Motorcyclist's diary (3) - terror and shock in a new world

Peter Merton By Peter Merton, 1st Oct 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Diaries

Going to the USA for the first time, and a horrible synchronicity, public history in the making, and a classic motorcycle.

Motorcyclist's diary (3) - terror and shock in a new world

I visited the USA for the first time, in 2001. I'd been given a research fellowship for three months at the Centre for the Study of Public Culture, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. It ran from September to December 2001.

I landed at Hartsfield airport, Atlanta, on the morning of 9/11. The birthday, incidentally, of one of my favourite authors, DH Lawrence. I went through customs, got my kit, and found the young woman who was sent to pick me up and take me to my digs. She was fun, scatty, and she drove her own shiny red truck.

We were somewhere in the middle of old Atlanta when her cell phone rang and she began to freak out - 'Paris is attacking us!' it sounded like. A phone call from her dad, and it turned out that there was a terrorist attack on the USA. We got to the house that Emory U was renting to me, dashed in, punched on the TV, and watched in horror as a plane flew into the second of the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in Manhattan. I guess that the entire USA was, at that moment, in shock, glued to the TV.

I realised that I was lucky to have got out of the international arrivals terminal at Hartsfield - soon after this, all major airports were closed down and travellers were held up in them for up to a day or more. My driver, who was the secretary at the research institute, was very upset. My host, a fellow professor, rang up and spoke to her, and she went off with her truck, and my host had a word with me, arranging to meet for dinner later that eve.

I began to realise the enormity of it all, and I staggered out into this new neighbourhood, this new world, entirely strange to me, and found a 'drug store' - a general dealer - with a public phone, and I managed to ring up my family far away in Cape Town, South Africa, to let them know I was safe. They, of course, like all the world by then, had got the news.

I went back to my digs and had a long sleep, and woke in the early evening to an absolutely silent world. Nobody around. No traffic. My two hosts, two professors of public history and anthropology, came round to rescue me, they too shocked beyond words. We went for a takeaway spatchcock chicken, and then I was left to sleep, and next morning I awoke and found the entire world around me draped in bunting - stars and stripes on every lamp post, every mailbox.

More to come - a motorcycling librarian at Emory sources a good classic motorcycle for me, and I set off to explore the USA under a state of emergency.


911, Atlanta, Manhattan, Motorcycling, New York, Terrorism, Terrorist Attack, Travel, Usa, World Trade Centre

Meet the author

author avatar Peter Merton
I am a novelist, ceramicist, motorcyclist and traveller. I also write flash fiction, travel snapshots, and meditations for Christians in the new age.

Share this page

moderator Mark Gordon Brown moderated this page.
If you have any complaints about this content, please let us know


author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
2nd Oct 2013 (#)

Born to be wild !!!!! Nice post

Reply to this comment

Add a comment
Can't login?