago
    3365 days ago
    It's a shame you didn't keep a diary of your move and adjustment, because I really enjoy your writing style. To read about the adventure of newness and exploration, to be brought up sharply against the events of 9/11 is quite striking. I'm not an American, but I felt helpless to do anything at the time. I can't imagine what it was like from so far away.
    3365 days ago
    As much as this day hurt it, it did do one good thing, it actually united us as a country---something I wish had been as long lasting as the memory of that day will be----to see yard after yard with American flags flying everywhere was something to be proud of. I have always been patriotic but so many are not---like the kids at high school refusing to stand for the pledge let alone saying it. Freedom is NOT guaranteed---wish they would remember that.
    3365 days ago
    Oh Kasey--good thing you weren't heading to the US then---maybe that Gall Bladder operation was an ""Act of God""---(I had my Gall Bladder out too)---And it was interesting to hear your experiences of a new country --new everything---You adapted well.---- 10 years later and ALL our lives have changed---We are not the same trusting prople---Very interesting blog girl----Lynda emoticon
    3365 days ago
    My first thought when I heard the initial news story on the way to work was the same as yours: must have been a small plane, pilot error. When the reality of what was going on sank in, I was at work. Someone found a TV set and turned it on and we took turns rotating in and out of the office where they had it.

    My brain went several places: "Thank God my parents are not here to see their Wedding Anniversary desicrated"... and then "Oh, the families... so many have suffered losses all at once!"... and "I have a 17 year old son, and the powers that be will not let this go unanswered!" My stomach clenched, on several levels. The brain also went in this direction: "I have friends and colleagues who have darker skin... please God don't let the ignorant among us get at them or other innocents."

    Had there been no such incident, my son's life would not be what it is today... he came up from his lair in the basement and stated, "Those people (the people in the towers) were doing everything right. They had jobs. They just got up and went to work." Or something to that effect. A few years later, a brief decade, he wears a uniform and gets sent into dangerous places... because of what happened that day. He would never have put that uniform on, had it not been for the events of that day. He has lost friends and colleagues, a pain I wish I could have sheltered him from, as a direct result of all of this.

    No, this is another of the millions who will never forget. God Bless us all, and bring peace among us. I'm not the only mother in the world.
    3365 days ago
    Peace would be an awesome thing to achieve...and it can be done by prayers.....
    3365 days ago
  • DRB13_1
    Two weehs before the attacks, I had donated some old clothes, including a souvenir t-shirt from the Twin Towers. You never know...
    That gap in the skyline is like permanent teeth knocked out of a kid's mouth. Still feels odd...
    Praying for peace...
    3365 days ago
    As a swede this day is also the day our foreign minister Anna Lindh died from her knife wounds after a stabbing the 10th of september 2003. Furthermore september is the month of Estonia-catastrophe, when Estonia sank, 852 of 929 passengers drowned, 501 were swedish. The largest ship catastrophe in scandinavian waters in modern history.

    And september is one of my favourite months of the year because it usually contains beautiful atumn days, I love autumn. But september in my history book has many catastrophes - a reminder of the importance of ceasing the day.
    3365 days ago
    Kasey, I know exactly what I was doing when the plane struck the towers, the same as I know what I was doing when they announced that Princes Dianna died. No comparison I know but both events were heart stopping moments.

    On the 11 Sept, DH and I and some friends went to a conference at the uni and when we got home, DH went straight to bed as it was about 11pm. I turned the TV on and was watching an American News Channel, something I very rarely watch. It was the one where they were interviewing someone, I was glancing at it while making a cup of tea, when the first plane hit. Like you I thought it was a small plane and went in to tell DH and then continued to watch, as 2 of my sons arrived home from being out in town, then the second plane hit and I went in shock as I pulled DH out of bed and then the four of us sat up all night watching the events unfold.

    It was the same when the Bombing in Bali killed the Australians in the Sari Club.

    I do not think we will ever get over the shock and fear of these kind of events, but I agree with you it brings the people together in a special bond that lasts.

    Love Kerrie emoticon
    3365 days ago
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