In the next few days, most, if not all Americans, will be thinking about Sept. 11, 2001. Memories of that day come back to me every year. It was an unforgettable day, but despite the horrific circumstances, one moment of my 9/11 experience actually gave me hope.
My husband, Ilan, and I left for Nice, France, on Sept. 10, 2001. When we boarded our flight we were thinking of nothing but a fun vacation with friends. When we landed on Sept. 11 and learned what had happened, we sensed the world had abruptly changed and had suddenly become a darker, more frightening place.
In the days that followed, Ilan and I wondered how our lives could ever be the same. When we felt we needed a break from the horrific images on the TV, we wandered out to stroll in Saint Paul de Vance, a lovely and picturesque French village not far from where we were staying. We came upon a small boutique with a huge, hand-lettered sign in the window. It read, “We stand in solidarity with our American friends. American tourists are welcome to call home from our shop without cost.”
This small, kind gesture by a French business owner gave us a glimmer of promise at a dark time in America’s history. And 10 years later, as we reflect on where we were that fateful day, we can remember not only remember the loved ones we lost but also the kindness shown by complete strangers as well as friends all over the world. It’s a memory that, each day, reminds me that my idea of calling our company “Friendly Planet” was no mistake after all.
I’m lucky to have traveled a great deal of the world. And I’ve had some of the best experiences of my life on the road. So when The Wall Street Journal asked readers to share their most memorable travel stories, many sprang to mind, but one stood taller than the rest.
I submitted it a couple weeks ago. And then the paper’s editors e-mailed me saying they’d like to publish it as an article. I was so flattered, and of course gave them my permission. The Wall Street Journals’ editors published it on Saturday.
You can read the full story on WSJ’s website. It’s about my trip to Nice, France during 9/11, the emotional days that ensued, and the kindness of the French.
But I was in for another pleasant surprise. I received some touching comments from WSJ readers, and I want to share them with you. Here they are, taken directly from my inbox. Thanks again to the editors for publishing my piece and the readers who wrote in to me.
Dear Ms. Goldman,
I just read your article in the WSJ entitled “Standing Together After 9/11″. We were in the same area of France at the same time. Your experience is exactly the same as mine. It was my first trip to France. I was pleasantly surprised to find the people so kind and caring in Southern France. My friends back home find my “French” story hard to believe. Thank you for verifying the truth of my experience.
I read with great interest your article in travel section of todays WSJ.
My husband and I along with my sister and brother in-law left Chicago O’Hare on Sept. 10th 2001 for Paris. When we landed nothing had happened yet. We arrived at our hotel much too early to check in, so a nice young woman let us store our bags in a small office.
When we returned later in the afternoon she greeted us with apologies over and over again.
She did not speak English so she just ushered us into the small office with a small tv and we watched in horror the planes flying into the World Trade Center.
After two days in Paris, we rented cars and drove to St. Maximin in the south.
We arrived there on a Sunday and got to the house we rented and then just walked around the little town. There was a concert going on at the church so we went in and sat down.
The organist was going to be using the organ which dated back to the 11th century.
The first piece he played was the Star Spangled Banner. It just sent chills down your spine. Women were coming up to us crying and saying how sorry they were. Obviously they could tell we were Americans.
Whenever I hear now about how the rude the French are I love sharing this story.
It’s was so nice to hear Nancy’s and Joycelyn’s travel stories. I would love to hear some of your memorable travel stories. Feel free leave a comment to this post with your story.