Andy & Bev Fraser's Travel World

34 years of our "UnTour" Adventures
Our journeys are as close as we can come to a good old fashioned no rushing, relaxed time with good companions. This is our 35th year of doing it our way. Hope you can join us. Andy & Bev
where we you on 'that' day...

September 11, 2001:  We were in a photo shop in Belfast, Northern Ireland, when we heard some exited voices from some staff in the back room who had a telly and we realized that an aircraft had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York.

It was about ten minutes before three on that September afternoon. The group had been on a guided city tour and we were going to meet them a bit later. It was the last day of that 2001 tour and most of the gang would be heading for home the next morning. Bev and I had decided to have a relaxed wander in town getting a couple of little things sorted but nothing in particular.

A bit later, after we left the photo shop wondering what had happened we were in a bookstore where we heard a few young members of the staff cheering the news of what had happened while they watched TV. We were stunned not only of the enormity of it all but at this shocking, open celebration. We did suggest, rather strongly, to the noisiest of celebrants that perhaps he wouldn’t be cheering if his mother or sister had been killed in this manner.

Once the horror and severity of the events of the day sank in we realized this was probably going to create havoc and great difficulty for the group. Coming off the coach our gang, after having just seen first hand the results of the troubles in Belfast and not having any idea of what had been happening, were saying how dangerous a city Belfast was. Shortly after, it didn’t seem that dangerous after all.

Trying to sort it out...

Back at the hotel, becoming aware of the enormity as we heard more and more of the events and how the world was reacting, we felt certain that all international flights would be cancelled so we tried to extend the booking for the group but the Europa Hotel was hosting a huge medical conference on September 12, the following day and there was no space available. Same with all the other hotels in the Belfast vicinity. Nobody knew anything – except it was a chaotic mess.

Shock was setting in not only for our lot, but around the world. It was difficult to think clearly. This was just too impossible a situation to try and work through. Even the coach company couldn’t keep us on (to do what we didn’t know) because of their previous commitments. Even though those commitments were going to be a mess because of the scale of this horror.

The ‘best’ of a bad situation...

After much fumbling, muddied thought and dealing with travel bureaucracies who, at the end of the day had absolutely no immediate ideas Bev came up with a plan. Since it was impossible to contact the airlines or airport, everyone should go to the airport as though things were normal. Of course there would be problems and delays, but if someone didn’t show up, they would surely go to the bottom of the pile only to be sorted out when the rest of the world mess was dealt with. It was the best suggestion we could make to the gang.

It was bleak dining at dinner. As we all tried to grasp what had happened we informed the group of our so-called idea. And while it seemed a not that positive solution, it was the best we could suggest under the circumstances.

In the morning, with everyone trying to come to some kind of understanding of what had happened, they went off to Belfast airport to deal with the confusion and mess that awaited them. It turns out the airlines concurred with us and most, who did not make their own plans were able to arrange flights at a few days down the road.

Then the ‘positives’ appeared...

As time went on we heard the various stories and adventures of everyone including one couple who ended up spending a week with a generous couple who happened to live in one of those Manor Houses one sees on PBS. We heard of some who found a B&B for a few days but were not charged because the owners said of their desperate guests, “this ‘wasn’t

your fault”. Universities and schools opened their gymnasiums, brought in cots, and put up others. It was the best side of humanity showing itself to counter the ugliness of what had happened.

Bev and I had been scheduled to fly to Rome on September 12 to set up an Italian tour but we had found the ground operators so impossibly difficult to work with we changed our plans on the 10th and decided instead of Italy on the 12th we would fly to Scotland for a few days then down to London for our return home. Because Belfast-Glasgow was a close internal flight, there was no problem for the flights on September 12. Mind you, it was a very strange experience with dead silence in both terminals as people came to terms with the horrors of the day before.

Everyone from our tour of Ireland eventually made it home safely, many with uplifting stories that helped counter the ugliness of that fateful day. For us, one of the positives that came out of it was a day spent walking through the forests of the Balmoral estate. No radios or TVs, no crowds of people clustered around talking of the day, just peace, quiet, birds chirping, streams burbling away. It was another world.

In retrospect , September 11 made us, along with the rest of the world, very much aware of what a difference a day makes. May we learn from it and may it never be repeated.