On September 11, 2001 I was in the Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya, Africa, on a safari with two friends. The following are abbreviated notes from my journal starting that day. Note: Kenya time is 8 hours ahead of the U.S.
Tuesday: Up at 5 a.m. for the balloon ride. Stars still covered the sky. Passed herds of zebra; striped mongoose ran across the road in front of us. Rode in the balloon with a group of Japanese girls who were a hoot. Twiga was the name of the balloon. Easy set down and then the champagne breakfast.
We left immediately for a game drive which produced cheetah with four cubs, hippo, crocodile, several lions, thundering gnu, wet warthogs, elephant, etc. Out 9-1/2 hours total, no swim time today.
Wednesday: Game drive, breakfast, re-pack, trying to figure out why Jennifer’s camera isn’t working. I’m ruining a bunch of film. Need to call Irene to talk about a different plan since we can’t ride the train to Mombasa.
Phone service spotty. Didn’t connect until the evening. She said there was news but she wasn’t sure whether or not to give it to me. I asked if it concerned any of our families and she said no. I told her to go ahead and she said that an airplane had crashed into the World Trade Center, that no one knew for sure what was going on , but that all air travel in the U.S. was stopped.
To this day I have never fully realized the shock the terrorist attack caused America. It was the next morning before we had access to one newspaper which a driver brought from Nairobi. It passed from table to table at breakfast.
No television, no radio. No way to leave the country.
It is difficult to express how remote it does seem, even after reading the headlines it is very removed. I can’t imagine what the U.S. did without airplane traffic for 24 hours? or more? one article in the paper said the attack was second only to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
So we continued with our trip as planned.
Flight to Mombasa about two hours. Cloud coverage so that we didn’t see Kilimanjaro. Mombasa is dirtier and poorer looking than Nairobi, at least what we saw. Staying at The Voyager, an all inclusive resort with 4 swimming pools, 3 restaurants, book store, free liquor. Also have a tv room. Terry went down to watch some news. I couldn’t do it.
Up at 5:45 a.m. for coffee and toast before getting on the minibus to go down to the south coast to Kisite Marine Park. Going out on a motorized dhow to snorkel with dolphins.
Still difficult to take in. We are driving through the coastal countryside with palm trees on bumpy roads, stopping to let very newly hatched baby chickens cross the road. Maybe my psyche is keeping the news at bay since there is nothing I can do about it.
There were no problems in leaving Kenya by the time our safari was over. Security much tighter in every airport, but on-time departures everywhere. My son, Stephen, met us at the Atlanta Airport.
September 18 I am back in the office, just two minutes late in clocking in–could have been on time but forgot to find location of car keys before Amy left and the front door screen fell out as I opened the door.
I have been spilling out about the trip and in return listening to accounts of what everyone has been through trying to grapple with the events–anger, depression, disbelief, fear.
While on the internet I came across an article on refocusing life priorities, something people think of after such a disaster as the attacks of September 11.
In the closing paragraph the author asks if we were to die suddenly, violently, what else would we wish we had done with our lives. “Maybe we would wish that we had enriched our lives by simply choosing, as often as possible, to pay attention to the fact that we are living it: to how great a hot cup of coffee really is to the way a child’s smile suddenly lights up her face to the incredible taste of summer’s last tomatoes. Pay attention. I think I can do that.” M.P. Dunleavey