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Reminiscing over 9/11 during trip abroad

September 10, 2021

It began as a business trip to France. Following that, I decided to go into Paris for a few days of R & R. I had reservations in a small hotel off the Champs-Elysees because I wanted to visit the city on foot.  I arrived in my room early afternoon and as I always did on overseas trips, turned on CNN to see if I missed anything at home. They were showing a plane hitting the tower. In my mind I thought “what a stupid thing” on a news channel. A promo for a movie. It seemed absurd. But then I heard the voice of the news person - it was emotional. OMG it sounded strangely like Katie Couric. Then a second plane and a second tower, and this couldn’t be real. Then the Pentagon on fire and another plane crashing in Pennsylvania. 

I sat on my bed next to my unpacked suitcase for hours. I kept trying to call home but no connections. I had never felt so alone in my life. I tried to rebook my ticket home but the U.S. was canceling all incoming flights that were not on U.S. airlines. I had flown over on Air France. I was 54 years old, had traveled a great deal in my life and, for the first time, I was truly lost.  Even more, my home, my dogs, my family, my country, all lost.

I stayed in the room all night glued to CNN.

As the details of the attack unraveled, I felt I should do something. First thing the next morning, I went across the street to the Air France office. They had no information. The U.S. embassy was at the other end of the Champs-Elysees.  They have to help me. As I walked I noticed armed French police stationed all along the street. Trash cans were all missing. There was no traffic on the street.

When I arrived at the embassy, there was a metal fence around it backed up with those big concrete things. It was closed. Part of the fence had already become a 9/11 memorial. T-shirts with “I heart NYC.”  Photos of twin towers standing. Personal messages scribbled on paper. I, who only cry at dog movies, quietly started to cry.  I felt a hand on my arm.  It was a young woman who handed me a rose and said, “We love America.” She hugged me. I couldn’t think of a thing to say.

It was nine days before I got home. It was like returning home from a funeral.  I returned with a copy of the French Sunday Journal. Every year I pull it out to remind myself of that unforgettable journey.

Linda Sullivan Schulte
Selbyville
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