My 9/11 Story
For reasons which will become apparent, my 9/11 story starts a month before the tragedy. My friends Patty and Andrew Freedman had invited me to their beautiful home in
While there, Patty and Andrew introduced me to their neighbor, Ruth McCourt. She was a lovely lass from
Ruth was also friends with Katherine Hepburn’s family. An Irish connection? Whatever – she was telling me how Katherine was in very bad shape at the time. We just had a really good gab.
After she left, Patty told me Ruth’s husband, who had been to dinner there the night before, had recently been diagnosed with very serious cancer and wasn’t expected to live for more than a few months. Very sad, especially as their daughter was so young. He was a couple decades older than Ruth (or at least looked that way, maybe the cancer made him look older than he was).
On September 8th, Bruce and I departed for a long-planned trip to
We landed in Rome on the 9th. Around on the 11th, we were lost in the old Jewish Quarter, looking for a cocktail lounge recommended in one of my guide books. We were on a narrow street and the only other people around were two very well-dressed American women. We knew they were Americans because one’s cell phone rang and she answered. She turned to her friend and said, “He’s saying two planes hit the
So we continued down the street, saying, “Could that be true?” The fact that they had said two planes seemed particularly odd – we could appreciate how in a freak accident a Cessna or some other small craft might crash into one of the buildings. But two?
We gave up trying to find the cocktail lounge and came to the piazza in front of the Pantheon. A lot of the surrounding restaurants had tables out in the piazza so we found one and ordered drinks. Then I went inside to find a bathroom. As I was coming out I heard another American woman say, “
I found Bruce and told him what I’d heard. Needless to say we were freaking out and desperate to find out something, anything. Unlike
The next day we were able to get a bit more news – the International Herald Tribune – for one. We were scheduled to take a train to
I got the car, picked up Bruce and we drove to
While we were still registering, the woman behind the desk said, “There’s a call for you.” Luckily we’d given our itinerary to several people and our dear friend Glen was calling. We were so happy to hear from a New Yorker. Glen, who loves the City beyond words, was in tears, trying to fill us in on all that was going on.
From then on, all our hotels got an English version of CNN and it was hard to tear ourselves away from the TV and go out and see
About meeting Americans – Bruce and I tend to keep pretty much to ourselves when traveling. We’re not big on striking up conversations with strangers. But that sure changed this trip. Whenever we heard other Americans we were instantly asking what they knew, where they’d been when they found out. Of course, us being New Yorkers always elicited lots of sympathy and concern.
I managed to call my phone machine and it had shut down because people were calling from all over the world to check on me. I know a lot of people and, of course, they know I live in the City, but not many knew that we live about as far away as it’s possible to get from the WTC and still be on the
We met one young couple from
In spite of everything, we did have a lovely trip. And by the end of it, flights were being restored. Plus nobody was flying, so we didn’t have trouble getting home. But coming into the City and seeing the hole in the skyline where the
Also, though we had checked in with Chingis by phone and he’d said they were having a lot of trouble, we really didn’t have any idea. Of course they had all sorts of issues – their truck not being allowed into the City, their suppliers not operating, etc. So the demolition was complete, but the renovation had hardly started, so our apartment was not habitable and wouldn’t be for at least a week. Glen and Gino kindly took us in.
On one of our return flights, we had received a complimentary copy of the British tabloid magazine Hello. It had a feature about
Then a couple weeks after we returned I heard from Patty Freedman, asking if I remembered her neighbor Ruth McCourt? Of course I did. We’d had such a nice talk. Patty then told me that Ruth and her daughter were on the first plane to hit the towers – the trip to
I went back to my copy of Hello and there was a full-page picture of Ruth. It was an older photo, she had a different hair-cut and I’d glanced at it when I skimmed the magazine on the plane but hadn’t read the names or registered that it was Ruth. Her poor husband – Juliana’s father — a terrible cancer diagnosis and then this. Just one of so many sad stories but a particularly poignant one I think.
This may sound weird, but we were a bit sorry not to have been here on 9/11 and the days following. Because