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Kay Shaw: Condolences from Italy

From the COLLECTION: 20 years later, our readers share 9/11 memories series

My experience on 9/11 was unusual because I was in Italy. My husband, Stewart, and I left on September 9 and flew overnight to Milan to celebrate our 40th anniversary in northern Italy. We stayed in Milan the night of the 10th, and on the 11th we took the train to Riomaggiore in the Cinque Terre, arriving in the afternoon.

As we were going up the hill to our hotel, we passed a pub with a lot of noise coming from it, so we went in and on the TV saw the second plane hit the World Trade Tower. Of course we were shaken, and we continued on to watch the events on our hotel room TV. We couldn’t do anything to help the tragedy at home, so we decided to enjoy our vacation as much as possible, explored the area some and had dinner. However, when we got up the next morning, I turned on the TV right away to see if any further attacks had occurred.

The most interesting and touching aspect of being abroad at such a time was seeing the reaction of the people in Italy to this event. Often we would be identified as Americans and people would come up to us and express their condolences for what had happened in our country. When we were in Florence, on the Ponte Vecchio, the medieval bridge famous for its small jewelry shops, virtually every shop had a letter-sized poster in its window that read “WE EXTEND OUR SYMPATHY TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.”

Flights to the United States were cancelled for over a week. This did not affect us, but we heard of other tourists who were stranded and had run out of medicine, etc. When we did leave, airport security had greatly increased, and several security guards debated whether my husband should be allowed to keep his small nail clipper – they eventually gave it to him. Our flight over had been packed full. The return flight was only half full. When we got home we were surprised at how many people had been worried about us. We had felt safe. After all, Italy had not been attacked.

Kay Shaw

Winona

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