Les fleurs de nuit.
Key moments of my life occurred in New York and the missing Twin Towers. I went to New York straight out of journalism school and lived in the city for eight years. While a reporter at the United Nations, I worked part-time for an international organisation with an office on the 46th floor of One World Trade Center.
One of my colleagues introduced me to her cousin, who later became my fiance. I saw San Francisco, Las Vegas and Tucson for the first time with him. Sadly, three years later, he was murdered.
In 1999, I met the man who would become my husband at an ecommerce conference at the World Trade Center. We had a drink at Windows of the World, with its spectacular views of the city, before going to dinner elsewhere. It was the last time I saw the Twin Towers, other than in movies, television news footage or photographs. I didn't take photos of the World Trade Center, believing the buildings were a permanent fixture of lower Manhattan. In December 2009 I was in New York and studiously avoided looking at the altered skyline.
While I have tried not to think too much about September 11th - so painful are its implications - events of that fateful day are impossible to forget. When planes flew into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, I was living in Paris. My husband phoned and told me to turn on the television. For the next two weeks, I was practically glued to the television, watching the horrors unfold on BBC and CNN.
I was stunned not only by the tragic loss of life, but the collapse of the supposedly-indestructible Twin Towers. The buildings were engineered to withstand the elements and natural disasters, such as earthquakes. On the 46th floor, our coats in the closet swayed visibly, as the building oh-so-imperceptibly moved with the wind. The fact that the buildings so quickly imploded was astonishing.
After United States airspace was closed and flights grounded, I phoned the American Embassy in Paris to offer our guest room to a stranded family (travelers due to fly had given up their hotel rooms, returning from Charles de Gaulle to find most hotels fully booked). The Embassy's response: "How many people can you take?" In the end, our apartment wasn't needed. But an American friend based in Washington, D.C. came for dinner. While David stayed home to prepare the meal, Mike and I took a long walk around Longchamp in the Bois de Boulogne, commiserating about the shocking events in our country.
I'm not going to talk about how George W. Bush took the worldwide goodwill extended towards us in the aftermath of the tragedy and squandered it. This is not the day to write about Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney and Blair, who sent us down a disingenuous and ruinous path of war in Iraq, forever altering the way the world perceives us. This is not the time to write about all those lives - both soldiers and civilians - killed in Iraq and Afghanistan or to consider the vast treasure expended in such campaigns, draining our economy.
Today I'm focusing on honouring the men and women who lost their lives in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the downed Flight 93. I'm thinking of the family members left behind and the valiant firefighters, police, medics, rescue workers and ordinary New Yorkers who risked their own lives to save others. Also, I'm thinking about the ghost buildings forever etched in my mind's eye.
To all who remember and all who have suffered in the 9/11 aftermath: wishing you peace and brighter days.