Being home on this day made me, again, recall the vivid memories I have of being in St George’s that day — and the rest of the two weeks that followed.
Front and centre are snippets of people, events, sights, fears and confusion, and above all, the kindness, thoughtfulness, concerns and sympathy of Bermudians for their American guests/friends who were in their country when this happened,
We were shocked that our mobile phone worked so well that we were able to contact family in New Jersey and New York — one cousin in Great Neck could see the smoke from the towers’ fires — and assure them we were well, perfectly safe and not to worry about us here ... we considered Bermuda our second home, and that we would be fine.
I clearly remember The Royal Gazette published a special edition in the afternoon, filled with colour photos of what was happening in New York.
Flights being forced to land at the airport, unaccompanied minors on non-stop flights, the drug-sniffing dog discovering checked bags of drugs — valued at $11 million — destined for New York; three arrested and choosing, immediately, to go to prison instead of standing trial.
That night we went to King’s Square and seeing members of the Regiment carrying arms ... never had seen them do this, except at ceremonial events. Armed regiment members guarding the airport entrance, with no one allowed to enter. Read about the regiment being deployed, armed, guarding the American Consulate, Premier’s residence, Governor’s residence, all ports. It was our understanding the arms had real bullets, not rubber bullets. Everyone was unsure of what to expect in paradise.
Remember stories of hotels having employees who were not required to be working, voluntarily coming in to help with meals, housekeeping, etc, to assist evacuees from grounded flights, suddenly finding themselves in a foreign country and not able to contact families to let them know where they were, and that they were safe. Employees bringing in mobile phones and laptops for guests to contact loved ones. Social services and Salvation Army taking care of unaccompanied minors. Passengers confused about when they would be allowed to get to their original destinations.
Bermudians so concerned to know if we were Americans, and if there was anything they could do, or say, to ease our anxiety; seemed they did everything they could to welcome us, let us know they recognised the unease we were feeling. Remember reading personal stories of the two Bermudians and former Bermuda resident who were also victims of the tragedy.
So many folks attending a prayer service/vigil for Americans in Victoria Park on Friday night; young people providing bottles of water that were destined for everyone working at “Ground Zero”. Encouraged to write messages that would be read later. Another touching example of Bermudians caring for, and about, Americans at that awful time of uncertainty.
On Saturday morning hearing aircraft take off, finally. Everyone excited, anxious, uncertain if they would be able to go home ... very strict security measures implemented in the departure area.
At St George’s Club, vacated cottages prepared for incoming guests ... some folks choosing not to come to Bermuda — my sister and husband among them — sharing unused bedroom with next-door neighbours who found themselves with more guests than beds. Club staff going out of their way to make sure we were well cared for. Continuing with sightseeing, beach time, diving, relaxing, whatever we felt like doing.
On our regularly scheduled departure day, we had so many mixed emotions about leaving: not knowing what had occurred at home, seeing our family and friends, finding out about how local people had been affected, and what to expect in the region.
We were also regretting having to leave a place that loved and cared for us, as Americans.
Before we left Bermuda, my late husband and I vowed we would not be intimidated by terrorists, and that we would continue travelling, and do what we wanted. And to add, two weeks later, we drove to Indianapolis to attend the inaugural Formula One Grand Prix. Great numbers of cancellations from around the world, but another memorable event.
Each year the most memorable moments of this day, and the following days, revolve around Bermudians and Bermuda ... what was expressed, and felt by a couple of grateful, thankful Americans in your country.
Cherry Hill, New Jersey