Letter to the Editor

Lest we forget

Monday, September 9, 2019

My daughter, Anna and I, arrived in Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland, approximately 3 p.m. local time on Sept. 11, 2001.

Anna went in to check on our reservation while I unloaded our luggage. There was a light mist in the air so characteristic with Ireland. Anna came out to tell me she had bad news.

I said, “Don’t tell me they don’t have a room for us.” She said it was worse. The World Trade Center in New York City had been struck by terrorists. They had flown airplanes into the buildings.

I didn’t believe it until we watched on TV as the buildings collapsed before our eyes. It looked like a movie, so unreal. That evening as we continued to watch news coverage, I felt angry, sad and lonely as we learned that all the flights to America had been canceled, even the land borders were closed.

America, my country, had been attacked and I wanted to be home. I was 4,000 miles from home and there was nothing I could do.

The next day, as we traveled to Shannon Airport, we were offered prayers and condolences by the Irish people. “We’re with you, Yanks” was a common phrase. People were singing God Bless America and the attendance in the churches swelled. The Irish people were signing books of condolences everywhere.

When we arrived at Shannon Airport on Friday, we were told by the airline, Aer Lingus, that they would try to get us to America in a week provided that the airports were open. We were waiting in a long line of travelers to be re-ticketed on a flight to America scheduled for Sept. 19 at 11 a.m.

As we waited it was announced there would be a three minute period of silence for the lost lives in America. They rang a chime over the intercom and the airport quieted. People were turning to face the center of the area. As I turned I had a strange feeling in my gut. In my mind, I could see a large American flag. The stars and stripes flying in a light breeze. About 30 men and women from Aer Lingus, in their green uniforms had formed a large circle and stood at attention. I saw it as a circle of unity. The silence was almost eerie. I could hear breathing and I saw sadness on faces. One face had tears streaming down her face. I had a lump in my throat and a tightness in my chest. I had never felt prouder to be an American.

Over the next week Anna and I anxiously awaited our projected return to America. We were not afraid in Ireland, but we were nervous about our return flight. I told Anna that I hoped we could sit together on the way home. “I don’t care where I set; I’ll even sit in the bathroom on the plane if that’s what it takes to get home. I just want to be home.”

When we finally touched down in Chicago, there was a loud applause from the mostly American passengers. We were safe. We were home.

— Peter Gepson, Spencer