I was visiting my son, Ti, and my daughter-in-law, Raluca, in her home town of Craiova, Romania. Ti and I were engrossed in playing a computer game, and Raluca and her mother were watching TV in the next room. With urgency in her voice, Ralu asked us to quickly come to see what was unfolding on the television screen. "Something is happening at the World Trade Center." She recognized the venue, because just a few days before, Ti had taken her there for a visit just before they had flown back to Romania out of New York's JFK International Airport.
We spent the next several hours in front of the TV, trying to make sense out of - using the words of NYC mayor Bloomberg - "the day our world was broken." I recall the flood of emotions and reactions that flowed over the next few days.
- I remember my anger that evening at a restaurant when someone suggested that "the Jews" must have instigated the attacks on the World Trade Center.
- I remember wondering when I would be able to get home in light of all air travel in the U.S. having been suspended.
- I remember continuing my journey and flying into Moscow's Scheremetyevo Airport and being greeted by a half dozen Russian friends. They said, in essence: "You country is now at war, and it may be a long while before you are able to return home. You are welcome to stay with us as long as you need to stay."
- I remember the next night being taken to a club in the center of Moscow. A Russian punk rock band was playing. They learned that I was in the audience, and during a break between songs, they addressed the crowd: "We have here tonight an American, whose country has just been attacked. We dedicate this next song to our American brothers and sisters and we stand with them in this time of turmoil." How poignant in light of the renewed Cold War-like tensions between the U.S. and Russia.
- I remember learning that my flight from Moscow to JFK would be among the first flights allowed to fly into the U.S. from Europe on 9/16. Our flight path arriving in NYC the next morning took us almost directly over the smoldering hole that had come to be known as "Ground Zero."
- I remember spending the day at JFK waiting for Delta Airlines to find out if Logan Airport would be re-opened that day. Later that night, one flight was allowed to leave JFK for BOS. From my window seat on departure, I was able to see the floodlights illuminating the pit where the hundreds of rescue workers and recovery workers continued to dig among the rubble of the Twin Towers.
A few minutes ago, I received an e-mail from the family of Robert Seidel, a West Point graduate who died in Iraq. I share with you the Seidel family's message and request:
Bob, Sandy & Stephen"
May we never forget.