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My 9/11


I was en route Galway to Kilkenny, via Athlone, in the midlands of Ireland on the afternoon of September 11, 2001.

It was Tuesday morning in America, of course.

On Bus Éireann, I was sleeping and woke to the sound of the telephone conversation in front of me. "Oh, wow," the guy said, quietly. But that woke me up — it sounded grave. I had a thought, which came to mind more fully as he said "is it terrorism?" I wondered if there had been an atrocity in the North. The North had been relatively peaceful lately, though I don't know what you'd call normal. There hadn't been any large deliberate atrocities.

The guy didn't say anything to anybody when he got off the 'phone.

After a few minutes, another guy received a call. He was traveling with someone, so afterward he told about it. I excused myself and asked for more detail. He said that a light plane had crashed into a World Trade Center tower. He got another call a few minutes later, and said then that another plane had hit the other tower.

It seemed funny, and I can't apologize for that. Two light planes crashing into the World Trade Center. Bad, but so strange as to be whimsical. But, no; the reality slowly filtered in. I don't remember how, but it became clear to both of us — we had both thought it slightly amusing. Something changed in mood, that's for sure, by the time we got to Athlone.

At Athlone, we met up as we were removing luggage from the belly of the bus. We both just looked at each other, he going to the station and me to another bus. We nodded, almost imperceptibly, and it seemed to me that that was about all the expression we could manage. It was grim. When I got on the other bus — the one to Kilkenny — the coverage was playing on the radio, through the address system. Nobody spoke, the whole trip.


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