Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Cancelled Trip

My husband and I just came back from our trip to Ohio. Everything went well – we did not miss our flights and our luggage was not lost which happened in our last trip to Paris in May (see this post.) But ten years ago, in September, our trip was cancelled.

Every year I would go to France to visit my mother usually late in September and also in March. My husband would take his vacation in October hunting with family and friends either in North Dakota or Saskatchewan, Canada. That year though we decided that we would go together to France earlier as my husband had not seen my mother in years. Before going to Paris we were to stop in England for a few days to visit the York National Book Fair. The Fair started in 1974 and had grown as the largest antiquarian and out-of-print Fair in the UK with over 100,000 books for sale. Below is the poster for the Fair this year, 2011. In 2001 the fair started Friday Sept. 14. We had booked our flights for Sept. 12, 2001.

It took weeks to make our travel arrangements – reserve the hotel in London, book the bed and breakfast in York, buy the train tickets to York, the train tickets to Paris and so on. My vacation was starting at lunch on Tuesday September 11 so I would have time to finish packing the suitcases. But then early on that Tuesday someone close to me at work told me that a plane had taken a wrong turn in New York and there had been an accident. We searched the Internet but could not get any news until I went to the BBC news site - and then we saw what was happening. The rest of our office clicked on the BBC site and watched in horror the images of the World Trade Center transmitted from the US. I left as planned for home at noon, but kept watching the TV as I packed our bags. Then when all the airports were closed, I started to make the calls to my mother and to cancel all our reservations.

I did go to France in March and September 2002, but my husband could not come. My mother died in December 2002 and my husband never saw her again. After that September 11, I watched television news for hours and read many newspapers, like the French Le Monde which stated in its editorial “We are all Americans.

Nous sommes tous Américains

éditorial publié le 13 septembre 2001 (editorial published September 13, 2001)

In this tragic moment, when words seem so inadequate to express the shock people feel, the first thing that comes to mind is this: We are all Americans! We are all New Yorkers, just as surely as John F. Kennedy declared himself to be a Berliner in 1962 when he visited Berlin.

I listened as the government here told us to travel to New York and spend money. Many tourists were afraid to go there. Hotels, restaurants and theatres were almost empty. So I decided to go to New York as soon as I could. I flew to New York six weeks later on Friday 26 October 2001 – alone. I stayed at the Gershwin Hotel for four days. It is located on East 27th Street and had a special rate then under $100 (which is unusual in New York.) Their standard rooms are simple but clean. Below are their unusual store front and a standard room.

I had been to New York numerous times before and had seen the Twin Towers. I purchased several postcards, too – here are some below. (Postcards photos courtesy Konstantino Hatzisarros, Lee Marshal and Jeff Prant.)

That first afternoon in New York City I visited the Pierpont Morgan’s 1906 Library at the Morgan Library and Museum . That evening I took advantage of the “Relief Prix Fixe” (a fixed price meal benefiting 9/11 charities) dinner at the Oyster Bar and Restaurant in Grand Central Station. I had the New England clam chowder, the scrod filet broiled and a succulent chocolate mousse (I still have the ticket!) It is an historic restaurant which opened in 1913. It has beautiful arches and marble columns – here is a picture of it below. (Photo courtesy Where to Eat.)

The next morning, Saturday, I took the subway to Ground Zero. Below is a postcard I bought on a later trip to New York in 2004.

I was not sure where Ground Zero was but I walked toward the smoke I could see ahead. It had been several weeks since the attack but there was still a lot of ash and smoke making your eyes water and throat raw. I did not have a digital camera then, but I took several (not so good) pictures with my film camera.

You could not get close as the roads near the site had been closed.

There were many trucks driving by, carrying debris.

I sat briefly on a building ledge to take a picture. A worker came close by to sit, too – he looked exhausted. I took a picture of people watching a truck drive by with a large piece of steel – the worker’s face is in the foreground.

I went to another street to see better

but still could not get too close. There was water everywhere.

I stayed around a long time, walking, looking at all the photos of lost ones on walls and flowers pinned to the gates. My heart was filled with grief.

