I was recently discussing my first trip to Italy with a friend (before kids, before digital cameras, before Blackberries), and had the sudden realization that, these 8 years later, we remember much of the trip in detail, but not so much its significant beginning. I think that in itself makes a very good case for having taken the trip in the first place.
Amidst all the uncertainty during the week that followed, including the big question mark of who did this horrific thing and why, we were locked in our own holding pattern at home with nearly-packed suitcases and two tickets to Venice scheduled to depart San Francisco just a week after the attacks. It was to be our first trip to Italy. We had planned and dreamed about this trip for quite some time.
Meanwhile, airplanes were grounded, understandably, across the country. The nation was in mourning. We grappled with feelings ranging from outrage and shock to a selfish desire for normalcy. No one knew what would happen next. Extended family was still cooped up in post-wedding chaos, unable to return to New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, and fearful of the news of friends and neighbors when they would. We knew we were lucky to be home, yet a small part of us still couldn’t wait to leave on the next adventure.
Some people expected Tim and I to cancel our trip to Italy. Some people expected we would have no choice in postponing it. We weren’t sure what would unfold exactly, as we sifted through our emotions and kept the guide books ready, until we learned that the first international flight had departed SFO. We were on the third.
It was a strange time to travel abroad, to be sure. I tried to comfort family by explaining that Air France actually had undercover armed air marshalls on some of their flights, but quickly realized that was not something to comfort your mother. In line at the airport, we stood behind a German family with small American flags tucked into their backpacks in a show of solidarity.
As Robin Williams’ character states so well in Dead Poet’s Society: “Poetry, music… love… these are the things we stay alive for.” I would add to that list “travel.” And I do.