We left Pittsburgh on August 10, 2006–my now-ex-husband, my two kids, and I. We were heading to a family reunion in Jersey, Channel Islands, United Kingdom. That day is remembered in the US and the UK for the transatlantic terrorist plot that was thwarted. The heightened security on our way the reunion was far beyond anything I had experienced before that trip, and since then. We weren’t allowed any carry-on luggage, including purses or wallets. All we could take was a see-through plastic bag containing our passports, money, credit cards, and keys. Perhaps we were allowed to take out cell phones. Perhaps not. I forget.
We arrived in Jersey six hours later than expected. All our luggage got lost along the way. Our first order of business was to drive to the hotel to allay my family’s worries. Next, we shopped for toiletries and two days’ worth of clothes.
Despite the many mishaps, my memories of that trip were fond ones–my kids trotting off with their older cousins to explore, noisy family dinners, morning walks with my father. My family is scattered over three continents, in the U.S., England, and Israel. Getting us all in one place at the same time was a much treasured rare occasion.
Three weeks after we returned home, our luggage arrived, wet, damaged.We were lucky–so many travelers from those few days after the bombing never got theirs back.
A year later, my life turned upside down–I suffered brain bleeds and underwent brain surgeries to prevent future bleeds. On the evening after my second brain surgery, my father sent me the following poem:
At low tide, the sweep of the bay was just wet sand, rippled by the retreating wavelets.
The chilly, early morning walk was your idea.
We set out straight across the bay, heading for the rocks on the point,
But by the time we made it back the tide had turned,
There was no way that day we could have walked that path again.
We really thought you might not make it.
You were the last to arrive, after a nightmare journey
Of madding crowds, missed planes, lost bags, and Bill’s pain:
Chaos triggered by terror threats, fueled by insecurity, .
But there you were, with all your families, together in place and time.
Against all odds of other needs, demands and fate’s happenstance.
What hubris it was to plan and celebrate that point in time together.
The journey meanders on and getting ‘there’ was only ‘then’.