Remember Them.

Like Pearl Harbor, the assassination of JFK, and the Challenger Space Shuttle, everyone remembers what they were doing when the news broke of a plane hitting the North Tower.  Many of my friends and family were watching the news while getting ready for work.  Listening in shock and confusion as speculations were made about how and why the plane was off course and hit a such a large building in lower Manhattan.  This shock and confusion quickly melted into horror and disbelief when many of them watched on live tv the second plane hit the South Tower.  The world as they knew it was dissolving right before their eyes.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, I slept.  My friend and fellow American Matt called and woke me up by asking “are you watching this? The plane. The plane hit…” he trailed off, unable to finish his thought.  “The Pentagon,” he whispered. The bottom fell out of my stomach.  I couldn’t breathe.  My heart stopped beating.  It was like someone pressed the ‘pause’ button on my life.  I just sat there staring into the dark, my brain trying to process.  The Pentagon?  Surely not, I reasoned, he must have misheard.  He had to have.  The Pentagon?  THE PENTAGON?  I sleepily marched into the living room and turned on the tv.  Every station was replaying horrible images of New York under attack and producing billowy clouds of black smoke.

I call home, my hands shaking as I dialed the phone.  The lines were busy. I tried again and again.  Waiting.  Watching the tv project surreal images of a city I had never visited, but still identified as home. My brain was trying to make sense of the entire scenario and praying for it to be some horrible made-for-tv movie.  It wasn’t.  My friend Penny sat up with me all night holding my hand, while we shook our heads and tears rolled down our faces, plopping into our cold cups of forgotten tea.

The morning sunshine brought no happiness.  Just more horrible stories about people jumping out of the buildings, rescue workers who had perished trying to save as many people as they could, and everyone looking shell-shocked.  The death toll was in the thousands.  People were frantically searching for their loved ones and coworkers.  The numbers of victims just kept rising and no one knew where it would stop. At that moment, 8:14 am Australian Eastern Standard Time, the newscaster said the scariest thing I had ever heard in my life:

Americans abroad are urged to stay where they are and do not under any circumstances go to any US Embassy or Consulate Office.

At that point in my life, I had been traveling for nearly a decade and the one thing that was hammered into my brain from the time I was preparing for my first international trip: if you are ever in trouble or lost or need help, go to the Embassy.  Now I was being told not to under any circumstances?  I couldn’t believe it.  My heart started pounding.  I just stared at the tv, shell-shocked.  What the literal fuck was happening?  I didn’t know what to do.  Mind you, I was in Australia, and I felt safe. But I did have thoughts during the middle of the night that I should probably check in with the Embassy in the morning, you know, just because.

That was the moment 9/11 felt real to me.

Fast forward 17 years and I now live in New York City.  I have met people who were first responders or who had loved ones die or who were stuck in Manhattan and couldn’t get back home to the other boroughs or who were in schools or buildings nearby and can remember the ground shaking when each plane hit and each tower fell.  For the city of New York, nothing would ever be the same.

As a country and as a world, we mourned.  We mourned the loss of nearly 3,000 people.  And it changed us.  We are a little less naïve.  We pause a little more when a plane flies a little too close to buildings or just a bit lower than we think it should.  Even I glance wearily at these planes.  Me, who did not live here at the time and could never possibly hope to understand exactly how the city coped.  I can only observe the aftermath as an outsider.  And the aftermath is raw and rough, but yet, beautiful and graceful at the same time.

On Monday, the World Trade Center Subway Stop on the 1 Train opened.  Since I moved here, it was only a grey dot on the map indicating that it wasn’t in use.  Honestly, until a couple of months ago, I didn’t think it would ever open.  But here it stands, as a poignant reminder of true American grit.  She might be broken, but she will never stay that way and what will emerge will be better than before because of what happened, not in spite of it.

Always remember how fragile and fleeting life can be.  Two waterfalls stand where two buildings once proudly towered over all.  Etched into these waterfalls was every person who fell with those buildings.

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Remember them. Honor them, so that they too may soar.

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Counting Down

It is always a bit surreal when a plan comes together.  I’m not talking an impromptu meeting of friends for Friday Margarita Happy Hour.  I’m talking about a big trip.  Like one to Italy.

At this very moment in just three short weeks, I will be at JFK airport, flashing my passport, handing over my ticket, and boarding a plane to Rome.  And in a rare occurrence for me, I thought I’d share this information with you beforehand rather than waiting months or even years (apparently you can teach an old dog new tricks!).

It’s been a few years couple of decades since I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the land of pasta, vino, leaning towers, and big fashion houses.  So I dusted off some old photo albums and found a few pics of my last trip.  My apologies: I’ve never been a great photographer, especially in the archaic times before digital when you just had to take the photo and hope for the best (at least that was my method, which probably explains a lot!).

Excited by the prospect of updating my photos and adding more cities to my list, my Italian bucket list was soon about 3 pages long–and not small notepad size, but large legal pad size!  Sadly, some hard cuts had to be made.  Although, to be honest, we’re still trying to finagle how to squeeze in a few more things because it’s just so damn hard to not want to do absolutely everything.  I know, I KNOW that’s not possible.  I’m always lecturing visitors to NYC not to over pack their schedules and leave some room for flexibility.  But here I am overpacking left, right, and center! The finalists are Rome, Florence, Venice, Parma, Bologna, Chianti, and a tiny little hat making town called Montappone.

At this point, I’m not sure what I’m most excited about–it keeps changing minute by minute.  I have always longed to see all the delights that Rome has to offer, but then there’s coffee and wine and pasta and gelato, and also a coastal drive along the Adriatic Sea, winding roads through Tuscany, a hotel with canal views in Venice, and we’re taking a parmesan cheese tour in Parma!

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Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash

Plus we have booked what might possibly be THE CUTEST Airbnb in the Chianti Hills for three nights with Giovanni, who promises to greet us with homemade wine and olive oil.   HOMEMADE WINE AND OLIVE OIL! I may have been stalking Giovanni’s Instagram, but I mean, really, look at this:

On my very first visit to Tuscany 24 years ago, I called my parents and joked that I wasn’t coming home.  I have a feeling this time, it might not be a joke…

Ciao for now!

Sunday Comics: Official End of Summer

In my humble opinion, this week marked the official end of summer.  You might argue that it is in fact, Tuesday, the day after Labor Day.  But you would be wrong.  You see, College Football started this week, which I believe is an official holiday in the South.  In fact, they probably just tacked Labor Day to the end of it just to give everyone an extra recovery day.

It was a bit of an ugly day for some, a blow out for others–but I think that we can all agree that regardless of whether your team won or lost we’re all happy the season began.  Except, perhaps, for my roommates who now have to endure hours of me yelling and screaming and pacing and stomping and pillow throwing…

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