The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

A solemn day

on September 11, 2013

We have all been told before that amongst friends (and strangers) we should never debate politics and religion. I can claim no authority on either matter and so it’s not something I am likely to say much about. Besides on a blog it’s just a one sided opinion.

I know that September 11 will hold it’s own significance for you and I don’t wish to talk about the events that led to the loss of nearly 3,000 lives that day in New York and Washington but in my mind I will be quietly paying my own respects.

Before the tragic events of that day unfolded, it was already going to be an important date for me as I was flying to Hong Kong after an 11 year absence. It was meant to be a day of anticipation; a 13 hour long haul flight lay ahead of me with the thrill of flying Virgin Airways (very good in those days) and going all that way by myself to see family I hadn’t seen for years and best of all, to meet my eight year old nephew #1 for the first time.

When news broke that day of what was happening, shock and disbelief reverberated around the office, like it did everywhere else I imagine. Nobody was able to concentrate on work and speculation and fear was rife that the same would happen to Canary Wharf. With a flight to catch myself that night, I was naturally scared but I don’t recall thinking I ought to cancel. Just before I finished work to go to the airport and some colleagues were wishing me a safe flight and good holiday, I remember one colleague helpfully reassuring me that with a bit of luck nothing would happen to my flight because I was going the other way.

That evening at Heathrow airport, security was fierce as it ought to be but the atmosphere was very solemn unlike how an airport should be. #1 and 2 love going to the airport because we are either going somewhere exciting or picking up someone special. I am fairly nervous of flying as it is, a trait inherited from Mr Li, and it was hard boarding that flight after all that had happened on that day. Two years later, I again boarded another flight on September 11 and again it was a very solemn flight for the reason I told you about in my last post.

If I’m going to wander down this ‘where were you when’ path, I think of the day the Manchester city centre bombing happened on 15 June 1996 ( I actually didn’t remember the exact date and looked it up). I was still at University and it was just before summer break and the Graduation of many friends. At the time I was working part time for Ath-Leisure, a designer men’s clothing shop that played Oasis and Stone Roses on loop all day. The store was located right in the centre, just metre’s from the Arndale Shopping Centre and very near to the location of the bombing. By chance, I had decided to quit that job the Saturday before because I wanted to spend more time with my friends. The company policy was that you leave the same day otherwise I would have been working that day but I wasn’t. I was in the communal bathroom in our halls. Looking back, I can pinpoint the exact moment the shockwaves reached us and it felt like being inside a balloon when the air is suddenly let out and blown back in again.

We were unaware of the devastation until the photos appeared in the newspapers the next day. Then gradually as life resumed, we heard of friends who had been in town when it happened. I remember a boy telling me that he was walking past a shop window when the explosion happened and he saw the glass shatter just as he was passed it and had never felt so lucky. Perhaps being so much younger then, the impact of this event has left less of a mark. Perhaps it was because there were thankfully no fatalities.

Then there are the July 7 2005 London bombings. Whilst I was on my way to work and ought to have been on the Underground travelling from north to south London, the bombings had already taken place and I was evacuated from the train about five or six stops into my journey. There was a lot of confusion going on and no one seemed to know what had happened. Many people were attempting to get into work still. Mobile phone lines were jammed so it took a while to contact some at work and my colleague just said, don’t try to come in and go home. So that’s what I did.

I don’t have much else I want to say on this matter, you can probably hear the reluctance as you read but I did say that this blog is to remind me of what has come before and these sad events are significant in my history and this is what I remember of those very solemn days. On the other hand, whilst we won’t forget, there are and will be lots of other years that share part of these same dates bringing lots of good things and happier events like Birthdays and anniversaries and that is something to be thankful for.

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