July 29, 2009

September 2001

It's almost time again. September is coming closer, and with it the infamous date, 9/11. Yes, we are moving further away, every day a bit longer, the kids that are 8 years old now weren't born, or just born on that day.

I was in Germany, I left in the last two weeks in August. I visited my mother, I rented a car, we took day trips, visited my aunt in a nursing home, had a visit from a cousin I only knew again via email, and then went to visit a friend on the island of Sylt. My mother was so thrilled, she was almost 80 years old, and very excited to be seeing the sea/ocean once again. She kept telling me, that she never expected to see the ocean again.
We had a very nice time together on Sylt, we drove up and down the island, saw every nook and cranny, spent time with my girlfriend, ate fresh fish, and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.
After our few days there, we drove back 'home' again, where I had a couple more days, with my brother and his wife living next door.
On September 11th was my return date to go back home. My brother drove me to the airport for the umpteenth time, we hugged, said good-bye, and off I went. Got on the plane, settled in, I don't even remember who was sitting next to me.

We were about 3 hours into the flight when I got up to use the lavatory. I was in the lavatory when I heard an announcement from the captain 'due to terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in NYC and the Pentagon in Washington, DC, the airspace over the US has been closed and we are requested to return back to Frankfurt, Germany'.

I thought I was dreaming. I was all by myself, I thought I had entered some kind of twilight zone. I just couldn't believe it.

So I left the stall, returned to my seat, thinking I'll pick up a clue to whether this really happened. No outward signs of any excitement, that was good - maybe it wasn't true. I very carefully turned to my neighbor, and asked if she heard the announcement. Yes, she replied.
Hmm. My first thought were my children. Nicole, my middle child, still lived at home. She had a dentist appointment that day, and knowing her, she would go to that, and not change plans and be for some wild reason in NYC, on top of the WTC.

My son was in training in Georgia, and I was sure, he was not anywhere near Washington or New York. My oldest daughter, however, worked for the Navy, was sometimes at the Pentagon, and there was a chance, however remote, that she might be there.

Nothing to do but to wait. Not knowing how bad it was, what had happened, nothing. No further word from up front, the plane didn't even seem to make a change in direction, I was hopeful, that we had been given the go-ahead to continue. About an hour later the captain announced again, we were turning around, but since we had enough fuel onboard to make it, Frankfurt was having planes arrive with less fuel, we would get our turn.

Yes, we turned around.... still, everyone was eerily calm. At one point, a passenger became upset, apparently her brother worked in the World Trade Center, and she started crying.

Still we knew nothing.

We finally landed in Frankfurt again. Bedlam. I tried to find someone to book my return trip immediately, thinking I had to wait a few hours, and I'd be on my way home again. Some lady from L-hansa finally told me to go back home (having found out I had spent the time at my mother's house), the company would send my back there in a taxi. Okay, I said. I got in the taxi, and finally worked up the courage to ask what had happened. The driver told me that two planes flew into the World Trade Center and that the towers had collapsed.
I didn't believe him. I thought he was a lunatic, and didn't talk to him the rest of the drive - about 1 hour.

My mother opened the door of the house, and one look at her face told me the truth, it was all true. Yes, she heard from my kids. Everyone was fine. Those were the first words out of her mouth. My brother was on the way to Frankfurt to look for me.
Then she told me, yes, all of it was true, the towers were gone. The Pentagon was damaged. I couldn't take it in.
I still remember that feeling.

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