Like many of us who were in NYC on that fateful day 19 years ago, I can't stand to see the photos, videos, and memes of the smoke, the ash, the loss. Hopeful posts remind me:
No problem. I don't need any reminders, however well-intentioned they are. I saw it all live and in living color and it's burned in my brain.
So, instead, I offer the story of another 9/11.
The view from Sacré-Cœur
September 11, 2010: I was having a “Year of Yes”*.
I wanted to have more of a life outside of work so I said YES to every invitation I could. Parties, networking events, skydiving, travel. Mostly travel.
My friends pounced on the opportunity to test my “yes” theory. I criss-crossed the US (Disney World! Chicago! San Francisco!) and threw my 40th birthday in Vegas. I traveled aggressively for work (Switzerland! Tokyo! Ridgefield, Connecticut!). I met an astronaut.
So when a few girlfriends invited me to tag along for the Paris portion of their French vacation I said, "Mais, oui!” Never mind that it was completely last-minute and I was officially out of vacation days.
It was a short trip. The red-eye from JFK to CDG delivered me just after dawn on Friday morning and I was booked on a late morning flight back on Sunday. We were 3 girls and my friend’s brother, P., who had crashed the girls’ weekend, elevating our drinking game exponentially.
So many frites, so little time.
September in Paris is a beautiful thing. It’s a city for walking, eating, and drinking — and we did that like it was our fucking job: bubbles on the Seine, wine near the Champs-Élysées, beers in the Luxembourg Gardens. There was a whirlwind of restaurants and bars, punctuated briefly with visits to major landmarks where we gawked at the people and the art.
At some point, we found a karaoke bar and I became convinced that I’d suddenly remembered all my college French.**
My partner-in-crime, Michelle. Also WTF with this filer? (Hipstamatic. My first iPhone. Adorable.)
Late on Saturday night, we ended up at a dark, narrow bar filled with locals fresh off their shifts at other dark, narrow bars. Spending this time with my friends was magical and I was full of love and booze and Paris. So much so that when someone called “Look, the sun’s coming up!” I scooped up my drink and headed right out to see it, leaving my phone and my purse woefully unattended on the bar.
Of course it was stolen.
But, the bar was small and, as it turned out, we and the thief were literally the only people in it that weren’t regulars. So the bartender locked the doors and made this guy turn out his pockets and (most) of my stuff was returned.
But, the police had already been called. It was 6am and we’d been out all night drinking; I found myself drifting in and out of focus. The next thing I knew I was in the back of a police car with P., tearfully waving goodbye to our friends and speeding toward the local precinct. I had panicked, somehow thinking we were the ones being arrested. P., as I would soon learn, is nothing if not completely calm under pressure. He patiently reminded me that I wasn’t in trouble and that I was just going to fill out a police report.
The French officers were completely disinterested in pursuing this case, but led me into the police station, instructing P. to wait for me. The inside of the station was cluttered and dingy, the desks covered with files and notes and cold cups of coffee. On one wall, there was a giant movie poster: Sex and the City 2.
I can't explain it either. Also, the green box on the left contained the "evidence" - i.e. the thief's coat.
I did my best to answer the detective's questions, but the disapproving look on his face led me to believe I was failing. I kept looking up at Carrie Bradshaw’s glittery dress and imagined her typing: “…and I wondered… is there such a thing as too much fun?"
When I was done I went and met P. in the waiting room where he was chatting up the gorgeous female desk sergeant in Farsi.*** It was around 7:30am on Sunday morning and we were in a neighborhood god knows where. This was pre-Uber and there were no cabs but there was an open cafe more than willing to let us rest and deconstruct the evening with the hair of the dog. When the beers arrived and P. unceremoniously removed his retainer (where had THAT come from?), I started laughing.
I also cannot explain this.
It was a perfect weekend.
*Had I known that 5 years later Shonda Rimes was going to be on Oprah for writing a book of the same name, I might have kept better notes.
**I hadn’t. And they didn’t let me sing, thank god.
***Why does P. speak Farsi??