The 9/11 20 year memorials have brought back lots of memories for me. I suppose like many of you I know exactly where I was…It was early afternoon and I was driving with my daughter, Sarah, from Derby in England towards Edinburgh. We had left the Derby Records Office and I had an appointment the next day to work at the Archives in Scotland. We had the radio on and a breaking news story said that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. What? No? Was it a sightseeing plane? A helicopter? I traveled extensively for business and knew the flight paths up and down the Hudson River…how could something have hit the World Trade? But as you know, the news got worse. It wasn’t just the World Trade Center in New York; it was the Pentagon and the flight that went down in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Sarah was with me, my husband worked in Stamford, Connecticut and my other two daughters were in college, one at Smith in Northampton, Massachusetts and one at George Washington University in DC. We stopped at the next rest stop to call home, but by that time the phone lines were down and we couldn’t get through. We stopped at a hotel, south of Edinburgh and as we checked in I asked about an Internet connection. Yes, they had a Business Center and I was welcome to use it for free. I was able to get through to my husband who knew by that time that both daughters were safe. We lived in Darien, a small community outside New York, where most people commuted into New York City and we would soon learn that we lost a few members of our church.
Everyone on the rest of the trip was wonderful. In Edinburgh I cancelled my appointment in order to spend the day with my daughter, we were both shaken and had spent most of the night up watching the news. The Visitor Centre in Edinburgh had opened all of their computers for use by Americans for free. The next day we headed to Glasgow, as the one thing Sarah wanted to do was visit the Charles Rennie Mackintosh exhibit and the Willow Tea Room (only fair since she had patiently waited during my day and a half of research in Derby). After that we headed back to London since luckily, we had made reservations for our last night at the Airport Hilton. Sarah was returning to Boston early Sunday morning and I was flying on to Dublin for the Irish Congress. The airport was jammed as flights hadn’t taken off since Tuesday. We were leaving from different terminals, but she was assured that her scheduled flight would fly. She was on the first flight from London to Boston that flew after 9/11. After my week in Dublin, I connected back through London to JFK. I think I went through 5 or 6 security checks...a first. By the time I left, the airport was eerily empty and my flight had few passengers.
I write this, not to just re-live my experience but because this week’s memorials got me thinking about all of the other experiences I've lived through. Have you documented any of yours? I so wish my parents had done that, or even my grandparents, most of whom immigrated to the US. Why did they leave? What did they experience? My Dad served in the Navy during WWII and was stationed in England and France. I know little of that experience. I have also lived through the Vietnam War (my husband served and was wounded there), Watergate and the JFK Assassination (I was in 8th grade typing class). I'll now add to that the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol. There are good things as well…the space race including the first sub-orbital flight (I was in 6th grade and they rolled a black and white TV into the classroom) and the moon landing (at about 4 a.m.)
We work so hard to document our ancestors, but remember, we, too, will one day be ancestors. What are the events of your life? Wouldn’t you like to leave this information for your descendants so they don’t have to wonder? Take some time to write down your story…even a short memoir. Your descendants will thank you.
Happy Hunting and Stay Safe!
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