The day the world changed forever
MYfirst indication that something was wrong came when I noticed the six locals sitting behind the counter in the village delicatessen. They weren’t smoking or chatting or sipping coffee as usual. They were listening to the radio with serious looks on their faces.
It was 2001 and I was holidaying in Italy and had come to the Cinque Terre alone to do the Lovers Walk. I had fallen in love with the villages of Italy, particularly the coastal settlements. I rented a room in Corniglia from an old woman and each day I strolled the Lovers Walk to one of the other villages, marvelling at the amazing coastline, the lovers walking along offering a polite prego, go ahead, when we passed on the occasionally precarious path.
However, this day I was puzzled to see the locals all so preoccupied, stopping in laneways and talking earnestly with their arms waving. Internet access wasn’t widely available and I didn’t have a mobile phone, so I couldn’t work out what was happening. But I knew it must be serious.
I found the local deli owner alone in his shop and in my dreadful Italian tried: ‘‘ Terribile?’’ He looked at me and asked, ‘‘ Americano?’’
I told him I was Australian. He placed a tea towel on his head, put his arms out and moved them as if he were a plane flying. He then placed his arms up above his head and stood still before moving them back down by his sides and then smashing his fist into the palm of his other hand.
I had no idea what had happened, but I guessed it involved a plane and an accident. Next day I trekked along Lovers Walk to a larger village where I could go online and catch up with the news. Suddenly the deli charades made complete sense as I saw coverage of the 9/11 World Trade Centre attacks.
Travelling in a non-Englishspeaking country, removed from my usual newspapers and television and radio news, I continued my holiday, alarmed at the news of the attacks but oblivious to the ramifications for travellers.
At Rome airport, my flight was delayed by two hours as each passenger was physically searched while standing on a box, arms out like a crucifix, as security staff ran their hands over every inch of every person’s body before allowing them to board. Our travelling lives had been changed forever. RANT OR RAVE Send your 400-word contribution to our Follow the Reader column. Published columnists will receive a Corban & Blair Duet travel journal in pink/red and Duet travel wallet in blue/red (pictured; total value $84). The Duet range is made from genuine split leather and features contrasting leather detail with a metal button enclosure. More: (02) 9560 0122; corbanblair.com.au. Send your contribution to: email@example.com.