By 1999, my finances were again diabolical. So I had to sell my house and get another one on the same Estate for a lot less money to pay off my debts.
The day we moved proved to be a complete nightmare. Finian had an epileptic fit that very morning, and the removal men had to pack up his room while he was lying in his bed, thrashing about. We had to be out of our house by 12:00 midday and Finian was not in any condition to be moved. The poor removal men had to pack his room up with him still lying in his bed. So when he regained consciousness, he had to go and stay with his girlfriend for a few days to recover. As you can imagine, that day was incredibly stressful for all concerned.
Two weeks later, with packing cases still piled high in my new home, I had a call from David, my boyfriend, to say that his eldest son, James was dead! David was devastated, obviously, but could not tell me anything about what had happened until he came to my house. It was Easter Monday. Apparently, James had been with David and the rest of his family on Easter Sunday. He had cooked a really amazing Sunday lunch for his girlfriend, brothers, sister and father and they all went out afterwards to finish off the idyllic day. By the evening, everyone was comfortably happy, having downed a few beers. David was at that time, living in a bed and breakfast near their house in Knightsbridge, within walking distance of Harrods. He had no money or job because things had gone wrong for him throughout the previous year and he was at rock bottom. But that particular day had been very uplifting as he had spent a fantastic day with all of his children. David said goodbye to James and his girlfriend at midnight and they went their separate ways. The next morning, David had a call from his second son, Charles, who relayed the most horrific news any parent could ever wish to hear.
James had gone back to his girlfriend’s flat in
It was in all the papers over the next few weeks. The reason he was in all the papers was the fact that his Grandmother was the Duchess of St. Albans and his girlfriend’s father was the former Editor of “The Times”. To me it was sad that his death was only worthy for publication because of those reasons.
David and the rest of his family were obviously in complete shock, quite apart from me and my two children. On my 49th birthday, I went to see James’ body at the morgue a week after his death. On that day, driven by shock and grief, I had laced myself with a whole bottle of rum and 2 grammes of cocaine so my emotions were somewhat numbed. Despite of the state I was in, I had to keep my cool for his family’s sake and from then on decided to support them emotionally to the best of my ability. David moved in with me the morning James died. His remaining children have become very close to me, in particular, Charles, the second son. A few weeks later, David’s best friend, Charlie, who was unable to attend James’s funeral paid for the both of us to visit him in
In September 2001, the
It is mid September and I have just returned from
Anyway, my adventures in
For many years, I had suffered from panic attacks. My journey down to Ground Zero completely by myself was a major accomplishment for me - considering that not long ago I couldn't even sit through Mrs. Doubt fire in the cinema for more than 2 minutes, or wait in a supermarket queue.
Here is the description of my journey down to Ground Zero
(or "The Pit" as New Yorkers now call it)
The day was hot and sticky - around 88 degrees, with a pure blue sky. I wandered down to
When I approached the first sight of the disaster site, my heart skipped a beat and for a second or two had warning signs of one of my panic attacks. But the horrific sight was so much more important than thoughts of my stupid panic attacks that I carried on regardless. With each step I took, the more visible was the carnage. Acrid smoke was still thick in the air even after 8 days, and occasionally when the wind shifted I got a whiff of decomposing flesh.
I had borrowed a camera and found that it was broken so I went into a Photo shop to buy a disposable camera. The shop was directly across the street from the disaster site and the display window was broken and covered in dust. That did not stop them from opening their shop to the public (most of whom were press, public officials and local residents) I later found out that the owner of the shop had been killed by flying debris and his employees were trying to raise money for his family by selling what they could from the shop.
Block after block I saw damaged buildings, covered in thick dust and broken windows. Once upon a time, these buildings were shiny and majestic, reaching for the sky. Now they looked like abandoned warehouses in a diabolical slum area. One building which must have been about 70 stories high had an enormous chunk taken out of its side, like a giant had taken a bite out of it. Another building had about 10 of its top stories hanging down like Spanish moss on a willow tree. Shops still had their merchandise laid out neatly ready to be bought by the public, only everything was covered in about 5 inches of white dust and would never be sold to a soul. It was eerie beyond belief. These shops were like ghost houses.
The actual epicentre of where the World Trade Centre had been was so much larger than the TV and photographs could show. It was never-ending, block after block after block after block. The rubble was almost as high as an average sized building, and smoke was still escaping out of scattered pockets. Fire engines, cranes, police cars, Red Cross vans, heavy duty transport lorries, ambulances and army vehicles filled the streets. It truly had the look of a war zone. Tired and dusty rescuers consisting of firemen (first and foremost), police, and medics came and went constantly from the recovery site. Many were being interviewed by the press as they left the area to go home, having worked for up to 20 hours at a stretch. But in spite of their exhaustion and sadness, they had incredible spirits. In fact, I was surprised at the almost happy-go-lucky comradery of all these brave heroes. It is true that at times like this (and during the Blitz in
Within half a block of where the Trade Centre once stood is the oldest church in
I think everyone in the civilized world has shed a tear over the atrocities of September 11 and whether they have had personal experiences or not, their hearts have gone out to everyone who has.
