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September 11th 2001

Given the date (September 11th, 2006), it seems appropriate to tell the story of where I was September 11th, 2001. I had been working since 1999 in Japan, teaching English to high schoolers, and when the contract finished in the Summer of 2001, I decided to go around the world. So I swung past my parents' house in the states, and then to the UK. I borrowed a bike from a friend, and biked from the East side of the UK to the West (at the narrowest point).

I had reached the lake district, and the village of Coniston, early in the morning of September 11th. I had come to climb the Old Man of Coniston, as the mountain is known. I had stashed my bike at the local youth hostel and headed back into the village, to have a look around, get some lunch, and that sort of thing. It must have been around two in the afternoon, I guess, and I was standing near the church in the village. Two men were sitting on a bench, and one got a phone call. He had a conversation and then turned to his friend and said something like 'things are going crazy in the states - they've got planes smashing into buildings'. They both left, I presume in retrospect to see what was happening, so I pulled out the handy mobile phone I had purchased to talk to people far away while I was travelling, and dialled up my dad in the states. He confirmed that all was chaos, saying a plane had crashed into a building, and others were suspect or something.

I headed back to the hostel, and as I recall asked if they had a TV. I seem to remember feeling rushed. There was a TV in the basement, a rather dark place, and the weather was overcast outside. It was a perfect day for grim news.

In retrospect, I've no idea what I saw live, and what was taped, and replayed. I don't remember a thing the announcers (this was the BBC, remember) said. I remember Tony Blair, at that time still a Prime Minister flush with youth and full of hope and promise, come on the television and make an announcement, full of condolances and fire, promises that everything would be OK and the perpetrators would be found. I remember very clearly thinking how inept Bush seemed at this time, compared to the British Prime minister, and I seem to remember thinking how sad it was for the Americans in the US, that they didn't get Tony Blair's words of support, instead of Bush's. I remember thinking to myself how much I hoped it hadn't been the Palestinians, because whoever had done this horrible act was in for some serious retribution. And I remember trying to stop crying as other people walked in to see what the hell was going on. I think my brain was simply overwhelmed, and it came out my eyes.

I think other people may have changed the channel, eventually, or perhaps that was later, when I came back to the room to see if there was more information. Either way, I left. I went for a walk - it was cold, and misting, but that suited my mood exactly. I think in the evening, I watched the world premiere of some deep ocean documentary.

The next day, there were the newspapers, and the television, and I don't know what. It's a lost day. I think in part this was the weather, which stayed cold, and wet. There was an epic sendoff at the lake in the village for Donald Campbell, a racer killed in 1967 on the lake, but whose body was not recovered until 2001 due to the fact that his boat was travelling 300 miles per hour when he died. I didn't go, but I imagine it seemed a perfect day for a funeral.

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