Traveler, reporter: Heavy-hearted, just wanting to go home

October 01, 2001|By LAURA MITCHELL, Staff Writer
  • The twin towers of the World Trade Center and the New York skyline are illuminated in this photo shot by a traveler aboard a departing cruise ship the night before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. WILLIAM MITCHELL PHOTO

We cruised out of New York Harbor at 9:30 p.m. Sept. 10. My family went on the ship's deck to view and take photos of the night-lighted New York City skyline.

I stayed behind in my cabin, exhausted from a day of travel. As a native of nearby Philadelphia, I've seen New York City before and I knew I'd see it again.

I saw it the next morning, on television, on fire.

Our cruise ship sailed through the night Monday and by Tuesday was docked in Newport, R.I. Many of the passengers saw what I saw on CNN that morning. The rest learned of it soon enough.

My thoughts, like everyone else, were first with my family back home, then for the poor souls trapped in the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon, the people on the hijacked planes, and those who lost their lives trying to save others.


Some could not bear the news any longer. They turned away from the horror and went into the town to try to be tourists.

I stayed on board to watch. I feared the attacks would move across the county and I was worried about my 19-year-old daughter, Tara, at home in Vista.

About 9:30 a.m. I called Tara, who is five months pregnant, to see if she was all right. It was good to hear her voice, but I wanted to go home, to hug her.

Tara's husband, who spent Monday night at the San Diego Naval Recruiting Depot waiting to go to boot camp, called her with the news. She cried, fearing he would be sent to war. He said it was what he wanted to do.

Tara was not alone in her tears. All of America cried that day.

The next day, an order came from the ship's captain stating passengers would not be allowed to disembark and go home.

I stopped my news vigil and went with my family to try to be a tourist in Boston. We got away from the television but not the news.

Downtown we saw people gathered at open-air pubs watching television. The police were raiding a hotel and had arrested someone, or some three, the reports were not clear. We asked a waitress what city the raid was in.

"The Westin Hotel is about a 10-minute walk from here," she said.

The news reporter said police were bringing in bomb dogs. My father went back to the ship in search of a feeling of safety. I don't know if he found it.

On Thursday, Sept. 13, we were in Bar Harbor, Maine, when the Boston Globe reported that at least some of the suspected hijackers crossed from Canada into Bar Harbor via ferry, and went from there to Boston's Logan Airport.

On Saturday, Sept. 15, we were in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where flights to New York were diverted on Sept. 11. My uncle's friend Albert was our informal tour guide. He said a lot of local citizens opened their homes to the stranded passengers. He also said there is probably not one rental car available in all of Halifax.

On Wednesday, Sept. 19, we were in Montreal, which is, according to a story in the Boston Globe, home base to dozens of Islamic radicals. Luckily, we didn't see any.

My family was a bit nervous to take the flight home. On the plane, I got lost in "One Hundred Years of Solitude," only to be disturbed by my father standing over me.

He was looking at a man in the seat in front because he was "acting suspicious." I told my dad I would keep an eye on him and to please sit down.

I watched the man fumble with his backpack and pull out a chocolate eclair. I thought then that my dad was being paranoid, but I have to admit I was pretty happy to see that chocolate eclair.

Most of my trip was made up of walking about strange cities with a heavy heart. The rest of the time I spent watching CNN. I really just wanted to go home.

"I want to go home, yeah, yeah

Well, I feel so broke up

I want to go home

Let me go home

Why don't they let me go home

This is the worst trip I've ever been on"

Sloop John B

by the Beach Boys

Staff Writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452 or

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