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Two years passed and life went on. Finian was working as an estate agent, and my daughter, Alexandra, was in PR. David got a job delivering cars for Saab which was pretty much all he could cope with at that point. It was low paid but basic and paid for my mortgage, at least. However, we no longer lived as an item, as things on the physical side broke down. He was still my best friend and I loved him dearly, but only platonically. So we agreed to have separate bedrooms. I shared a bedroom with Alexandra, David had the spare room, and Finian lived on a sofa bed in the living room. It was a tight squeeze but seemed to work.
One night at about 3:00 am, there was a phone call from the police. Finian had been in a near fatal car accident. He had taken my car out the previous evening to go to a job interview for a commercial estate agent in the City. Apparently it had gone very well indeed, and to celebrate, Finian met up with some friends for a few drinks. Several hours later, we got the phone call. Alexandra was the one to answer the phone and because she has always been the only one in the family to be calm in the face of disaster, she passed on the message to me. Luckily she did not impart the news that Finian may not survive the night. Early the next morning, we both went to the hospital only to find that Finian was in a critical state. His right arm had been crushed; he had a chunk out of his hip, his right ear was literally hanging off and he had head injuries. The car had apparently turned over several times and landed upside down. The paramedics and fire department spent about 45 minutes cutting him out of the wreckage. If he hadn’t been wearing his seatbelt, he would surely have died instantly.
For the next couple of months, he underwent several operations to put him back together. His ear was sewn back on without much trouble but the worst and most complicated operation was on his right arm which was so badly broken in so many places, that they had to put metal rods and screws into the bones to hold them together. If he were to go through an airport security scanner, all the bells would go off with the amount of metal he had in him! Not only were the bones smashed to smithereens, but all the nerves just below the shoulder were severed and they had to try and join each and every one; very difficult to do as you can imagine! The doctors were doubtful that he could ever write, play tennis, swim, or even throw a cricket ball again. What worried us most, however, was the fact that his head injuries had made his epilepsy much more frequent than ever before.
Once he came home, all of the problems were not over by any means. He was in such pain and on so much medication, that he was physically sick most days. It took about 3 months for him to be relatively comfortable. I had a job nearby working in the local hospital as a secretary and on a few occasions, I had to rush back home because he had called saying he thought he was going to have a seizure, which he always did. One time, I got home to find him turning blue because he had fallen off the bed during the seizure and wedged his neck in an open bedside table drawer which was pressing on his jugular vein. If I hadn’t gone home immediately and pulled him out of this vice he would have died. This made me totally paranoid as you can imagine. So every time I heard a bang or a strange sound in the house, my stomach would hit the ground and I would rush up the stairs, three at a time. Also, we were still not sure if he could ever use his right arm again which was vital for his future, quite apart from his epilepsy.
As the months went by, with the help of physiotherapy and altered medications for his seizures, he gradually got better. It was a miracle that his arm was improving as much as it did. As far as the epilepsy was concerned, we got that down to a dull roar. He went a whole year without a single fit. But of course, they eventually started happening again later on.
So two and a half years later, he was pretty much mended physically. Mentally, is another question. He had lost his confidence and feared he might have a fit at work so he basically ground to a halt as far as looking for work. I, in the meantime, had started drinking even more heavily and although I never appeared fall down drunk, I was in fact pickled every single day. It had become a habit and a crutch.
To veer away from me for the moment, I must just digress for one moment.
Finian has always been lucky with his girlfriends and they have all been really stunning looking and very intelligent. Along came Chloe, who was a New Yorker who had been to Vassar, one of the best Ivy League Universities in America. They met at a party one night and from that moment onward, she and Finian became an item. Within a few weeks, she moved into our house.
I adored Chloe and Visa Versa. She was so kind, intelligent and affectionate that no one on this earth could not help but love her. She was dedicated to Finian who was obviously a liability to anyone, but nonetheless, she adored him. Her mother and step father lived in Notting Hill Gate having moved to England 2 years before and Chloe was trying to set up a new life in London after living in New York her whole life. She was a textile designer by trade but was finding it extremely difficult to get a job in London doing what she knew best. So basically I was now supporting David, Finian, Chloe and myself on next to nothing.