Tomorrow is September 11th, a date that lives in infamy. The day in 2001 that terrorist hijackers crashed an American Airlines flight into the World Trade Centre in New York City. A date immortalized by the Country music singer, Alan Jackson in his song “Where Were You.” The lyrics go like this, “Where were you when the world stopped turnin’ that September day.”
I’ll never forget where I was on September 11, 2001. My wife and I were in the Amsterdam airport watching the television coverage of that tragic event as we got ready to board a flight to Istanbul where we were to meet a Princess Cruise ship for a Mediterranean cruise. It was a nerve-wracking flight after watching what was happening in New York! Who knew if similar events were about to take place around the world. As soon as we landed in Turkey, all flights were grounded.
Grounded flights had a huge impact that was felt around the world. It even affected our cruise ship. The ship we were to board had come from Barcelona with its final destination being Istanbul. The ship would then make the return voyage from Istanbul to Barcelona. With all planes grounded around the world, some people who were booked on our cruise couldn’t get to the ship, and those disembarking couldn’t get home. The remaining passengers who were scheduled to go on various ground tours were free to go, but those who were scheduled to fly home were stuck onboard. Granted, not a bad place to be stuck, a luxury cruise ship, but people were naturally concerned about their families, and no doubt had responsibilities waiting for them at home. The ship’s computer program couldn’t handle this new twist, usually, the ship would empty completely at the end of a cruise, and then fill up for the start of the return voyage. The crew had to process passengers embarking and disembarking by hand, which took more time, but they managed to pull it off.
We were concerned for our families back home and had a helpless feeling, as no planes were flying. We were fortunate to be able to board the ship, as our assigned room was empty. Whoever occupied it on the way to Istanbul was either staying in Istanbul or taking a bus or train trip to explore other cities. Our ship stayed tied up to the dock in Istanbul for five days. Usually on a cruise, you’re only in port for a day, just long enough to get a taste of the city and maybe schedule a return visit in the future.
After five days, and many attempts to get departing passengers to their homes, the Captain didn’t feel it was safe to stay in Turkey any longer so we set sail on what was now an abbreviated cruise with only a couple of stops. One stop was Athens to let some of the passengers off the ship and to the airport to fly home. The cruise line arranged for a plane to fly those passengers to New York City, and from there they were on their own to find their way home. The rest of us, and there weren’t many left, carried on to Barcelona where we spent five days until the plane schedules were back to normal, and we were able to take our scheduled flight home. Five days in Barcelona was something we hadn’t expected, we got to explore the city and surrounding area.
As we departed the ship we were all given a gift certificate to take a future cruise on Princess. They apologized for the disruption of the cruise, which wasn’t their fault, but felt they hadn’t delivered what was promised. A class act, I thought.
We did use that gift certificate, and on that future cruise, I struck up a conversation with one of the crew members on board and told him about our 911 cruise. He said he remembered hearing about the canceled cruise and asked me if I remembered a long building on the pier where our cruise ship was tied up. I did. He said that for the 5 days, we were tied up, the cruise company had hired snipers who were stationed on the roof of the building at the pier to protect us and the ship in case of an attack. I guess that was why the Captain thought it wise to cast off the lines and head out to sea.
Ours was just one of millions of stories connected to the 9/11 terror attack, I’m sure you have one of your own. That was 22 years ago, but seems like only yesterday when the world stopped turnin’ that September day.
Till next week...
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White Rock, BC • Canada V4B 3Z2