Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11/11 in London

Ten years ago today, Josh had worked late the night before and was just heading in to the office when he saw a string of police cars, sirens blaring, heading in the opposite direction at top speed.  Then he noticed all the people on the roofs and balconies of the high-rise buildings down the street from us in Rosslyn (in Arlington, VA, just across the river from DC), pointing and yelling.  He turned around and saw a huge plume of smoke rising from the direction of the Pentagon -- and came right back home.

We sat in our apartment and watched in horror as the day's events unfolded both on TV and right outside our window.  The only thing between us and the Pentagon was Arlington Cemetery, and it wasn't long before we saw evacuees from the Pentagon streaming past our building on foot, trying to find a way home.  We invited people in -- as did many of our neighbors -- offering them cold water, a clean bathroom, and a landline telephone so they could contact their loved ones and let them know they were OK.  A few people even sat down and watched the TV coverage with us, sharing in the horror as the twin towers collapsed.

A group of men in military uniforms came in -- one with a large blood stain on his pant leg.  I asked if he was injured, but he explained that it was the blood of a friend he had helped out after being hit by flying debris when the plane crashed into the building.  I couldn't begin to imagine what a terrifying experience these men had just been through, so I was taken completely by surprise when they tried to reassure me.  One of them told me not to worry about the Pentagon being evacuated, because they had people in other facilities all over the country who were monitoring the situation, and they would do all they could to keep us safe.  Wow.  That hadn't even occurred to me

We were fortunate not to have lost anyone close to us that day.  My sister was scheduled to fly to DC from San Francisco that morning, but her flight was canceled before she even left for the airport, and we had several friends who lived or worked near the Pentagon. We never would have imagined that ten years later we would be living in London.  It's hard being so far away from our friends and family on a day like today, so we felt we should do something to commemorate the day.

We spent most of the day watching the ceremony in NYC streaming live over the Internet (the TV coverage was mostly talking heads) while we did laundry -- it was sunny and windy with only a few brief showers every time we walked outside with a basket of clean clothes to hang on the line.  In the evening, we went into central London to attend a memorial concert in Grosvenor Square, in front of the American embassy.  Of course, it started raining just as we arrived, but since we'd gone to all the trouble to go, and we brought our umbrellas, we stuck it out.
Well/poorly-dressed attendee
Sea of umbrellas (that's a statue of FDR in the background)
Former ambassador to the US, Sir Christopher Meyer
Harrow School Choir

Welsh Guards
 After the concert ended, we paid a quick visit to 9/11 memorial garden in the square, where earlier today they held a ceremony in which they laid down a white rose in honor of each of the 67 British citizens who died that day.
British 9/11 Memorial Garden
We grabbed dinner at an Italian restaurant nearby, and then took the Tube back to Waterloo.  Before catching the train back to Wimbledon, we took a small detour to the waterfront to watch the fireworks marking the end of this weekend's Thames Festival.  (More about that in my next post.)  After such a somber day, we thought it would be nice to end with a bang (in a good way).  The fireworks started nearly half an hour late, but it was worth the wait.  Here are a few photos...
By the time we got home, it was after 11, but we were glad we had taken the trouble to attend both events. 

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