Going shopping did not feel right so I spent my money on some souvenirs – postcards to send to family, friends and for my collection.

I also purchased a star pin and a special edition of a small Statue of Liberty figurine draped with a flag (you can see the Twin Towers on the box) and a little pewter souvenir figure of the World Trade Center.

For my husband I purchased a tee-shirt and a key chain with the profits going to the New York Fire Department.

I purchased a red white and blue scarf which I wore all the time those few days. I placed it now around my little painting of the frog, which I purchased later – proceeds going to 9/11 charities.

Leaving this tragic area

I walked in the neighborhood some more. I saw the bronze Charging Bull sculpture – I think near Wall Street. I am not sure about all the streets I took.

I arrived at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal. A ferry was ready to leave the pier, so I went on it. I made the round trip without walking on Staten Island. On the way back I took a couple of pictures showing Manhattan, and the empty area where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center would have been located.

Many theatres on Broadway and other places were offering extremely reduced tickets. I took the subway and purchased a ticket at the Imperial Theatre. That evening I saw “Les Misérables.” It is a spectacular musical inspired by Victor Hugo’s book.

The next day, Sunday, I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. There was a special exhibition of Paul Signac’s paintings. (Luckily I wrote all this down on my pocket diary, that is why I can remember it well.) Paul Signac (French, 1863-1935) had met Monet and Seurat in 1884 and liked their painting methods. Signac was a friend of Vincent Van Gogh and went on painting outings with him many times. Signac developed the pointillist style (paintings made of little points) with Georges Seurat. Below are some representative paintings.

Outside the museum were artists selling their art. I purchased for my husband a small drawing of stark trees from an Oriental artist. The picture below shows the artist and the painting in its larger size.

For lunch I went back to the East Village and ate at Angelica’s Kitchen. It is a vegetarian restaurant serving seasonal food. I shared a large table with several other women. I don’t remember what I ordered but it was very good. What I do remember though is that I started speaking with a couple of the women in front of me. They were from New York and asked where I came from. I told them I came from Atlanta to show my support to New York City. Everyone at the table stopped eating and smiled at me and said “thank you.” I still get teary eyes when I think about it.

Photo courtesy Civil Eats.

Then I walked to The Strand bookstore and stayed there browsing books for a long time. On Monday I wandered into Indian Village and ate lunch there. Someone in the street was passing out some pamphlets. I took one. It was called “Fallen but not forgotten.” Inside it had pictures of 9-11.

The introduction article said “hate cannot win.” (My scanner is old and shows a yellow line on the picture.) The introduction ends by saying “gazing upward our hearts were broken.” They were.

Our hearts were broken for all the loved ones who lost their lives – not just Americans as there were twenty-two different nationalities in the Towers. Since that trip I have been to New York several times, twice during September 11, in 2004 and 2007. I saw remembrances of the day such as paintings by children.

One September 11th in New York I watched Mayor Bloomberg on television paying tribute to the fallen.

I just read an article by James Der Derian, professor at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, in the 9 Sept. 2011 issue of the German newspaper Der Tagsspiegel : “Ten years on, there is much to remember about 9/11, of the loss of innocent lives, the sacrifice of the first responders, the coming together of communities – from the local to the global level – against the terrorist attack on the US. But there are also moments we might wish to forget, forged in fear, trauma, and vulnerability, of a disastrous, unnecessary war in Iraq, indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, illegal wiretaps, surveillance and suspension of civil liberties in the US, an abiding suspicion of the non-American, and a search for justice that became indistinguishable from a desire for revenge.”

postcard photo courtesy Charles Ziga

Ten years later I have forgotten my cancelled trip, but I have not forgotten what I saw in New York City that October 2001. Even if we did not know anyone personally who lost their life that day, we felt we lost family members. In our corporation one of our co-workers was a passenger on one of the fatal planes with his wife going on vacation to Los Angeles, but I did not know him. Our office sent contributions to his family. I think that the legacy of the 9/11 events will stay with us – they will for me, always. But I hope that the sense of unity I felt in New York City that October 2001 can also be recovered and be with us in the future.

