Operation Oysterhood: 11 September

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

Twenty years later and 9/11 is still a near-blank in my memory. Unlike most people, all I recall about that day is a turquoise sea, a balmy breeze and the laughter of friends. We were sailing in Croatia and it was bliss. Two days after the attacks, we arrived at a marina and, still oblivious to everything else going on in the world, in the bathroom, I overheard two German women discussing the possibility of war. Confused, I returned to our boat and told the skipper what I had heard. We went to the boat next to us and inquired of the crew what they knew …

I found a phone card and a public phone and called home, asking whether it would be wise to continue with our trip or return immediately. My family said to sail on, but to keep in touch.

I saw the first 9/11 images on a small satellite TV on another boat in the marina. We sailed on, haunted, and the rest of the trip was a daze. It felt like the world might be ending, and we had the last opportunity to enjoy its wonders. And the world did end. Everything was different when I finally returned home at the end of that week.

Yesterday, CapeTalk’s Sara-Jayne Makwala King spoke to 9/11 survivor Joe Dittmar, who was working on the 105th floor in South Tower when the first plane hit the North Tower. It was an incredibly moving interview and I had tears in my eyes throughout. In the end, still in 2001, I did see the visual footage of what had happened that day and afterwards watched the documentaries and read many accounts, but the events of 9/11 are not locked into my memory the same way they are for people around the world who not only witnessed everything as it was unfolding, but were directly connected to the tragedy or lived through it. Joe’s memories and his way of dealing with the horrors of that day made me think of our present. The pandemic is an ongoing tragedy in which our lives are threatened every day and perhaps one way of coping with the trauma of it would be to have support groups in which survivors can articulate and share stories, like the survivors Joe is connected to still do even twenty years after 9/11.

Yesterday alone, I heard from two friends how tough their reality is right now, what challenges they are facing and what dreams they have had to give up because of the pandemic. My heart breaks a little every day. And every day I wonder how we somehow still get up in the morning and how so many of us can still give to others – in tiny and huge gestures. The resilience that is keeping us relatively functional, despite everything, is astounding. And the onslaught has been relentless for over one a half years. For me, what – or rather who – makes it all possible are the people I share my life with: my family – including The Cats – and friends. Throughout it all, I have never felt abandoned; I have pulled through because of them.

I spoke to another dear friend on Skype yesterday – she recently lost both her parents, and even though it wasn’t because of COVID-19, her grief and the cruel logistics of wrapping up two estates have been compounded by the pandemic. Her fear of losing another loved one is so much greater. And yet, she remains kind and giving and every time I speak to her, I feel grateful to have a friend like her.

I spent most of the day yesterday reading and editing, and in the evening my love treated me to the Spring menu at La Colombe, so the day ended with a divine meal. The new creations that are part of the menu are a true celebration of a new season and allow you to immerse yourself in a feast that delights all the senses.

When so many restaurants have had to close their doors because of the pandemic, it is heartening to see that a few of our favourites are not only surviving, but pushing their creative energies to new levels and flourishing.

I arrived back home just in time for the curfew and meant to write Oysterhood and watch the women’s US Open final, but I fell asleep in the middle of both. I am catching up this morning. The rain is falling, the coffee is good, and The Cats are sleeping deeply on my bed. Later today, I will be skyping with my Family and spending the afternoon and evening with my love. I would be nowhere without my human and feline loved ones.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”


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