9/11 Remembered: A Very Brutal Time

9/11 Remembered: A Very Brutal Time

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(On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Tales Told From The Road ran stories from its readers and other sources about their experiences traveling in the days surrounding 9/11. Over the coming days we will re-run many of those stories to commemorate a day in the history of the United States and the world that will long be remembered.)

“9/11 Remembered: A Very Brutal Time” By Andrea Granahan

On the morning of September 11, 2001 I was at Oakland International Airport lined up with other passengers on my way to Italy aboard American Airlines. A loud alarm went off and a recorded announcement said a security door had been breached. I assumed that did not concern me. Then a man got off his cell phone and said aloud, “A plane has flown into the World Trade Center.”

(Wikipedia Commons Photo)

“Doesn’t he know you are not supposed to make jokes like that at an airport,” I thought to myself.

Then the flight attendant beside us answered her cell phone.

“I’m okay, Daddy. I’m fine. But tell me, was it one of ours? It was? Daddy, I’m going to be very busy, but I’m okay,” she said.

“Did a plane really fly into the World Trade Center?” I asked her.

“Two,” she answered.

There were no television monitors at any gates at Oakland then. A man came running by and saw us looking bewildered and he shouted “There’s a television in the sports bar.”

We stampeded to the bar, and there on the screen We saw the first building unfold like a horrible deadly flower blossoming as it collapsed. There was a stunned silence in the crowded bar. When the second building came down a woman began sceaming, “I’ll sign up. Let me at ’em. I’ll kill ’em. I’ll kill ’em all!”

At this point no one knew who was responsible. “Kill who?” I asked.

“Anybody. Middle Easterners. Everybody! I’ll kill ’em!” People backed away from her. Just then an announcement came over loudspeakers demanding we evacuate the airport. Lines began forming for people to retrieve their checked luggage. I just had a carryon so I went outside to await the airport shuttle. We wondered if the bridges would be closed. Someone hailed a passing motorcycle cop who checked over the radio for us.

“Bridges are open,” he assured us. The shuttle came and we began heading north.

My heart felt bruised from having just seen all those people killed. Across the bay I could see the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco’s skyline. I had always thought of the city as imposing – all that concrete. But just then it all seemed to vulnerable to me. I was awash in tenderness for it. I remembered feeling the same way years before when I first saw pictures of the full Earth taken from the moon. That beautiful bubble held everything that I loved, that bubble, so fragile. A city, so fragile.

Eight days later I finally made it to Italy. The Italians were incredibly kind to me. They accommodated me despite postponed reservations. In one hotel, the owner gave me his own room as the others were booked. An Italian woman next to me on a train asked where I was from. When I told her America she sadly shook her head. “A very brutal time for your country,” she said.

Yes. A very brutal time, indeed.

Andrea Granahan is a freelance travel writer and photographer based on the San Francisco Bay Area.

Her story was originally published by Tales Told From The Road on September 21, 2011.

Tales Told From The Road editor, Dick Jordan, flew to Italy on Saturday, September 15, 2001, on the first regularly scheduled flight between San Francisco and Milan following 9/11.

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