Postcard photo Alfred Mainzer, Inc.


Lonicera said...

A very moving post. I remember the two minute silence a few days afterwards when all of us in the office gathered in the lab, where the radio was switched on, because we wanted to observe it together. I remember getting in touch with all the American friends with whom I had fallen out of touch, to express solidarity. I remember the Queen ordering the US national anthem to be played before the British one when changing the guard at Buckingham Palace, and I remember how people struck up conversations in buses with total strangers if they heard their US accents, and how overwhelmed the Americans seemed to be at this outpouring of indignation and sympathy from people in the western world.Thanks for reminding me.

French Girl in Seattle said...

I enjoyed this post tremendously. We were in Paris, visiting our relatives. Our flight back to Seattle was scheduled on September 12. We were pushing my son's stroller in the old-fashioned Vincennes zoo outside of Paris. My husband went inside one of the shops to buy postcards. A TV was on. He came back outside, very pale and said: "New York has just been attacked." Even though our flight was cancelled like many others, we were able to take off before the end of the week. Our flight was the first one out of Paris since the attack. There were TV reporters hovering around the airport, interviewing all of us while we were waiting in line to check in. Bad times. Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

Pondside said...

That was a unique perspective on New York and on the anniversary of the attack. Years later we are still losing as we live in fear and suspicion in a state of security and under restrictions that we'd never have thought possible.

Anonymous said...

This is such a beautiful and moving post. I was in tears at the end of it. Ruth

Kay L. Davies said...

A very thoughtful and moving post. I'm so glad, for your sake, you went to New York in October, 2001. You will never regret it, and will always remember it.
I was asleep when the first plane struck, but a friend who has known me all my life phoned and said, "Wake up, turn on your TV." The urgency in her voice was enough to make me do as she said, without question. Then I saw the second plane hit.
I remember it the same way I remember where I was and what I was doing in 1963 when John F. Kennedy was shot. On those two occasions, it was true, we were all Americans.
— K

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

DJan said...

The professor's quote at the end was very moving, and very, very true. I was in Boulder, Colorado, at a meeting with people from all over the country who could not return home for weeks. It was so traumatic to watch those towers fall, I cried for days... and I was not alone.

thank you for your reminiscence of those days. I felt I could have been there with you. Blessings, VB.

Mary said...

Such a wonderful post, full of adventure, art, human interest, and bringing out the memories of that fateful day just 10 years ago. Thank you for sharing so much - you certainly kept me on the edge of my chair as I read through.

Blessings tomorrow and every day.
Hugs - Mary

P.S. I was saddened learning your husband didn't get to see your mother one more time. It's always hard when families have many miles between them - one of the curses of modern life I guess.

Sally Wessely said...

This was a very touching post. I read it with interest and admiration. I think it says much about you as a person as you went to New York to support the city and the people. Thanks for sharing.

Pat said...

Thank you for that. The most moving part for me was when you had lunch and the women saluted your solidarity.

CrazyCris said...

A very beautiful post, you've brought tears to my eyes, brought back memories of how I felt 10 years ago today. Thank you so much for sharing! And BRAVO for having the courage to travel to NY 6 weeks later and show your support.

You've actually just answered the question I asked in my blog today: where were you when? It's one of those days. One of those when almost everyone can remember exactly where they were and what they were doing. Memories burnt in our mind via a tragedy.

Wanda..... said...

Your lovely post and Professor James Der Derian's quote presents a lovely end to my day of 9/11 remembrances. Thank you.

Frances said...

Bon soir from New York City and merci, Vagabonde, for this beautiful post with its detailed remembrance.

Every September 11 since 2001 has brought back many memories, but also granted us more vantage points from which we local folks can view history and what parts we might have played.

I so look forward to actually being able to talk with you!

Vicki Lane said...

A wonderful post, Vagabonde! So many memories.

Denise Covey said...

This was a wonderfully moving post with so much personal detail which made it all the more emotional. Thank you for the words and pictures. Yes, we all remember where we were, and 'Hate Can't Win' definitely.

