Americans are not aloneSept 11 2001 started a little differently for me than most business days. Usually I start by listening to TV, usually the History channel or TLC. But that morning I listened to CBC 95.1 FM. It was about 8:55 and the markets report was on. When they went to a local broker, he mentioned they were kind of busy watching the World Trade Center fire… I immediately turned off the radio and switched my PCTV Vision card to channel 33 (CNN). When I saw the flames and smoke coming from the north tower, I told the people in the IRC channels I was in. Everyone found it difficult to believe. A few minutes later, I saw a big explosion out of the corner of my eye. I thought it was something in the north tower. It took a while and a video reply to understand it was another plane hitting the south tower. Looking at the IRC logs, it was then that we started to speculate about suicide bombers.
I spent the next 18 hours watching the events unfold. The most shocking moment was when the first building collapsed. I didn’t believe it when people told me. I figured it was still there, just hidden behind the smoke. We all know that wasn’t the case. Disbelief was the flavour of the day.
Checking on coworkersMy first thoughts turned to my friend Dana who lives in New Jersey but works in NYC. I sent off an email to her. Thankfully I got a quick reply. A follow up email the next day confirmed she was still OK. Then I started to think about one of my coworkers located in New York City. I tried calling him, but didn’t get an answer. People in the California office weren’t up yet. Once they arrived online, we found out that three of our employees had been travelling out of town. By air. Later that day, we contacted them, stranded in an airport, but safe and well. Near the end of the day, we heard from the NYC guy. He was well and so was his family. They were about 2 or 3 miles from the WTC. The next day, Wednesday, it all seemed rather unreal. That evening, as I headed up into the Gatineau Hills for a bike ride, I drove along Sussex Drive. All along the front fence of the American Embassy were flowers. Already. It was a very touching sight.
Driving to New YorkOn Saturday, the plan was to ride with friends in the Gatineau again. Matt was getting married to Denise. That was to be his last ride as a single man. But I felt the need to drive down into NY state and drop off some flowers. I figured that made more sense than dropping them off at the Embassy. The plan was to locate a memorial or somewhere similar where the Americans were dropping off their flowers etc and add my contribution. In all the years I’d lived in Otttawa for about 10 years, I’d never been to the 1000 Islands area. So I chose to cross there at Gananoque. Mistake. Although what I saw of the area was very beautiful, It took me an hour to get through. From there, I figured I would head north east and cross back over at Prescott, on the way visiting Ogdensburg. I stopped for lunch at a small sub shop in Ogdensburg and told them about all the flowers in Ottawa and asked if they’d been doing anything simlar here. Sadly, they hadn’t been. So I decided to take the flowers back to Ottawa and add them to the collection there.
Personal consumer needs
The sole purpose of my trip was not the flowers. It was also self serving. I was planning to buy some new pieces for my Thule roof rack. The sub shop staff also told me about a bike shop in Canton, about 15 miles south east of Ogdensburg. They were willing to order the stuff we wanted and would email us when it’s ready. The plan is to drive back down there, do a ride, pick up our gear, and drive back to Ottawa. The shop is only about 80 minutes from my place. My consumer needs met, I drove back over the border. This time the checks were much more stringent than on the way over. I was impressed.
Walk past the EmbassyAbout 8pm that night, I went downtown and walked along the fence in front of the Embassy. Flowers, cards, poems, candles, teddy bears, and flags had been left by well wisher. I walked along to the north end of the fence and found three small stuffed toys. I unwrapped the red, white, and blue flowers I’d bought in Brockville and entwined the stems through the metal fence. All around me, people were moving slowly. Reading the notes left by those before them. I remember seeing a small and very tattered and torn American flag. I suspect it had been at someone’s house for years. They had left it on the fence. All round the city, I’ve seen cars with American flags in their rear window. Children had drawn pictures and written poems and left them behind. These are the very visible and public displays by people who have been greatly affected by the recent tragedies. This despite not being directly affected as have those who have lost loved ones. I walked along and read the notes left by people. Some were signed. Some were not. People were expressing their personal feelings. Time and time again, the notes mentioned that the USA was not alone.
But the one note which struck me the most was a single phrase on a white sheet of paper:
“We are all Americans now”