9-11-01 was our last full day in Paris after a fantastic one week vacation. My wife and I were shopping on a street market, when a shopkeeper asked us if we were Americans. We told him that we were, and he said “Airplane hits building-you watch tv”.
We didn’t take it too seriously, until we ran across several tourist buses on the streets of Paris – empty, with all of the tourists standing in the street talking on the phone.
We got back to our hotel, and the front desk staff looked at us like we were ghosts. We got to our room and turned on the tv about the time the second tower was hit. We were switching between french tv and BBC, and both were actually showing the people jumping from the towers.
We knew that a flight out of Paris in 12 hours was unlikey, but decided to go to the Airport and evaluate the situation.
Charles DeGaule Airport was nearly empty, with a single representative from our airline sitting at a table, and offering no information, hotel vouchers, or food coupons. Her best estimate on a flight back was 2-3 weeks.
We were a bit worried, because we had about $300 in cash. The phone lines were down to the states, and they couldn’t verify credit cards.
We bought supplies at a grocery store in the airport, and got a small room at the airport, and waited.
4 days later, we got on standby and eventually got on the plane. As I understand it, we were the second international flight to land in the states. The entire plane broke into applause when we landed.
Detroit airport was in utter chaos, and we were searched very aggresively coming through customs. We made it back to Springfield Missouri the next day.
The thing I remember is the kindness of the French people. I had several french people, who obviouly heard us speaking English, wish us well, and told us that they would be thinking of us.