Thank you for visiting my travel blog and commenting. I posted a winning short story I've dedicated to 9/11 on my writing blog today. You may like to read it:

Hope to see more of you!


Elaine said...

Lovely post and the last postcard sums it up so well. It was a very sad day not only for our country but for the whole world.

Ginnie Hart said...

Thank you, Vagabonde, for sharing all of remembrance. Who of us will ever forget!

Ruth said...

Incredible, Vagabonde. Your cancelled trip turned into a thoughtful series of visits to places that reached out to you, as you reached out to this city that belonged to everyone. I'm so touched by everything here, every detail. It is the details, the connecting points with people, with what is beautiful to us, that brings meaning to our lives.

A couple of weeks ago we sold Don's parents' things in an estate sale. They moved from their 5-bedroom house to a small apartment. Someone found lots of old photos, and one was of our two children standing at the bay's edge in New Jersey, with the NYC skyline behind them, the two towers big as life. It gives you a strange feeling.

Thank you for your good wishes for Peter's recovery. It is his jaw he broke, including the hinge-joints, which were shattered. He will have reconstructive surgery today, and jaws wired shut for weeks. Thankfully, he is not in much pain. I hope that will last after the surgery. xoxo

Shammickite said...

To actually be in NYC and to see the aftermath of the attack is something you will never forget, I am sure. I visited NYC many years ago and I have photos of me standing on a busy NYC sidewalk with the twin towers behind me. There has been much said about 9/11 over the past weekend... and I found that some of the footage shown on Tv was just as upsetting today as it was ten years ago.

claude said...

Formidable post, Vagabonde.
Comment ne pas se souvenir de ce qui s'est passé :l'impensable, d'ailleurs.
J'ai posté aussi en montrant la carte dpostales des Twins Towers que tu m'avais envoyée.
Je pense qu'elles manquerons à jamais dans le ciel de Manatthan.
J'aime beaucoup la dernière carte postale. Ce qui m'étonne beaucoup, c'est qu'elles aient disparues complètement, lors de l'attentat.
J'ai revu un reportage dans lequel il est fait polémique

Arti said...

You are a perceptive archivist and memory keeper. What you've posted here are priceless, not only the momentos, but your words recording your memories and feelings. Thank you for this tribute. I love the painting of the frog holding an American flag. I remember clearly what I was doing that morning. I was at home getting ready to go to work, teaching an ESL class of international students. Of course, that became the topic of discussion in class. We need blog posts like yours to keep alive the meaning behind events, and gather the collective spirit and strength to go forward as a community. Your work as a memory keeper and archivist is invaluable.

Kenza said...

Quel post émouvant! (Me manque un peu de vocabulaire...)
Merci chère Vagabonde de ta visite et de ton adorable commentaire, je suis très touchée.
J'ai eu une pensée amicale pour toi cet été, j'ai visité plusieurs maisons d'écrivains, de peintres, d'artistes célèbres dont la maison de Dior en Normandie. Je n'ai pas été emballée, la chaleur peut-être...
Je te souhaite une agréable journée,

lorilaire said...

quand j'ai lu ton histoire, je n'y croyais pas, la traduction est très aléatoire, j'ai donc relu, tu l'as échappée belle,ce n'était pas ton heure !
J'ai suivi les commémorations du 11 septembre, tout le monde se souvient ce qu'il faisait à cette horrible date, je pense que ce sera cet horrible évènements qui marquera la fin du XXème siècle ou le début du XXI ème !

Thérèse said...

Un billet qui touche. Qui ne se souviendra pas?
Beaucoup de morts ce jour la et beaucoup de morts ensuite decoulant de cette catastrophe.
Puisse t'on chacun construire un petit bout de monde meilleur.
Merci pour votre passage sur chandler a to z.
A bientot par blog.

Margaret said...

In my eyes, Vagabond, you are a hero. When one reaches out and shows such compassion and support, cares so deeply and DOES something... that is a heroic heart. This post touched my heart - I watched a documentary the other day that I was only going to devote ten minutes too as I was busy. I sat, glued to my chair for over two hours. The kids joined me. I love the fact that a world can gather and declare "We are one".

