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September 12, 2001

Kilkenny Ireland. An email—


I just want to contact my friends and family who are in America or who are Americans, after the awful news of yesterday.

The twin towers are gone, but we can live without them. It is incomprehensible that anyone can take airplanes full of people and crash them into buildings full of other people.

But this is what happened. It is hard for me to believe it. I woke this morning and remembered; it's true The news has been a steady stream in all public places. Terrible as it is, this helps to comprehend — not comprehend, but to believe that this has happened.

I just wanted to send a contact to those Americans I know who have email; I think this is part of accepting and acknowledging the reality.

It's been a feeling of shock. I started to hear of this news on the bus between Galway, Ireland and Athlone, en route to Kilkenny. A couple of folks got cell-phone calls and I asked them about what I was overhearing. The news at first seemed bad but minor. A couple of light planes had been crashed into the twin towers and six people were dead, a thousand injured.

Bad, yes, but more strange than horrible.

By the time we reached Athlone, where I would change buses, it was clear that something awful had happened. There was word that these were passenger airliners. There was talk of the Pentagon, as well.

Right about the time I switched my bag to the bus that would take me from Athlone to Kilkenny, the news was starting to sit very heavily on me. The driver had the radio on, and loudly enough to hear clearly. This was when I began to hear the official (or as official as was possible) account of what had occured.

I was on that bus when the towers collapsed.

I went to the Kilkenny Tourist Hostel and checked in. I asked where I could find a pub with a television. Across the street. Of course, every business that has a television had it turned on and everybody in every place was watching it, or talking about it.

I watched. I saw what everybody else saw. There isn't much more to say about this.

I had a couple of pints. Guinness.

Later, I went to see where I'd been told is an internet cafe—this one, where I am now—but it was closed, of course.

Walking back toward the hostel, I passed a pub where traditional Irish music was emanating very loudly. I went in; the place was quite crowded. I got a pint of Guinness and stood for a while, listening to the band. Guitar, bass, mandolin, and a bodran. They played with quite some energy.

I found a place to sit, at a table near the back of the front room, with three German people—Pieter, who talked a lot, a girl whose name I don't remember, and another guy whose name I probably could not write with this keyboard if I could remember. A red-mowhawk punk-dressed guy, very quiet.

Loud Irish music, cigarette smoke, crowded house, convivial atmosphere.

Then, at one point—I knew something was coming, and put my chin in my hand, looking down.

The singer said "We're having a lot of fun up here, singing rebel songs, singing peace songs, having a lot of craic [that's an Irish word] but we want to remember what happened in America today, and we want to have a minute of silence."

A few "shh's" went through the crowd and in a matter of a half-second, the whole place was just absolutely silent. It was then that I cried, just a few tears. Pieter and the girl had gone to get pints; I will always remember sitting across from this quiet German hardcore dude, crying a few quiet tears in this utterly quiet Irish pub. And the whole place stayed silent, for a minute.

Then the music resumed; they played an Irish song called "The Streets of New York."

I don't know how to conclude this email. My thoughts are with my American friends and family. As a newsman said yesterday "There is only one story today." I just wanted to share my thoughts.