Come From Away

I have many memories of 9/11 over a number of years. Every year on that date since 2007, I am reminded of the death of my friend’s sister, and the beginning of a reign of total terror and agony for my family, my mother and my brother. I am reminded of the death, from brain cancer of my brother on that date in 2014 . 9/11 cemented to the treasured friendship I have and will always have with my wonderful friend.

On 9/11 2001 my daughter Megan was living in London. She was working as a Nanny. Her father had given up smoking in preparation for the possibility of a trip to visit her during the three years she was intending to stay there. On that day, Australia time, we picked up our tickets and itinerary for our great overseas adventure. I rang her to tell her we were coming. She was doing the ironing . It was evening here. We talked and laughed. Some time later, she rang back “MUM! THEY HAVE BLOWN UP THE TOWER!” Panicked, I asked “Are you close to it?” Thinking she was talking about the Tower of London.”Turn on the television MUM!” and together, on opposite sides of the world we watched as the plane flew into the second tower. Unbelievable! I watched then until the towers had both fallen. It was very late at night , early in the morning. Her father was in bed asleep. I remember saying to him when he stirred, “I think we could be at war tomorrow.”

The world didn’t end but it had certainly been changed. In spite of it, we did go to London and Paris and Ireland. It was wonderful! Our daughter came home sooner than she had planned. She was going to America, but home was where she wanted to be and we wanted to be with her too!

It all came back! Together with Megan our younger daughter, Joseph our younger son, and Gabrielle our first grand daughter, courtesy of our son Ken, we had been gifted 4 tickets to attend the red carpet premier of “Come from Away” at the Civic Theatre. Like a typhoon of memory, sounds, songs, places, people, stories, joys, sorrows I was poleaxed into tears which became sobs at the end of it, while munching on piece of rock melon wrapped in prosciutto complements of the Newcastle City Council and the red carpet entry! Having had a terrifying experience of what happens when trauma unresolved or attended to can do to this former resident of the cuckoos’ nest, I was a little apprehensive!

My daughter, who was travelling from Sydney to attend. was delayed by a crash on the M1 (OF COURSE). We were picking up our grand daughter. The plan had been in time to get to the red carpet by 6.00. Estimated time of arrival at our place by the Sydney dweller was 6.24 after the prang. SO alternative plans had to be made! Now my husband, Triple L, has not driven in Newcastle for a long time. Driving down Hunter street resembles driving into an entire new sea of tower dwellings, closed shop fronts, roadway changes to allow for the light rail and extra room for cyclists. Its progress. But he is not happy about it at all – and so say all of us as far as ” the third and fourth generation”!

My daughter encouraged me, or tried to anyway, to “remember your mother and all those ribbons she tied on all those horses”! My Dad was the editor of one of the two local newspapers in the town. Every year there were various gatherings that were sponsored by the newspapers. Every year my Mum would be invited to accompany Dad at dinners, gatherings, the royal visit for the opening of the cultural centre and so on. She did rather wallow in the chance to shake the Duke of Edinburgh’s hand on that occasion proclaiming afterwords “I will never wash these gloves again!” (As an aside, in 1992 as the mother of a Sister of St Joseph she was chosen to represent them at the beatification in St Mary’sCathedral. Having passed an ASIO check, at the age of 76 she was allowed to sit at the end of the pew to be greeted by the Pope. No gloves necessary “I will never wash these hands again!” AS IF! Pope John Paul II kissed her hands!)

I remembered two occasions when I was very young and could feel my hipbones, that Dad invited me to accompany him to the Newcastle Show which was sponsored by the newspaper. His job was to announce and sash the lucky winner. For around 1968 or 1969 I was not too bad looking. I felt a bit like a celebrity myself! The Master of Ceremonies was a fellow who was part of the whole thing who greeted Dad like he was the Duke of Edinburgh.Dad introduced me to him and he shook my hand with one hand and patted my bottom twice with the other! I understood her passionate resistance to being the other half on public occasions!

So! My outfit for the red carpet? What I had purchased went belly up! But the white pants fitted, the white camisole fitted and the white top I had worm all day was still clean so I put them aside in readiness for the event and decided I needed a rest. I found a string of pearls I had forgotten about, hanging on a door knob. They had been given to me by my husband and another string of seed pearls my Mum had given me. I wore them. I found some crystal earrings, full on bling given to me by a group of friends for my 40th birthday. They were selected by a dear friend I worked with who was bling city! He loved musicals. He used to sing his head off slightly off pitch at singalongs after nights of a Chinese meal and lots of grog! He l His speaking voice was rich and sonorous. His untimely death was agony for his wife and family. I loved him too! My daughter told me I looked like Jean Harlow. So, in one way or another, they were all with me!

My anxiety levels were increased by the prospect of fitting all of us into the car! Triple L’s car has the capacity to be a 7 seater. The only person who qualifies for the description “lean” in the gene pool representatives was Triple L himself! I entered the minefield of “do you think we should put the extra seat up?” “Well, I suppose we could” (THANK YOU GOD! )” But I’ll have to empty the boot!” Fortunately the youngest member of the second generation was home and together they made the necessary removals – of arrow, bows, archery equipment, first aid kits etc etc etc. So I had a rest

It was simply an extraordinary night! The production is straight from Broadway. Astounding everything! It had been in lockdown for two years courtesy of COVID. Multi-roles for the actors. Wonderful telling of the story of this tiny little town with an oversized airport due to it being a refuelling stop for international flight for Europe to USA and vice versa before jet engines. The tiny little town of Gander, Newfoundland was inundated by the arrival of 7000 airline passengers when US air space was closed. I knew the story but I felt like I was alive and part of the story that night. There was one song that left me breathless! “Me and the Sky” sung by the character who portrayed the first American Airways female captain. My brother Peter was a pilot. He loved to fly. He particularly loved to pilot small planes. He described the awesome feeling of take off, its power, its freedom, at one with the wind.

His death in 2014 was a simply terrible thing. Brain tumour. His decline was rapid and without dignity. He was a brilliant musician. A wonderful man. He out till September 11, even though others thought he wouldn’t a significant day of him and for our family and I felt his presence in that song. I could hardly breathe!

So, gratitude undid me. Love undid me. Music undid me. Being with 2 of my children and my firstborn grand daughter undid me. Sensing the presence of my son who gifted us the tickets. It was simply amazing!

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