BTW, you mentioned a blogger friend in Europe (?) who had Friesians. Does she post about them? I'd love to follow her if she does... can you give me her blog post name? (My 1/2 Friesian is arriving in about two weeks!) Thanks.

sweffling said...

An inspiring and gracious post. Thank you.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

What a wonderful post, my dear....And how brave you were to fly to New York so soon after 9/11...Yes, Brave. So many people were afraid to fly, and I understand that---So, I applaud you for going to support all of New York with your kind and loving Heart. I love that you wrote much of what you did in a diary---that was a particularrly memorable trip because of the closeness to the Horrendous Happenings and Losses of that day. I didn't know anyone personally who died that day, but I know so very many people who live in New York City and speaking to people on the phone---trying to make sure everyone was okay ---It was quite a Haunting time. Thank you for sharing these memories, my dear.....

Something is different about your pictures now---and one can no longer make them Bigger...I don't like that at all. What is that about? Do you know? When you click on them it takes you to some new black background and it becomes like a slide show, only you cannot enlarge the pictures....! It is too bad, really. Especially with this particular post. I don't mean to complain, but I was disappointed, you know? Anyway....I loved all the pictures you chose to share with us.

Jeanie said...

What a thoughtful and evocative post. I haven't been back to New York since 9/11, but several years before Rick and I were there and went to church at Trinity on a Sunday morning, then walked around the district in the shadow of the towers, munching on bagels and croissants, sipping coffee and tea, from a shop open that morning. During the television coverage of 9/11, I noted that Trinity was a site for much caregiving -- almost a triage/hospital/tending area for workers. Your photos are beautiful and I loved this post, but most of all I loved that you went to support the city -- and that people told you thanks.

Marja said...

A touching post of a dark sad time in history. Me and I think the whole world was glued to the TV watching the unthinkable happening.
I have a postcard from the twin towers as well. My father brought a whole pile of NY postcards for me when he went on a trip over there. You can never look at that picture the same anymore.

Dutchbaby said...

Thank you for this heartfelt post, Vagabonde. Actions like yours is what helped NYC recover. I enjoy how you tell a story, always filled with interest, beauty, and most of all, passion.

Vagabonde said...

Dear friends - I am so happy that you took the time to stop by and leave such kind comments. If that was your first time here, you are welcome on my blog. If you asked me a question, I’ll go to your blog to answer. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this day which remains a painful memory.

Chers amis - Je suis heureuse que vous ayez pris le temps de vous arrêter ici et de laisser de si gentils commentaires. Si c'était votre première fois ici, vous êtes les bienvenus sur mon blog. Si vous m’avez posé une question, je vous répondrai sur votre blog. J'ai beaucoup apprécié lire vos pensées sur ce jour qui reste un souvenir douloureux.

kyh said...

my biggest regret is that i wasn't able to visit the towers before it disappeared from nyc forever. big, big regret!

let's not let terror bring us down. i always believe that good will conquer evil! :)

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

This is a beautiful post VG! As a New Yorker I still feel a heavy heart around the anniversary of 9-11 and I mourn for the week before and after. My husband worked in World Trade center building # 7 and he and his co-workers were displaced for a long time afterward. We knew people that died that day and the memories are so painful. I had a very hard time going into Manhattan after the attack. We could smell the building ruins for months in Brooklyn, afterward and I could not bear to go close to see them, so I found your photos of your visit so soon afterward very interesting. It was so nice of you to show support for NYC at a time when it was much needed.

The first time we went back to Manhattan was a few months afterward when we attended a opera in Lincoln Center. The opera had just resumed after being closed for a few weeks after the attacks. At the end of the opera the curtains rose and every member of the cast and chorus had an American flag in their hands which they waved as the orchestra played the American Anthem. They then all bowed to us - the audience! I get chills thinking about it now. It was a beautiful tribute to NYC and to the fact that life had to go on.

I have the same "Fallen, but not Fogotten" booklet that you do. I treasure it as it is full of healing wisdom. I do believe that hate is not the answer.

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