Sunday, September 12, 2010

Evil mens footsteps.

A small sandstone cottage at the end of a beech lined Forfarshire lane. On one side the shifting grey then blue then grey again expanse of the North Sea. On the other the wheat chequered hills of the Mearns. The ploughman and his wife who lived here weren't well off but the cottage windows always sparkled and the paintwork of their old car car shone in a 'grateful for what we have' type of way. A place of lasting Scottish virtue, Lewis Grassic Gibon country. The greatest treasure of all the blond tousled haired,ruddy cheeked farm lad who grew up there. The only child; Rachel like gifted late in life. A kind, lug of a lad, who helped his father with the harvest and was as good at his studies as he was on the rugby pitch. Sometimes in his mothers eyes a look of unbelieving gratefulness.

Dux of the school, then Edinburgh, then a job with an investment firm on Charlotte Square. Soon, six months in Hong Kong, then a more senior job in New York, then a promotion. We met twice in the bar of the Carlyle, once, and more to his liking, in the Royalton. Early, wrong side of the tracks gaucherie giving way to a competent young man in dark suit, plain shirt and solid, professional, tie. A feeling that he was enjoying life and breaking a few American girls hearts. A world his parents could never dream existed and never share.

Glancing up from lunch in the Dover Street Chez Gerard I saw the scenes on the television above the bar. A rush back to my desk, calls to the US impossible, all circuits down. No way of contacting the Manhattan office.

Home on the Thursday night. Tired, irritable, no flights, the car at the airport, the trains full, security making the journey back to Scotland endless. Down the drive and through the gates into the courtyard, a chance to change, relax and have a drink. A grim faced 'font' meeting me at the door, two six month old puppies leaping on my feet. Could I go to see the folk in the cottage to put their mind to rest? The half formed 'I don't know them. Can't I do it later ?' caught in my throat before spoken. Better placed than most to help. 11/11.

The slow recognition that hope is an untrustworthy friend. Uncomprehending heads sinking deep onto shoulders, gentle people shrinking before your eyes. Hasty calls to friends, harried employers,embassy folk, a colleague ringing the bell of the Columbus Circle apartment. Anyone who might know . Later, much later,a memorial service with an old pump organ; biting my tongue - hard - to stop the tears, the 'fonts' hand unwavering holding onto my arm. Seeing them driven home to a silent, dark cottage through streets of bowed heads. Grief,they say, the price one pays for love. The waste.

If left unchallenged the footsteps of evil men pass even the most peaceful door.


  1. Unable to sleep after a day of remembering, I returned to my computer, saw your post -- and after reading it over several times, shed more of the tears we all have been sharing for so long now.

    Your words -- "if left unchallenged the footsteps of evil men pass even the most peaceful door" - the mantra we should all recite daily. I think of Camus, La Peste, the need for eternal vigilance. And I pray that dark cottage has somehow found new light.

    xx Joan

  2. How very heartbreaking Angus! Even though time is passing we will remember the visions of that day, where we were, the fire, the ash, the phone calls and sadly the funerals and the families whose lives were changed forever. I so hope the family in your post found peace and comfort.

  3. More eloquent than any of the commemorative newspaper articles that I've read this week.
    Thank you

  4. Living within sight of the Towers and having passed through them several times a week to go see American Express clients at the World Financial Center, I have had a "there but for the grace of God go I" feeling about 9/11. The confusion --"it was an accident, right?", then the disbelief, followed by rage, grief and a deeply felt more would "our alabaster cities gleam, untouched by human tears." As Americans, we lost our innocence that beautiful, bright blue day, when there was that first crisp snap of autumn in the air. In the days to come, I believed that steel went out of those buildings and into our veins, as we "tough" New Yorkers held strangers close as we wept, fed those hollow-eyed family members, friends, and fiancées searching for loved ones and most of all, sat with arms draped across shoulders as candles flickered and listened to each of the stories.

    And yet, for every "God bless America," it's easy to forget this tragic day affected people very personally around the world. Thank you.

  5. Eloquent and moving.
    Still unfathomable evil.

  6. At work and the call came, "Hurry!, turn on the TV". Standing with colleagues and watching in utter disbelief as the second plane plowed into the South tower. And then the Pentagon, and then the field in Pennsylvania. The horror of watching trapped survivors throw themselves off the top floors. We must never forget. Thank you Petey - steel in our veins indeed. Thank you Angus for remembering and your very moving story.

    Yankee Gal

  7. I am absolutely stunned at the beauty and heartbreak of your post. It brings to mind my own memories of the day in a meeting in Atlanta, the man to my right with a brother who was supposed to be in the towers working on communication equipment. Frantic calls and no answer. Since I had a rental car already - and our flights were cancelled - I offered him a ride as far as I was going and the use of my car on home to New York. Half way there, his phone rang. His brother. Alive. Well. His morning had started with mechanical problems and he cursed his bad luck because he was going to be late for work. And sometimes bad luck becomes the best luck of all.

    We so hope that peace found its way to that cottage.

  8. I believe that people from 115 different countries were affected by losses from the events of 9/11. How sobering! I hope that in remembering that day, we also remember how many people rose to the challenge and gave the best of themselves as we all recovered from that act of terror. I am very sorry for the losses that everyone suffered that day! I don't know too many people who didn't know someone who was there.

  9. I have no words.
    Tears, yes.

    Thank you for sharing this.

  10. When the unthinkable happened here in the US - the unthinkable happened (if only for a day) - the world became one.

  11. Very moving. Very eloquent. Thanks, Angus.

  12. Thank you Angus. You told it so eloquently. "if left unchallenged..." is a key phrase for me. We all must challenge evil when we run into it. But, we must be careful not to paint whole groups with a broad brush. It's a delicate dance.

    I can visualize that cottage and hope that those heartbroken parents have found some peace, somehow.

  13. It was interesting hearing your perspective. Thank you for sharing.