On September 10th

On September 10th, I didn’t write. I was still trying to navigate everyday life in a stranger’s house in Lyon, France. Yulia and I landed there on September 8th. I had grand plans to write my journal in French to help practice while studying abroad. On the 8th I wrote about going to see the Peter Sellers movie, The Party, at the Institut Lumière. I listed all the American music I heard on the radio: “Angel” by Shaggy, Nelly Furtado, Dido, Eminem. I noted that by the second day I had already used milk from a Tetrapak box.

On the 9th, my host family took me to a “festival des fruits” in Thurins. The village was not far from the city, but we got lost on the way. My host dad said “c’est la route touristique." I thought that was such a dad joke to make regardless of language. Everyone remained in good spirits, and I thought it was kind of the family to invite me on the trip. On the road, my host mother pointed out the neighborhood named “Etats-Unis”, because of a collection of high-rises like those in the States. I didn’t know exactly how to write that in French. I wrote “bâtiments qui sont des tours.” She said that kind of architecture was not popular in Lyon.

It was a great comfort to have a bunch of school friends there with me. Mike, Raina, Yelena, and I all lived together the previous year. We quickly assembled to compare notes and ponder how we would make it through the upcoming season. “My shower is on a stick,” Yelena told us. Raina’s host mother had a live-in boyfriend. “I can’t think of a polite way to ask how long she and Christophe have been together…or a grammatically correct way, which is more my problem.”

On the 11th, we went to check out Raina’s neighborhood, which was closest to the heart of the city. We ran into Christophe on the street. He was very friendly, but what he was telling us didn’t make any sense. In English, the best we could piece together was, “Something happened. Something like a war.”

We tried to figure out what that meant, but actually laughed it off. We thought maybe those crazy French were overreacting.

When I returned to the apartment, my host mom asked me if I had seen the news. She had me sit in the living room and told me I should watch. It was late afternoon in Lyon; it was late morning by then in the Eastern U.S.

Later I wrote:

The United States was attacked today. The World Trade Center no longer exists because terrorists hijacked planes and crashed them into the building. The buildings fell this morning. A third plane crashed into the Pentagon, and a fourth somewhere in Pennsylvania. No one knows who did it. The U.S. is a mess. I can’t call there, no flights are leaving or entering, the borders are closed. I spoke to Jenn, who said Mom and Dad are stuck in Staten Island because you can’t get over any bridges or through tunnels. Manhattan and D.C. are being evacuated. And this is all very disturbing because I’m not able to contact anyone.

I remember the apartment being still, and quiet, like the host family was trying to give me space. I remember dialing phone numbers over and over. I remember the awkwardness of trying to remain calm in a house that wasn’t mine, in front of a family that I had met days before.

I remember picking up the paper the next morning with the headline, “Nous Sommes Tous Américains.” We are all Americans. I remember believing that.

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