I was in the air when the first tower was hit; I watched the two towers fall, stupefied and enraged, alone in my hotel room in Norfolk. After my business was done, I went to the eerily quiet Norfolk airport to begin the drive home.
I remember watching contrails in the sky driving across Virginia, and pondering the fact that they had to be military planes. And coming to a nearly full hotel in western Virginia, where I met Americans driving from one end of our country to the other.
I remember resuming the drive home the following morning, and being moved at hearing how the Queen had ordered the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Buckingham Palace.
I remember meeting more Americans who had driven long distances to come home – including all the way from the Mexican border – as I sat in a shuttle bus taking me back to my car at the quiet and largely empty Cleveland airport.
I remember how, during the entire trip from Norfolk to Cleveland, people had been kind and helpful and friendly in a way people thrown together by the vagaries of travel seldom are.
I remember how we felt united, and how that spirit of what can only be called solidarity lasted even after the initial shock had dissipated.
Alas, this positive outcome from a horrible event lasted only a few weeks.
Will we Americans ever feel that united again?
This article has been republished with permission from Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture.
[Image Credit: Flickr-Michael Foran, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]
Thomas Piatak is a contributing editor to Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He writes from Cleveland, Ohio.