The class had completed our trip around Europe, and I knew I’d remember the places I’d seen for a long time. I had enjoyed being able to help out my professors in a behind-the-scenes way by keeping track of the digital photos. (A big bonus for me was the fact that I didn’t have to write a report about the trip!)
I had a few souvenirs– some tea from England, postcards from France, a little plaque with an anchor on it from the catacombs. (Nothing against Germany; I just didn’t have time to pick anything up there! Instead, I left my umbrella there by accident.) And I had a handful of coins, maps, and brochures from each country.
I had been worried that people would be annoyed with us because we were Americans, but almost everyone I interacted with was patient and friendly. I thought it was touching to hear the expressions of sympathy from all of these countries for the United States in the wake of the terrorist attacks. I saw on the news that the guards at Buckingham Palace in London even performed the Star-Spangled Banner!
Of course, the U.S. had grounded all flights the day of the attacks. By our departure date on Saturday, the planes were in the air again, but the airports were having to work through a backlog of postponed flights and treat every flight with increased caution under a lot of stress.
We got our things packed and went to the airport early, ready for a long day of waiting. We prayed that God would help us to get home safely. Dr. B. warned us that no one should mention anything about bombs, terrorism, the Middle East, or New York, or even think of joking about anything related to them. (Probably good advice, but being obsessive-compulsive, I’m always afraid I’m going to be the one to blurt out something inappropriate in a situation like that even though I don’t think I ever have.)
We listened to music, played cards, talked quietly. Some of my classmates worked on writing their reports. The flight before ours took off for the U.S. but was directed to turn around and come back to Italy after a couple of hours. We boarded our flight, not knowing if we were going to get to take off.
I am so thankful– our plane did take off, and we were allowed to make the entire flight. The flight before ours had been sent back, and we later learned that the flight after ours was as well. But ours wasn’t– we arrived at the Newark airport on time. I looked out the window and could see the site of the World Trade Center, smoke still rising from it. Once we had landed safely, the passengers applauded.
Getting off the plane and through customs was a slow process, but everyone seemed willing to be patient. The airport workers looked tired– I’m sure the last week had been awful for them. I wondered if any of them had lost someone they knew in the attack.
We waited at the airport from afternoon until late evening. Our flight from Newark to Ohio ended up being postponed, then canceled. Finally, Cedarville arranged for a bus to drive us home from New Jersey. Exhausted, we piled onto the bus for the last leg of our journey.
We were driving through the countryside of Ohio as the sun came up, and I could see American flags on most of the houses and mailboxes as we passed. We got home in time to go to church on Sunday and sing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”
I was so relieved to be back home and able to tell my family about everything we’d done. The trip had been full of memories that I would always keep with me. And the next time I had to cross the street in Cedarville, it didn’t seem as scary.