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Ten years ago today I remember waking up in our rented house in New Jersey just coming to the end of our J1 visa, with college friend Henry coming in to give us the horrible news. We didn’t even have a TV so we listened to terrified radio reporters detailing the nightmare adding to the surrealism. We actually had a hotel booked for Sep 13th to spend a few days in New York before our flight on the 17th. Our worried parents thought we were in New York and rang us frightened but relieved. I’d planned to ring home to wish my little brother a happy birthday, not to let them know we weren’t in a terrorist attack.

The next few days were eerily quiet as no-one knew how to react, whether they were supposed to mourn or grieve, defend or attack. We still had a few days left and we couldn’t go to New York so we stayed in Cape May. We went to the deserted beach for a swim and watched fighter jets patrol the coast waiting for another attack. We went to the practically empty bars where hurt drunken bikers swore and cried. We waited out the next few days to see would our scheduled Aer Lingus flight actually fly out due to the back log of cancelled flights. Stories trickled through of our fellow J1 friends who were in New York narrowly missing the attacks but being caught up in the terrifying aftermath. Other stories told of dark skinned taxi drivers being pulled from their cabs and beaten. The young “Nintendo Generation” of Americans was signing up to the army in their masses to defend their country. Misplaced anger and confusion pierced through the still dusty air.

Our flight on the 17th was one of the few that wasn’t cancelled or delayed. And the welcome home from our parents wasn’t the usual welcome home from a J1. The mothers’ tears came a little easier and the hugs were that little bit tighter.

This post also appeared on Connector.tv