Originally emailed September 2001
Dear Family and Friends,
Our fantastic year in Paris came to a screeching halt on September 11th, 2001.
We were in a state of shock as we sat in front of the TV in utter disbelief and watched two hijacked airplanes crash into the World Trade Center and another into the Pentagon and yet another in a field in Pittsburgh. It took hours of staring at the TV to unravel the events of the day. We feared for what might happen next.
Our first thoughts were of family and friends. We were unable to reach anyone by phone in the US. When we were not crying, we were numb. We had so many questions and so many fears.
I was most concerned about my son Steve and my niece Wendy who both live and work in NYC. Steve lives and works very close to the WTC. Wendy works in the financial district.
All we can think of to do is pray. For the past two weeks, the American Embassy has had yellow Keep Out tape around the premises. Apparently they uncovered some type of security issue related to the US. We are not sure if that was related to the September 11th attacks. There were armed guards on most street corners. Garbage cans on the streets have been sealed. Body searches performed in certain buildings. All very scary and the atmosphere reminds me of the riots in Newark and Plainfield back in the 60’s in NJ.
Rob was the only one who got through to us by phone. He contacted the rest of the family before trying to reach us. They were all safe. He checked with Kay’s family as well and they were all safe.
We spent this week glued to the TV trying to make sense out of the attack. I was reading the International Herald Tribune when available and Kay was reading off the Internet. We were finally getting some news dripping in from family and friends.
When we were not away on one of our trips out of Paris, I would go to the neighborhood cigar shop to buy the newspaper. There was always a line to the cash register. I was always ready with the exact change for the paper. The clerk never looked up as he collected my coins but would nod. On the day after the attacks, he happened to look up at the line and saw me. He stepped out from behind the register, walked over to me, put his arms around me and repeated and repeated, “Je suis desole.” He never spoke to me before but apparently knew I was a regular customer and an American.
Some of the news from home is very sad of those we know who were killed in the attack. Kay’s friend Maureen who visited us here in Paris lost her son who worked in the Trade Center. A lovely woman that worked for me in a gift shop I owned lost her son, a fireman who went in to rescue others. Unbelievable. Stories of narrow escapes abound. Reports of the number of deaths is very upsetting news.
From here in Paris, it sounds like President Bush is handling the situation with strength and compassion. He appears very focused. The country has reacted with enormous displays of patriotism. Other nations are united behind President Bush and offering their support. France’s President Chirac went to US to give his support in person. All of this is on the TV which is covering it 24 hours a day.
The French are holding moments of silence all over Paris. Traffic was stopped on the Champs Elysees. Churches were open for vigils from noon to three. The American Church had a service with speakers from the French government. Total body and belonging searches are continuing at the church doors. They are not taking any chances. Security has always been very tight in Paris. More so now.
Embassies in London, Paris and Rome warned Americans to lay low and be very cautious. Of course, security visible in our neighborhood because many government workers live here in the 7th arrondisement.
Kay and I have decided to cut our year short and try to get home. We heard rumors that no one is getting flights. After waiting in line, Air France graciously changed our tickets for an earlier departure. They were very understanding and sympathetic. Most everyone relieved that we are going home to US. We are very nervous about flying, anxious over what could happen yet eager to see our loved ones.
Our last few days here have taken on a very somber air. We are torn between our great adventure and the sad news of the attacks. We tried to have a celebratory dinner at Brasserie Balzac to say goodbye to Paris. We ordered our favorite dinners, wine and Badoit. The urge to share the reason for this dinner with anyone who would listen to us surprised us.
Our friends living in Paris gave us a farewell dinner at our favorite neighborhood restaurant, Bistro 7thA.. They will remain in Paris. We hugged and kissed and promised to meet again in the US. How lucky we were to make such warm friendships.
As we were waiting for the van to take us to the airport, our landlord, Patrick, and our neighbor, Claude, came over to give us a send off with champagne and gifts. Patrick gave us Armagnac, a French brandy, in little Eiffel Tower bottles. Claude gave me a book of French poems. He had tears in his eyes and said he was worried about an attack on Paris and about our safety in a plane flying back to US.