Opposite Ground Zero
There are only a handful of world events that will take place in my lifetime that I imagine that I will be able to recall in weirdly vivid detail exactly where I was, what I was doing when the news reached me.
Sunday May 1st 2011 was one of these, and one directly related to another such event. I was getting ready for bed, in my hotel room in NYC, having spent a wonderful evening at the theatre and eating cheesecake. I switched on CNN, for background noise more than anything, when it very quickly became clear that something major was on the brink of being announced.
St Paul's churchyard
It was being reported that the president was about to make an announcement, tonight. Nothing was confirmed but it was reported that supposedly Osama Bin Laden had been killed, and the information that was coming across the newswires was that it was due to US military action.
I stopped what I was doing and waited. This was huge.
The morning after, there was no question about it. I had to go to Ground Zero. The pictures the night before, at the White House, in Manhattan, cities all over America, had been of defiant jubilation. The chants of 'USA, USA, USA' echoing into the night sky.
But the next day, at the site that bore the awful pain of the event that started this all, there was no ugly bullish arrogant chanting by the keg-swilling frat boys.
There was quiet relief. There was recognition that whilst this victory would not be the full stop to this, the gratitude that justice had been done for New Yorkers today was thick in the air. It is all too rare in this world that evil gets its comeuppance, so the sense of dignified karmic retribution was one to be thankful for.
Land of the free and home of the brave
I've written my thoughts on 9/11 before, about as eloquently as I am capable of, so I'm not about to rehash it here. But suffice to say, as I think is clear from my ongoing laments that I don't live in New York anymore, this city means more to me than any place ever has in my life, in ways I couldn't even have imagined.
So to be there, for this moment of triumph over the spectre that has hung like deathly shadow over the city for the past 10 years, was very special, and something that I will never forget.
This was my last day in New York City this time, but I'm happy to say that it was easier to leave it this time. Because as my dad (that font of all wisdom!) always says, if you don't leave - you can't come back again. And I will... and it won't take three years next time.