Le 11 Septembre

After the inspiration from my grandfather’s photo album yesterday, I decided to break out my scrapbook from my semester abroad in Paris. I arrived in Paris just a couple days before September 11, 2001. I heard the news of the event while stopped at light Place de la Concord (which in the days that followed became the location for the make-shift memorial) during one of my first runs in the city. An American gentleman stopped me and told me what happened (it was a given I was American – first of all the French don’t exercise, let alone along the Champs, and my English print tee was a sure giveaway that I wasn’t pulling off the French look yet). I continued my run, but felt numb by the news. I got back to the apartment, and my new roommate had already heard. The already surreal images became even more so as it was accompanied by French commentary. My French was so-so when I arrived, but I don’t remember being able to take in a word of what was said. But I felt safe in France, and felt compassion from strangers. It was surreal at the time, but just as surreal to think it happened 7 years ago today. I like to think we’ve all grown stonger since then.


  • I was in Physics class. My teacher’s husband was in the State Department and, due to our proximity to DC (Northern VA), many of the kids’ parents worked in the Pentagon or nearby military bases. We tried to hold class with the news on TV going in the background, but when the second tower was hit, all pretense was dropped. Then a boy saw the word “Pentagon” scroll across the base of the screen and the Biology class across the way streamed in. Cells phones were whipped out and family frantically called. I sat with my lab partner as she sobbed in worry for her father, who worked at the Pentagon and wasn’t answering his phone.

    It feels as surreal and murky in my mind now as it did then.

    I’m glad you kept clippings. It’s good to have something tangible to go with the memories.

  • i was walking our dog (since passed) in washington square park…heading towards the dog run. i can’t believe it’s been seven years. your scrapbook is haunting and not without a certain beauty.

    lovely post.


  • I was living in Paris when I head the horrible news.
    I was having coffee with a friend on the Champs Elysee and decided to go home, when I exited the metro towards my home, it was incredibly quite as everyone one was crowding into a tabac to look at the news unfold. I arrived in my apt. and just stood there in front of the t.v. for hours in the same spot, watching it all. It was so unreal.

  • I was studying abroad in Sydney, Australia in the Fall of 2001 and had arrived about a week before September 11. I remember feeling safe because I was literally so far away from the US, yet I was always nervous for my family back home in NJ.

  • Hi Anne,

    I was in Paris too at the time of this tragedy. I was studying abroad and we’d been there for about 2 weeks, and I remember many students’ parents forcing them to return to the US, and many people warning us that, as Americans, we wouldn’t be welcome in France so to remain low-profile. I never encountered any sort of threatening experience over the next 5 months, and am thankful that my parents and I decided on me staying in France. It’s an experience I treasure and hold very dear to my personal growth and development. However, it’s still frustrating to not understand what it was like to be home during this time. I feel removed and detached, and I’m still not sure whether that makes me [and the many of us that were not here] fortunate or unfortunate.

    Suz (a.k.a. Lil’ Boozie)

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