London: 9/11/2001

My husband and I were in London that day in 2001, when everything changed back home.

We were visiting our daughter and son-in-law, leaving our older son to look after his brother here in the Bay Area. The newlywed couple were traveling the world for a year, and my husband and I decided to join them during their stay in the U.K.

On September 11, we had visited Buckingham Palace and the British Museum, unaware of the events unfolding across the ocean. We went our separate ways after the museum and I rode back to our apartment in a cab. Late afternoon by then. The radio in the cab broadcasting the news…it made no sense. The words, the events, didn’t really sink in as I heard them.

Once I got back to our apartment, I turned on the television and saw what everyone else had been seeing for hours. One by one, the others arrived, having seen the news footage in pubs and shops along the way. We watched the BBC together, in silence. The same scene played over and over. We watched, stunned and unbelieving.

I called home to check on the boys. Myles said, “You will be coming home to a different place.”


On the night of the 14th, we had tickets to a concert at St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square. The program was listed as Bach and Vivaldi.

Union Jacks all around the city flew at half mast, and earlier in the day we’d stood outside St. Paul’s for a memorial service. We were too late to get inside; people had started lining up at 1:00 a.m.for the morning service. Three minutes of silence all across the city while we rode on the tube to get there.

Along the way, we ducked into smoky pubs to see if anything else had happened back in the U.S. The pubs were full of people: men in business suits and ties stood next to construction workers, all of them drinking, smoking, watching the silent televisions.

According to my journal, the concert was “beyond wonderful,” the church bathed in candle light, the sound surrounding us, the emotions overwhelming.

A late addition to the concert that night was Barber’s Adagio for Strings. In an earlier post, I was able to include the video of this heartbreaking and powerful performance. It has since been removed, so I can’t make it available here anymore. After the tragic events at Columbine in 1999, our Oakland Symphony performed the piece, and it had the same emotional impact on me then. It still does, any time I hear it.


12 Responses to London: 9/11/2001

  1. Carol says:

    Such a beautiful and appropriate piece of music and your post reminds us that we are all connected, and never more so than in the hardest of times.

  2. Donna says:

    I have been in the UK on the 4th of July, which is disconcerting. I cannot imagine how strange it must have felt to be there while 9/11 was unfolding — especially with children still at home. A sad day for us all.

  3. Those were prescient words spoken by your husband. And how traumatizing to be away from your sons.

  4. I agree with Carol: What a moving and appropriate piece of music. I was in London the day John Lennon was shot. Londoners were dazed and heartbroken. The pubs and restaurants were full of people watching television coverage of his death. The day before, when people discovered I was from Texas, they wanted to know “Who shot JR?” The fictional character on the television show, “Dallas.” After John Lennon was murdered, when they discovered I was an American, they wanted to know why we killed one another as a means to settle our differences? Brenda

    • Risa Nye says:

      Brenda, I appreciate your comments. One thing I remember when watching British TV was how much I wished I was hearing the news from American stations–seems silly now, but I longed for the familiar faces and voices from the US, like hearing bad news from someone you know instead of from a stranger. The news is still bad, but comforting in a way coming from the people we know.

  5. Beth Havey says:

    Thanks for sharing your memories, Risa. I always love reading your words. St. Martin in the Fields was not home when you were longing to be there, but certainly a lovely place to be and thanks to the Brits for offering peace and love and understanding. We need more of that worldwide, Beth

  6. Lynne says:

    I can’t even imagine how it felt to watch the events of that day from afar. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  7. Kimba says:

    “You will be coming home to a different place.” No truer words have been spoken. The worlds before and after 9/11 are forever separate.

Leave a reply