Patriotic Road Trip: September 11
Author’s Note: This is Post 3 of 3-Post Series. opens in a new windowRead Post 2 here.
Thursday after the final show, we hit the road at 7:30 p.m. By this time we asked the car rental representative at he show to have the mileage and drop-off fee waived and she did (as other companies eventually did). We also stopped at an AAA office for directions but unfortunately the clerk routed us THROUGH New York City. We were smart to follow detours around the city knowing roads into the Big Apple were closed.
As we circumvented New York, I noticed the bright lights in the distance and could see and smell the smoke. It’s a distinctive odor I’ll never forgot. A mix of a campfire with metal, industrial stench. And after all these years and multiple times I’ve traveled to New York since, I’ve avoided visiting Ground Zero. Don’t think I’m strong enough.
We drove to nearly midnight before calling it a night somewhere in Pennsylvania and hit the road at 7 the next morning. Don’t know about Cham but I didn’t get any rest as I was too wired for this impromptu road trip.
The next day reaffirmed my American pride. Every other car donned an American flag in some form, people were wearing t-shirts with American flags, and homes proudly waved Old Glory. Many wore red, white and blue ribbons tied around a safety pin and when we stopped at a Wal-Mart in small-town America for provisions (snacks, water, etc.) we looked for something patriotic to wear, yet couldn’t find anything. In a generous act, a store clerk gave us the patriotic safety pin off his chest. We cut the ribbons in half and found another safety pin so we were each wearing one.
We stopped at some airport in South Carolina to add me to the rental car contract and it was dead quiet. All the congestion was on the highway. Traffic was incredible. There were those of us trying to get home and those heading to New York to volunteer their assistance. While checking into our Savannah hotel at 11:30 p.m.-ish (yes, the day began at 7 a.m. and I begged Cham to stop earlier) we met a couple of nurses driving up to help.
Coming into Florida we stopped at the Florida I-95 Welcome Center, posed for photos and drank our free orange juice before driving the last few hours home.
Pulling into Tampa International Airport was strange. All around us cars were pulling in and drivers were announcing where they had drove from.
“I just drove from Chicago.”
“I’m coming in from Las Vegas.”
Oh, the stories we could have all told if we sat and grabbed a cold beer to share our adventures. But the week of 9/11 wasn’t the time to make new friends, it was time to hug and appreciate the ones we loved in our lives at that moment and simply embrace life.