This last Tuesday was the 17th anniversary of the attacks on the WTC and Pentagon. It reminded me of my brush with terrorism while staying in London in my twenties. It’s not really anything I talk about much anymore, but just every now and again.
Back in 1988, I was living in London. I had just spent the summer traveling around Europe and the middle east, and I was determined not to come back to the U.S. By November of that year, I was pretty much broke. So with my remaining money I took the ferry from Belgium to England and wound up in London and tried to find a job. I wasn’t “legal” in the sense that I didn’t have any work permit, but my goal was to work through the winter with some ‘under the table’ job so I could have enough money to travel around the following summer.
The Lord was gracious, and within two days of being there, I found a job at a hotel. The man that ran the hotel took to me, (he was Jewish and seemed to be impressed with the fact that I had spent some time in Israel at a kibbutz). He got me a job managing a small bed and breakfast in a suburb called Clapham in south London. I loved that job. On a rare day off, I visited the Museum of the Moving Image, it is a museum dedicated to the history of film, it’s very cool. If you are ever in London, it is worth a visit. While I was there, I met an American girl who was also there by herself. We walked around the museum and chatted. She had a real nice sense of humor and we hit it off pretty well. She was a very pretty blonde girl, who was from the University of Syracuse and was majoring in advertising.
I remember that part specifically because I got on a soapbox about how I thought people in advertising work crooks. I cringe when I think about how dumb I probably sounded. She said she was heading back to the states for Christmas. We rode the tube together until she reached her stop and said our goodbyes. If she wasn’t leaving right away I probably would have asked her to meet the next day for coffee or something. and I proceeded on back to the hotel. A few days later found out Pan am flight 103 had blown up over Lockerbie Scotland, and 35 students from the University of Syracuse were aboard. I knew she had said that was the school she was from, but I told myself maybe she was on another flight. This was all pre-internet back then.
I always wondered but a part of me didn’t want to know. She’d always be alive in my mind if I didn’t know. A few years ago I finally pulled up the University of Syracuse’s memorial web page. There were pictures of all the student’s on it. I have to say I didn’t see any photograph that I immediately recognized as her. There were two blonde girls in the pictures. I emailed the school and told them what I could remember (blonde, advertising major) they wrote a very gracious email back and said there was only one person who was blonde and was studying advertising, her name was Luanne. When you meet someone, you never think “this person will be gone soon maybe I need to really remember this moment” I mean it’s kind of morbid to think that. But I wish I could have remembered more. I do remember this one thing I said something that made her laugh and she did this thing where she kind of shook her head and tilted to the side and smiled. It was really cute. A snippet out of all the time we spent together that one day.
I really don’t think about this a whole thing a lot, but every once in a while it gets stuck in my mind like a splinter. It’s just not fair, but I already know life doesn’t work that way. She was really nice and was just a kid. (even more of a kid, the older I get). We see numbers all the time of people who are killed by terrorists. Those numbers are people. She reminds me of that.