Ten Years Ago Tonight

I’ve waited before posting a “ten years ago” today kind of blog post to late evening because in my case I heard about the attacks in the US literally rather late in the day.

On the morning of 11 September 2001 I woke up in Paris. I’d gone there to look for and look at an icon.

It is a coptic icon which had once been behind my desire to go and engage with the Coptic Church in Egypt. The icon itself isn’t in Egypt, it is in Paris, in the Louvre and I’d decided to take a very quick overnight trip to Paris to see it. (As you do. Don’t you?)

It is the icon which some call the icon of friendship – Jesus walks alongside somone with his arm gently over the other’s shoulder. They are clearly going in the same direction. There is a gentleness about it that has always quite beguiled me, quite apart from the obvious fact that it shows Christ in a same-sex embrace.

It may have been that I was looking at that icon as the events were unfolding in America. What happened next is that I made my way home entirely oblivious to what was taking place. I rushed through the Parisian streets. Did some last minute shopping. Made my way to the airport. (It was Ryanair, so it was Beauvais). It was a busy day. Lots of people rushing about in the streets. Nothing indicated to me that the world had just changed.

Whilst I stood waiting for my plane at the airport, nothing seemed out of the ordinary, though I do remember them taking particular care over counting how many of us had boarding cards. I overheard no conversation about New York. I knew nothing of the twin towers. Had I ever even heard of the twin towers?

Meanwhile, back in the UK, friends who knew I was flying believed that I would either be on a plane that was going to fall out of the sky or alternatively would be stranded in Paris for days. Weeks even. They were making plans to liberate Miss Cat from the Rectory should I not return.

However, that plane flew. I arrived back at Prestwick at about 11.30 to begin driving to Bridge of Allan. I tuned into Radio 4 to hear the Midnight news as I generally do. And the thing I remember most was not the words so much as the tone of the newsreader. She began the news bulletin by saying, “It has been a day of terror in America” but it is the utter incredulity in her voice that I can still hear. And then a rising sense of disbelief and unreality as I drove home hearing the news.

Home at last. Bed. Sleep.

And then to awake on the morrow to a scolding from cat carers for not alerting them to the fact that I was safe. It had never occurred to me to think I was anything other than safe.

It had never occurred to any of us.